Dear incoming freshmen (and freshwomen),

Right now on the blog those of us who are graduating this May are writing letters to the incoming class as a way to share a little wisdom and inspiration with the next generation of JMU students. It’s time I throw my hat into the ring.

It’s hard for me to find something universal to say, so I want to pass on a bit of advice that I’ve been dispensing to my younger cousin, honestly more like a sister to me, who will soon be a college freshmen (unfortunately not at JMU, boo!). So, kiddo, if you’re reading this, here’s my first piece of advice:

Be Safe and Responsible!

Yeah, I know, no one wants to hear that, but it really is important. Going to college and living on your own for the first time is empowering, exhilarating and absolutely something to be savored, but it brings with it its own set of challenges. For instance, learning your way around campus or the local community and learning to manage your time between school, work and fun. This doesn’t mean to sacrifice fun, not by a long shot, but just remember to make good choices. Exercise the good judgment that you used to get yourself into a great school in the first place. Okay, fine, onto less parental-sounding advice.

Don’t Put Yourself in a Box!

This one’s huge! I don’t know about students at your high schools, but mine tended to be divided into groups with little to no overlap. Well, if that was the case with your school, I just want to tell you that you’re part of a much bigger “clique” now and that’s the JMU community. JMU prides itself on the warm and welcoming attitude of its students and I can say that in my four years here that absolutely holds true. Make sure to keep that tradition alive and you’ll have a much better time for it. Try to keep an open mind, dissolve labels and just get to know people. You will often need to work with many people with diverse backgrounds in school and in the workplace. Listen and learn as much as you can and you’ll even discover new things about yourself. College really is supposed to be a time for exploration and growth. Most people really don’t know who they are or who they want to become right out of high school (I know I didn’t!) but it’s the sum of one’s experiences that guide them towards a fulfilling field of study, career and life. Don’t shut yourself off from these experiences.

Seize Opportunities!

There is almost always something going on at JMU. At every dining location on campus there are colorful tri-fold brochures on the tables that have schedules for events, be they student-run, academic or just for fun. Make sure to utilize these. Not only that but there are tons of places on campus designed just to help students out. Remember that they are available. There are so many opportunities for undergraduate employment, research and outreach, that I couldn’t encourage you more to get involved. No matter what it is you are passionate about, you will be able to find a way to use that passion to make friends and make a difference.

Well that’s it for me, those are my two cents. JMU and the Harrisonburg community are absolute delights to behold: friendly smiling faces everywhere, an abundance of student-focused faculty and resources, a great local scene with food, music and fun; basically everything you can ask for in a university environment. I have no doubt in my mind that JMU can provide enlightening academic opportunities, life-long friends and incredible experiences for those who seek it. I mean, I love this place so much I’m sticking around for two more years as a graduate student. (I told my cousin that she was missing out!) I hope my advice could be of some small help in this crazy, exciting time.

Here’s to the next four years. Go Dukes!

  • Rudy Barrett

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