In this first Derby of the year, I want to address our soon-to-be students who are likely, at this moment, experiencing the old familiar mixture of excitement, nervousness, and maybe even dread. The first thing I want to say is this: as tumultuous as this upheaval in your life may seem, you’re not alone. For nearly 200 years, tens of thousands of students have been in the exact same spot in which you currently stand, with the same hesitations. I want to take this opportunity to dispel a few rumors, and provide you with some reassurance and advice, for what it’s worth.
While you’re talking to your roommates, browsing various social media channels, or trying to get the “inside scoop” from upperclassmen, you will definitely encounter a large amount of cynicism. Although I wish this wasn’t the case, I’m sure cynicism is not unique to RPI. As a counter to this sentiment, I want to remind you that cynics are often the loudest voices. Additionally, there’s a simple cure for this sort of attitude. At the risk of sounding cliché, the cure is to get involved. We are blessed at this school with nearly 200 clubs and organizations covering virtually every interest, hobby, culture, religion, and area of study. In these clubs, you’ll find incredible, creative, interesting groups of people who share your passions, and want to express themselves outside of everyday school. I encourage you to seek these people out, as they’re the ones who will make your time here enjoyable and rewarding.
I also want to speak to a feeling that may likely creep into the minds of many of you as classes begin: the feeling that you’re not good enough for this place, not smart enough, not social enough, not hardworking enough. There are infinite variations of what is essentially the same idea. I can guarantee you that there is not a single person here who has not had that thought at some point during their time here. RPI asks a lot of its students, and in many cases, it asks much more of them than they are used to giving. This transition is going to require you to change the way you attain success, and re-evaluate the way you handle failure. These changes are hard to make, but they aren’t impossible, and there are plenty of mechanisms in place to make this transition as smooth as possible. Once again, it’s up to you to utilize them.
If myself or anyone in the Union can be of any assistance, do not hesitate to reach out to me or any of the staff and students that make up the Rensselaer Union.