Your phone dings, and you swipe in to see an email with the subject line “Dickinson Decision.” Your hands instantly start to sweat, your face flushes. You’re about to find out if you’ve been accepted, and you’re afraid to open the email: What if you didn’t get in?
But then, what if you did?
As everyone who’s ever opened that email knows, once you see you’ve been accepted to your school of choice, a whole new array of worries might replace the one you had five minutes before: “I’m leaving my friends, family and hometown behind. I won’t know anyone. What if my new school is too hard, too big, too small?”
THIS IS HOW IT WORKS—FOR JUST ABOUT EVERYONE—SO YOU’RE NOT ALONE IF YOU’RE NERVOUS.
But guess what? Millions of students have been down that road before you, and at Dickinson, there are endless ways for new students to find their footing.
First-Year Fears lets students talk about what made them nervous and what helped them feel at home on campus—where nerves left off and the experience of a lifetime took over. For some, the worries melted away once inside the limestone walls. For others, it took longer.
JUST KNOW THAT HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES, YOU’RE NOT ALONE; YOU’RE WITH US.
What about friends?
“I was most nervous about coming to campus and making friends right away.”
John Adeniran ’19
“I know a lot of first-years are excited about the autonomy of being in college, but this was a quasi-scary thought for me.”
The biggest thing for me was being away from home. I wasn't scared of the physical move (I was actually excited), but instead my fears came from other attachments that I held onto. I've lived in Philadelphia my whole life and I went to the same school for 8 years, so I got used to being comfortable and this was all going to change.
My first month at Dickinson was a pretty lonely one. I didn't remember how to make friends because it was a skill that I didn't need to rely on, prior to August 2015, so I was worried. It wasn't until I started going to the meetings of the various clubs/organizations that I joined, that I realized that everything was starting to set into place. I met my now best friends at MANdatory, Kingdom Builders Gospel Choir, and DCF. I thank God that I waited because the experiences of my first semester helped me to grow closer to the people who I now call my friends.
There are a lot of people on Dickinson's campus who were willing to reach out to you, if you were willing to extend your hand. You have to be open and get out of your comfort zone. If you're feeling lonely, try to reach out, even if it's uncomfortable for you. If I could write my 2015 self a letter with this information, I wouldn't because everything happens for a reason and I wouldn't want to change that.
Caylin Brahaney ’15
“By the end of my first year, I had made a bunch of new friends.”
I was nervous to go off to college because I didn’t want to leave everything that was familiar to me, including my family, friends, town and high school. I was so comfortable and happy with what I had been doing in high school that I was worried I wouldn't find happiness in college. It made me nervous that I would have to get to know a new place after having lived at home my entire life.
I thought about transferring from Dickinson to be closer to home, and I even applied and got in to a lot of other schools. However, by the end of my first year, I had made a bunch of new friends, I had met Carl Socolow [’77, College Photographer], who offered me a job as a photography intern, and I was planning on trying out for the volleyball team. I also got involved with some other things on campus, including the Photography Club and the Relay for Life club. Branching out and becoming part of groups on campus was what ultimately helped me overcome my fears and figure out that I actually did love Dickinson.
Sally Matlock ’18
“I knew no one at Dickinson, and I was terrified I wouldn't make friends.”
I was nervous about leaving my family and friends from home. I knew no one at Dickinson, and I was terrified I wouldn't make friends. College is a huge change, and I wasn't sure I'd be ready for it.
Dickinson did an amazing job making sure the first couple of weeks were busy and filled with opportunities to meet people. I always had people to eat meals and hang out with. I even met two of my closest a friends through Dickinson’s First-Year Interest Groups. I’m now really involved in several campus activities: Idea Fund, Liberty Caps, Delta Nu and the Sustainability Coalition. Being involved in the community is a huge part of the Dickinson experience, and it is so easy to make friends!
Vinny Turnbull ’18
“I was very nervous about if I would make friends quickly at college.”
I was most nervous about coming to campus and making friends right away. I knew that I would make friends eventually, but I was very nervous about if I would make friends quickly at college to enjoy the full year of my freshmen year not just the second half.
What helped me the most was being on the swim team because I had 30 plus new friends right when I stepped on campus who all wanted to get to know me. The other thing that helped me ease into a friend group was my FIG, which is where I met two of my best friends. These groups eased me easily into friend groups that I loved.
Alexia Tobash ’17
“I came from a small town where everyone knows each other.”
My biggest fear coming to school was making friends. I came from a small town where everyone knows each other, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to fit in.
I made sure to join a lot of different activities and groups on campus. I’ve made friends through the Synergy dance team, my first-year learning community and Pi Beta Phi. One of the best decisions I've made was to be a summer tour guide. We started out the summer not knowing each other, and now they are some of my closest friends!
Magdalena Niedermeyer ’15
“I was extremely nervous about my roommates.”
When I came here freshman year, I was extremely nervous about my roommates, as I had a really bad friend experience in high school immediately before I graduated.
When I got here, I found the best friends I have ever had. I was placed in a triple with two girls who had completely different views from me, and who I was not initially sure I would be friends with. With the addition of a fourth girl, they became both my best friends and the people I have chosen to live with for the past four years. When I get married, these girls will be my bridesmaids. I have shared every defining moment with them, from tromping around freshman year on Friday nights, to fighting through the hell that the sophomore slump can be, to laughing and crying with them this year as we fight for our dreams. Without them, I could never have become the person I am today.
Robbie Marsden ’15
“I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to make the same caliber of friends that I had in high school.”
When I was going off to college, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to make the same caliber of friends that I had in high school. Growing up as an only child, my best friends acted as my siblings.
Soon after I got to campus for football training camp, my fears were erased. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll ever have from being on the football team, and I think it is our comradery that stands us apart from other teams in the conference.
Will I fit in?
“I was worried about my adjustment to the social life at Dickinson …”
Elizabeth Marin ’18
“I was a mess the first couple of weeks of school.”
I was definitely afraid of not finding people who shared similar interests as me, as well as finding my place in the world. I always saw college as this terrifying thing that was the next step to facing reality and the "real world," so I was a mess the first couple of weeks of school. I didn’t know how to act and didn't want to be excluded from anything, which only added more stress to the entire situation. I felt like I had to keep up this perfect persona that was not who I really was. I was also nervous about how I would be able to keep up in my classes on top of playing a varsity sport. Then, you just start to make sense of it all. It was seriously an overnight change; I became comfortable on campus and with the people who became my friends.
My friends were definitely a big part of me becoming comfortable on campus and starting to enjoy the college experience. They made me explore new things as well as letting me be myself. In addition, some of the clubs I joined, like Feminist Collective, allowed me to continue and expand on passions I have had for a long time now. Also, my tennis team has really cemented by love for Dickinson, as they are so accepting and fun.
Brady Hummel ’17
“There are amazing people here will help you along the way, and you’ll learn a lot and live a lot.”
I think the most intimidating part of coming to college was finding my niche; I had an idea of the sorts of things that I wanted to get involved in during my four years (Idea Fund, CSE, Senate, Jazz Combo), but I had no idea if those would really click for me or if I would find my place on campus. It’s scary coming in and not knowing anyone and really not even knowing yourself and what you want to do, and being thrown into this completely new environment is a really tough transition.
The biggest thing that helped me at least make the first steps toward getting over this was realizing that all of the other students in my class were in the same position and going through the same things, and all of the upperclassmen were in my shoes a few years ago and know how scary it can be. That really helped me put it all in perspective, and, knowing that, I just jumped in and started meeting other kids and getting involved. When you decide to put yourself out there and make it happen for yourself, it normally does. If there's something you want to get involved with, don't wait for it to come along and find you, go out there and make it happen. The best way for me to get over how intimidating the new environment was to just jump into it and see what happened. There are amazing people who that will help you along the way, and you’ll learn a lot and live a lot.
Jeremy Slovin ’18
“Now Dickinson feels like home.”
Before coming here, I had never been away from home for more than a few weeks, so I was nervous about being far away and I didn’t really know what to expect.
During Orientation, I became friends with a few of the people in my First-Year Interest Group, and we are still close today. I also joined a few clubs the first weeks, which helped me meet some upperclassmen and other students who shared common interests with me. After just a few weeks here I knew that this was the right place for me and now Dickinson feels like home. There are so many opportunities here, both in and out of the classroom, and I’ve made a lot of great friendships that I hope will continue after Dickinson. So I would definitely say that it has been much more than I hoped for when I enrolled.
Justin McCarty ’15
“I also got very close to my advisor, and he helped me figure out what academic circle I was going to work in.”
When I decided to come to Dickinson, I understood very well that I would know absolutely no one at the school, and I hadn't had any contact with admissions other than my acceptance letter. Being a transfer, I was sort of on the side for Orientation and didn’t get to meet many of the people in my class until a few weeks in. So my biggest fear there was how this decision to transfer to a liberal-arts school from a very traditional business program was going to change who I was.
Within the first week of classes, I joined 12 clubs and then tapered that back until I had several that I was really interested in. This soon transformed into my close group of friends (many of whom have graduated but remain close). So that decision to immerse myself in new activities, such as the fencing and German clubs, was a huge help. I also got very close to my advisor, and he helped me figure out what academic circle I was going to work in and also how it would connect to other disciplines.
Grace Fisher ’15
“Coming from a 250-person high school, Dickinson seemed enormous.”
Although the size of Dickinson’s student body is not large compared to most colleges and universities, to me, coming from a 250-person high school, Dickinson seemed enormous. I was scared I wouldn't find my corner of campus to excel in, or a community of people I felt close with.
Upon arriving to campus, though, I realized that those anxieties were completely within my own control. I joined the Syrens, the all-female a cappella group, which gave me both a tight group of friends in all different class years and provided me with a literal spotlight on campus. My small class sizes and very attentive professors also alleviated my fears that I would be just another face in a classroom. My first-year fears didn't even make it past my first week!
Joojo Ocran ’17
“...Worried about my adjustment to the social life at Dickinson.”
I was most worried about my adjustment to the social life at Dickinson, especially because I am an international student.
My fraternity (Kappa Sigma) and the various clubs I’m part of definitely helped me find my feet on campus.
Jacqueline Rigney ’16
“If I didn’t make the right college choice, would I lose the opportunity to develop a passion that could have been meant to be.”
I was extremely worried that I would never be able to discover what it is that I want to pursue in life and what my passion is—I always wondered, if I didn’t make the right college choice, would I lose the opportunity to develop a passion that could have been meant to be?
I overcame this fear by going abroad with Dickinson's partner program in Denmark, where I realized that I couldn’t imagine a life that isn’t dynamically intertwined with the rest of the world. This realization has given me the confidence that my international business major was the correct choice for me and that everything I have learned from Dickinson has given me knowledge that I can apply to all areas of the globe!
Sam Richards ’16
“Even though I was over the 'fear' of college, I was still not comfortable.”
I went to boarding school and was coming off of a gap year, so I had already lived away from home for a while, but that still didn’t stop me from being incredibly nervous. It was going to be a completely new experience. Even though I knew there was an Orientation week, I still was nervous, since Dickinson is much larger than my high school and I was not coming in as a varsity athlete with a sports team to already know. I have such a fear of the unknown ...
I was fortunate to have the most energetic and amazing Orientation assistant welcome me to Dickinson. Dana Angotta '14 also created the Zumba program at Dickinson, and she was the one who inspired me to be a Zumba instructor and became one of my best friends. I also joined the equestrian team and met some amazing people. But even though I was over the “fear” of college, I was still not comfortable. Then in my sophomore year I found my fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. I can tell you when I came to Dickinson, I never expected to join a fraternity, but Phi Delt became more than just a place of friendship—it was and is my family. I think it is the perfect microcosm of an ideal Dickinson: We are all so different, unique and bring so many diverse things to the table. It really opened my world to so many different people and areas of campus that I was not aware of before. I could go on talking about them forever—because they are my family and I love them—and about how comfortable and happy my brothers have made me feel at Dickinson.
Charles "Allan" Belo '18
“I found once I got here, I had almost too much time on my hands.”
One thing I was nervous about was how I was going to be able to manage my time efficiently. In high school, I had to juggle so many things, most of which was swimming, and it became very difficult to be able to have a social life and keep up with swim and with homework and other extracurriculars.
I found once I got here, I had almost too much time on my hands and the question changed from "Will I have time to do anything?" to "What can I occupy my time with?" Luckily, I was able to find a job, be a part of the swim team and still have a plenty of time every week to hang out and do whatever. I was able to find a near perfect balance and I’m very grateful for that - It has alleviated a lot of stress.
“Everyone always told me college was so hard and nothing like high school…”
KAYLEE MUELLER ’16
“I was terrified of taking writing intensives, languages and history classes.”
I'm a biology major, so I’m used to being in labs and writing scientific papers, and so [coming in] I was terrified of taking writing intensives, languages and history classes. And I was also scared I was not going to have time to take classes that I really wanted to take, like theatre and art classes.
Almost immediately I was proven wrong, and American history and American government were two of my favorite classes. I also decided to take German, which was a language I never took before, and it was a daring decision. The division requirements never held me back—in fact, they challenged me. The professors for every department make learning entertaining. Even though I am finished with my requirements, I still have the room take nonmajor classes. I also joined the Mermaid Players, the theatre group on campus, and I have the opportunity to act and dance with the guidance of the theatre and dance professors. I also made great friends.
Grace Crossland ’18
“With the small class sizes, you really have the opportunity to connect with professors.”
Of course starting your college career is exciting, but for me it also brought a lot of anxiety. I was an A student all through high school, and one of my biggest fears coming to Dickinson was that I wouldn’t be able to succeed academically to the extent that I had in the past.
On the first day of classes, when professors handed out their syllabuses, I was overwhelmed by the number of assignments I would need to complete throughout my first semester. Thankfully, the Dickinson community made it easy for me to adjust to college-level academics and still succeed. Students here really care about their schoolwork, so you're never alone when you're feeling overwhelmed. The classroom atmosphere also really helped calm my nerves when it came to academics. With the small class sizes, you really have the opportunity to connect with professors. Professors are also always available if you are struggling with a concept, and they are happy to meet with you to clarify any class material. With a little bit of organization on my part, by a few weeks into the semester, I knew Dickinson had provided me with all the tools I needed to succeed.
Caroline Pappalardo ’18
“Everyone always told me college was so hard and nothing like high school.”
I was nervous about the workload; everyone always told me college was so hard and nothing like high school, so I didn’t know what to expect. That being said, I have found the workload to be very reasonable; it is a lot of work outside of class, but the AP classes I took in high school prepared me for that. As long as you are a disciplined student and budget your time, you will be able to complete all of your work and do clubs and sports and anything else that interests you! I was also worried about meeting people and making friends—having people to eat with that first week.
It was really comforting having my First-Year Seminar begin before my other classes—that way I was eased into college classes with fellow first-years. I joined a ton of clubs my first semester, because I wanted to try everything, and I met so many wonderful people who I wouldn’t otherwise have met! I joined fencing club to stay active, German club, mock trial and the Big Brother/Big Sister program, and I applied to be a tour guide. All of these activities got me out of my room and all over campus and made me some amazing friends.
“I was afraid that balancing all aspects of life with no immediate contact with my parents would be difficult.”
Jacqueline Goodwin ’17
“It wasn’t until I had been here for a couple weeks that the reality of being away really set in.”
During the packing stage and saying goodbye to friends from home, I wasn't at all scared of heading to Dickinson. It wasn’t until I had been here for a couple weeks that the reality of being away really set in. I loved it, but it also posed a huge challenge that I was unaccustomed to. I felt out of place in my first-year dorm and struggled to connect with other students outside of the freshmen bubble.
My second semester at Dickinson, I joined the Peddler, and my experience changed drastically. Finally, I was surrounded by a group of people that all had something in common: coffee. I became a barista and quickly fell into the early-morning chats in Rector and on Britton over a really nice cup of coffee. There was this whole coffee-shop mentality around those mornings, where students, faculty and staff all collected over a shared necessity. This sparked my Dickinson experience into something that motivated me to find more opportunities to engage. Now, I live in the Treehouse and work as an intern for the Center for Sustainability Education, both very distinctive opportunities that I would not have approached if it weren’t for the supportive community that the Peddler provided for me. You'll still find me at the Peddler every day of the week!
Michaela (Micki) Williams ’18
“I was afraid that balancing all aspects of life with no immediate contact with my parents would be difficult.”
When heading off to college, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know if I was making real friends that I was actually connected to, and that I wouldn’t find anyone who truly understood who I am. I was also nervous that this campus wouldn’t have all the activities to offer that I was used to doing at home. Lastly, I was afraid that balancing all aspects of life with no immediate contact with my parents would be difficult.
Once I was on campus, I greatly benefited from my First-Year Interest Group (FIG) and my first-year mentor. My FIG eased me into making new friends and automatically gave me the grounds to start connecting with people over the experience we were undergoing together. My first-year mentor has played a huge part in acting not only as a maternal figure but a friend. These older students are there to answer all the questions that no one thinks of until you embark on your Dickinson experience and all always happy to spend time with you during the transition period of figuring out a whole new schedule. Orientation was so great, and once that was over, I got involved in the Pre-Health Society, Dance Theatre Group, Hypnotic (hip-hop dance club), the Liberty Cap Society (tour guiding), Greek life and more! Not all these things came at once, but trying them out one at a time slowly allowed me to connect with all different kinds of people with similar interests to me.
Finally, my college dean and first-year advisor helped me to generally just wrap my head around things. My college dean in particular has helped me on multiple occasions to organize my thoughts regarding school, activities and social life. This, on a few accounts, has gotten me feeling good about my progress and clarified what to keep doing to stay on track. I honestly feel completely supported and fortunate to have all the help from these wonderful people!
Isabel Lang ’17
“The Dickinson community is one that embraces fears in transitions and eases them with support systems from different areas.”
I am the youngest of four and have always had a very close bond with my siblings and my mother. Coming to Dickinson for the first time, I was petrified. I had only toured the campus once over winter break before making my decision, therefore I could barely even remember what campus looked like. I knew only one other person here, so I went into Orientation having to meet all new people. At that time, I didn’t know that I was not the only one! I had stepped far out of my comfort zone and felt that I did not have my support system from home to help me. The biggest challenge for my transition onto campus was simply allowing myself to create a “new normal,” but it didn’t take long for me to make my dorm and this campus a different kind of home.
The community at Dickinson was quick to ease my concerns. Certain individuals on campus specifically helped me with my transition. The only person I knew here, Hayley White ’16, became a mentor for me and helped me with any of my little questions, whether it be social life or academics. My roommate pairing worked perfectly (I’m still living with her this year!), and we both helped the other with any homesickness and support at all times. My professors showed tremendous amounts of respect, support and encouragement for me. They helped me want to do well and reassured me that they cared about my success. Knowing that they were invested in my education encouraged me to work my hardest in return. Everyone on campus reassured me of my choice in this school. The Dickinson community is one that embraces fears in transitions and eases them with support systems from different areas. Once I began to join clubs and involve myself into the community that welcomed me, I no longer felt the nerves I did when I left home.
Abbie Stasior ’17
“The more you get involved on campus, the more people you get to know.”
When I started looking at colleges, I intended to go to a school within a two-hour radius of my house. But being from Albany, N.Y., I am now about 5 hours away from home. I was initially nervous about heading off to a college that was farther than I thought and how to get home inexpensively and conveniently.
I found out within my first year that the more you get involved on campus, the more people you get to know, especially upperclassmen, which made it so much easier to find a student to carpool with or drive me to the train station (and I found students on campus who will without a doubt be lifelong friends.) I’ve also found a free service that Dickinson offers, RidePost, to be a very helpful source in finding people on campus to carpool with! I look forward to breaks now—not just for the time off from school but for all the fun I have with my friends driving to and from campus!
Hunter Tuccio ’18
“I feel this connection could not have been made at any other college.”
In high school, I knew my teachers on a personal level. Teachers are one of the best connections you can make in your life, and I was afraid I wasn't going to have that experience in college because it is a much bigger environment.
Once I arrived on campus, I developed a strong connection with Professor Tynan from the economics department. She was my professor for Microeconomics and also my First-Year Seminar. I spent a lot of time with her and took a class field trip with my seminar to the College Farm. We ended up walking a few miles together, enjoying the nice day and talking about life and Dickinson. This was the moment I realized Dickinson was just as I envisioned, and I feel this connection could not have been made at any other college. This was when my fears left me. I soon declared an economics major, and Professor Tynan is my academic advisor.