Campus Life Freshman Year The Program

Advice for your Freshman Self

Moving from a high school to college environment can be intimidating. You’re in a whole new space, likely living with someone you’ve never met, eating food you haven’t tried, and learning in unfamiliar spaces. By going to a school like St John’s, these concerns may be exacerbated by the unique program and learning style of discussion-based classes. There are many things students wish they could’ve known before coming to St John’s. To help future freshmen, I collected some advice from current students about what they would tell their freshmen selves. Here are some responses (sometimes with additional information to expand on their thoughts)

On Dorms

  1. “Be candid with your roommates and neighbors so that resentments over disagreements don’t build up later on. And get to know them — you’ll see them often.”
    1. Additionally, St John’s is a small community (with about 900 students on both campuses) so the likelihood that you will see your peers consistently outside of class is high. Though you won’t talk to every single person, you will be able to recognize most people you come across.
  2. “You need to create your own space and make it homely because you will make so many freaking memories there. And be very wary of who you room with/have around, makes all the difference.”
    1. Once you start college you will be spending 75% of the next 4 years in a dorm room, so personalize it as your heart desires.
  3. “Keeping a clean living space is tremendous for your mental health. Keep some snacks on hand, and some water. Try to be a good resident, the dividends will be subtle.”
    1. This will be mentioned later, but St John’s dining hall is not open 24-7, so having snacks is recommended for those who like to eat later in the evenings.
  4. “My dorm wasn’t really quiet or peaceful, it was always constantly filled with drama. I don’t know if that was just my dorm, but yeah it wasn’t exactly a good time.”
    1. If you and your roommate don’t end up living well together, accommodations can be made by the Director of Student Service. There are also options to live in a quieter dorm hall if you feel your hall is disruptive to your workspace.
  5. “Bring a bathrobe to shower!”
    1. Other items you may want to bring include: shower shoes, shower caddy (for shampoo, conditioner, etc), a mini fridge & microwave (though all dorm buildings should have a fridge and microwave for usage)

On the Dining Hall

  1. “Cliques are overrated. Sit with new people whenever you can, until you find your people or not, whatever you feel like any given day.”
    1. Students at St John’s are open to having conversations with fellow Johnnies. A benefit of the program is that upperclassmen have read all the same things you have, so a conversation about your reading is a great way to start.
  2. “Be polite and warm to the staff. They deserve at the very least your patience, if not your respect and love (though definitely don’t withhold on either of those).”
  3. “Make sure you have plenty of snacks in your dorm room because it isn’t open 24/7”

On Social Dynamics

  1. “Everyone is trying to seem cool but terrified in their own ways. I wish I didn’t try so hard to fit in. I wish I was comfortable by myself, I would’ve probably pulled people similar to me if I had done that. Smoking looks cool, it isn’t, but don’t judge either. All of these people will graduate with you one day and all the big things and catastrophes will seem like a hazy dream, try to be honest with yourself and Just. Breathe.”
  2. “Hang out with as many people as you can. Johnnies are surprisingly diverse in culture, outlook, and interests. The one thing that unites all Johnnies is the love of books and learning. Don’t be afraid of not finding your ‘niche’ or your ‘gang’ after a while. Don’t gossip and don’t be evil — SJC is small; word gets around.
  3. “Social dynamics form almost instantly at St. John’s. It’s possible to be a dynamic floater though! And you’ll find yourself with at least two people you can really count on. You find your people! and i did pretty quickly! There are still some high school dynamics which sucks freshman year, but I think people for the most part grow out of them.”
  4. “Don’t just stick to the circle you start out in, go out and talk to the people you admire in class, you won’t regret it (even if they seem super scary and smart)”
  5. “Understand the importance of change, and learn to embrace it. You’re more loved than you think you are, but be mindful of yourself all the same.”

On The Workload

  1. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help — from your tutors, classmates, and especially from the study assistants. The study assistants are literally paid to be there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions — better to ask what seems like a stupid question than to keep on being stupid and not realizing it. Only idiots think they know everything. Everyone has a different learning style and a different perspective at approaching a given topic; you’ll be interested in some topics more and some topics less, but you’ll get more out of class if you stay open-minded and listen to what people have to contribute. Classes and oral examinations are less about ‘passing’ or appearing smart, and more about what you can contribute to the group as well as what you can learn and appreciate about others in your group. Learning is highly collaborative. It can be a bit jarring at first to be thrust into this novel academic style with such diverse personalities, but I promise you that classes get much better towards the end of sophomore year — not that freshman year classes are horrible, but gradually people let go of their egos and learn to work and converse better with each other.”
  2. “You won’t understand everything in the first, second or even third reading. Set time aside for your readings. Don’t put the pressure of assuming you’ll understand the reading once. It rarely happens. And enjoy them!!! They’re so special. If you find yourself having doubts about participation or understanding what’s going on in class, try to think of questions that will guide the discussion in your favor!”
  3. “This college is what you make of it. Find parts of it that you love and go crazy over it, spend sleepless nights thinking and talking about it with your friends and tutors. Get internships, try to be friends with the tutors, they will change your lives if you are lucky.”
  4. “The hardest part is motivation. You are always going to be most accountable to yourself, but the euphoria of being prepared and engaged is unlike anything you’ve experienced in your life, and it doesn’t go away as you continue with the Program.”
  5. “If you don’t learn Greek, you’ll have a tough three semesters, but if you don’t learn Euclid, you’ll have a tough four years. But still learn Greek if you can.”
  6. “I wish I would have figured out earlier that Greek translation is not an act of perfection”
  7. “Read the seminar readings twice, but no more than twice. Taking notes works for certain readings (e.g. Aristotle) but not all of them. Don’t be too stressed out because everyone else is just as confused as you are.”

Attending St John’s creates a great opportunity to interact with peers (freshman or otherwise) in a way different from other school. Student love helping other students, as seen in these responses. If you have any further questions, contact

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