Making the Most of Bryn Mawr

Message from Dean Michelle Mancini '91

Keep a Sense of Perspective

Well, here you are!  Starting college.  It’s what you’ve been working towards for the last two years, or four, or more . . .  Maybe you’re thrilled you’re coming to Bryn Mawr, or maybe you had your sights set on something different.  Adults you know may be reminiscing about their wonderful first year of college.  Others may tell you cautionary tales of almost flunking out.  And we here at Bryn Mawr are adding to the chorus of voices.  With all the anticipation and all the well-intentioned advice,  you may be starting to feel as if you’re about to embark on the single most important year of your life. 

Well, I’m not so sure that’s so.  So my own first piece of advice is: remember, it’s just one  year.   On the one hand, one year is a long time, so don’t panic three weeks (or even three months) into your time here if you haven’t yet met a true kindred spirit, or had a life-changing seminar discussion, or found an extracurricular activity that really feels like a good fit.  All of this could still happen.   On the other hand, a year is relatively short in the grand scheme of things, so if you’re having a hard time dealing with some of the trials and tribulations of freshman year here (working for dining services, living in a quad), remember it’s not forever.  Each change of year – and even the change from fall semester to spring – offers a chance at a fresh start.

My second piece of advice is: it’s really not a year at all.  At the risk of sounding incredibly trite, try taking life a day at a time.  This is especially helpful if you’re homesick, but it can also help with managing other kinds of situations.  You may be so excited about the big things that being a college student will offer that you forget to notice the small pleasures along the way.  Or you may be so nervous about the challenges ahead that you have a hard time focusing on the small tasks that are the real components of almost every challenge. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Believe people (Customs People, HA’s,  Peer Mentors , CDAs, the friendly junior next door, your professor) when they say they want to help.  And don’t forget your friendly neighborhood dean.   Whether your problem is large or small, specific or amorphous, embarrassing or just surprising, academic or not, we really are prepared to help.  I’m embarking on my tenth year here as a dean, and while I’d never claim to have seen it all, I do now have a surprising number of advising experiences to draw on, as do the other deans.  So if you’re having a problem getting perspective on your life here, the first step may be getting someone else’s perspective!

Michelle Mancini graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1991 and returned to the College as a dean in 2002 after studying Victorian literature and earning her doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley.  She’s convinced that reading long, interconnected, melodramatic novels was good preparation for a career advising Bryn Mawr women.