Monday, August 31, 2020
Dear <<First Name>>,
Happy Monday, Deacs! I hope that you had a great first week of school. I know that many of you are adjusting in a variety of ways, from figuring out how you will connect to your classmates while living at home or being away from home for the first time. Wherever you are in this transition, I hope that these letters will provide you with some sage advice and comfort as you move through your academic year.
To our transfer students, I know that many of these messages will be directed to first-year specific concerns, but we hope that you will take this as an opportunity to utilize some of these tips and tricks in your own transition to a new University home. You’re a Deacon now, and we’re glad you’re here!
DEADLINE ALERT: As a quick reminder, you are expected to complete Module I by Friday, September 4th. To access your online Orientation course, please visit canvas.wfu.edu and log in with your student credentials. For more details about New Deac 101, please review the following message in full.
Today, our “Letters So Dear” series will continue with a message from junior, Katherine Finch:
It’s 11:45p.m. on a Sunday night in Washington D.C. I am sitting on my couch in a Wake Washington apartment and haven’t moved for several hours. I have a bun in my hair that’s been there since this morning, a giant Wake Forest sweatshirt on, sticky notes everywhere (although I could have just used one), and a scoop of ice cream sitting next to me in a bowl. Surrounding me are papers listing out plans and exercises assigned to me by Wake Forest career coaches. While I could probably fall asleep at the drop of a hat, nothing energizes me more than the thought of writing this letter to you. As is evident in my current situation, Wake Forest fills every part of my life no matter where I am. As a proud Demon Deacon, I bleed old gold and black.
I wish the person I was as an incoming student could see me now. I am an intern on Capitol Hill thanks to the opportunities and support I have received at Wake Forest. I get to live in this beautiful apartment in D.C. because of Wake Forest’s outstanding Wake Washington Program. I wear my sweatshirt with pride and the ice cream… well, that’s just there for moral support! Pro humanitate runs through me like electricity.
My passions were not always as clear to me as they appear now. For thirteen years of my life, I trained to someday become a professional ballerina. When I came to the realization that ballet was not the career I wanted to pursue throughout my lifetime, I had no idea what else I was destined to do. I spent so many years focusing on one dream, but where that dream used to be was now a large void. I was soon to enter college and my lack of truly knowing what was out there for me started to scare me. My confidence weakened and I felt slightly lost. The next thing I knew, I became a Deac!
In Fall 2018, I moved into Babcock and started my new life at Wake Forest. Boy was I in for many surprises. I still had the special opportunity to continue my love of ballet in the WaketheArts program, but I now had the option to pursue an overwhelming amount of subjects and no idea where to go next. While most students at other schools might complain at the thought of Divisional Requirements, I soon found that was one of the best parts of Wake Forest’s curriculum, beloved by many. We study a wide variety of intriguing subjects such as British Literature, Ancient Philosophy, Biology, Statistics, Economics, Archaeology, Sociology… the list goes on. The best part is, our professors don’t only teach, but they ask us to form our own opinions and argue them in class! They teach us to question everything and speak up when we have ideas.
Over time, this environment ignited my evolution into the analytical Philosophy student I am now, as well as the ideas-driven Student Advisor I have become. I challenge Aristotle, compare political governments, dance my heart out, strategize student advising training, and collaborate with my peers on challenging assignments and study problems. The best part is, I enjoy all of it. Even more so, I am surrounded by a community that pushes me to be the best version of myself, yet supports me through the moments when my self-confidence might falter. No matter what type of day I have or how difficult the task ahead may be, I know I will make it because my friends, peers, advisors, coaches, and professors believe in me. They are there for me each step of the way.
With such a support system beneath my feet, I was unafraid to take Statistics or write my first political research paper. My ballet skills only improved with such a loving ballet environment, and my professors always told me to be confident in myself and apply for opportunities I might not otherwise have without their guidance and belief in me. One advisor once said to me, “I know the process of applying will be tough, but you can do it. Let me know what I can do to help.” After a tough interview, my dance advisor said, “You have what it takes because you have worked hard at it. Now you need to see that in yourself. You are the only thing that could stand in your way at this point.”
It’s during days like today that I think back on the support this community has given me with immense gratitude. While I might have shied away from intimidating challenges when I first started at Wake Forest, the community’s support in me at that critical point in my life helped me evolve. I had professors who were there to push me and acknowledge that the road might be difficult, but their support revealed to me that I could surpass even my greatest achievements. Because my resources at Wake Forest naturally supported me when I needed it most, I have grown to believe in myself on my own and embrace all challenges ahead.
Now, I am beginning the second half of my Wake Forest journey. When I first started Wake Forest, I was nervous and unsure about all that was ahead of me. At that most crucial time in my life, Wake Forest stepped up and offered me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore new interests in an environment that supported me in that endeavor. Now, thanks to this endlessly loving community, I have harvested new passions that I know I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. More importantly, I have the confidence and preparedness to climb every mountain my passions may put in my way.
I say all of this because I know that you are entering college in the midst of the unknown, more so than most incoming students before you. That said, have no fear. I hope my experience at Wake Forest will give you the comfort you need to recognize that you are joining a truly spectacular and unique community that will help you discover and feed your passions, push you to be the best version of yourself, and embrace your differences. I truly believe there is no more loving and supportive community that could be better equipped to support you during this time in your life. Wake Forest helped me define my future, and it will do the same for you.
Lastly, I cannot write this letter to you without a few pieces of advice that have helped me along the way:
Go for it. As I said, Wake Forest is a supportive place. Recognize the unique opportunity you have to truly branch out and try something new with the support of world-class professors by your side. That’s how I became a Philosophy major!
Reach out to older students. Wake Forest has a wonderful culture in which older students love advising younger students. This is not only evident in the outstanding Student Advising program that we have on campus for incoming students or the fact that I am writing this letter to you. You will be embraced wholeheartedly by those who have been in your shoes before. Especially now more than ever.
Trust your instincts. Wake Forest thrives off of its curiosity-driven student-body. You are here because you have demonstrated an excitement for learning. Lean into that part of yourself… that’s why you are at a top liberal arts college!
Get to know your professors. Your professors chose Wake Forest because they wanted to have interpersonal relationships with their students (that’s you!). I highly recommend you reach out to your professors and introduce yourself, get to know them, ask about their research, attend office hours, visit departmental talks, and more. Wake Forest is very community-driven and this is the one time in your life where you have the leading academics of the world ready and eager to get to know you, teach you, and feed your curiosity. Embrace it!
Stop worrying about post-graduate… I promise everything will fall into place. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to stop worrying about what you will major in or what career you will have when you graduate. As a first-year student, almost nobody truly knows what they want to study or where they want to go in life, even if they say they do. This is probably the only time in your life where you have endless possibilities at your fingertips and you can truly experience a wide range of interests you have always had but never had the chance to fully pursue. Slow and steady wins the race, and that is the key for incoming students. Take a breath, take classes that excite you, and everything will unfold before your eyes.
Class of 2024, congratulations. This is a huge accomplishment, and you should be very proud of what you have done to get to this point. Embrace the changes coming your way (as all of us have before you), and recognize that you are in a truly special place that is ready to support you through this new phase in your life. The Wake Forest community loves you, and we cannot wait to watch all that you accomplish as Demon Deacons. Welcome home, and Go Deacs!
Katherine Finch ’22