An Open Letter to the Class of 2019

1024px-Marquette_University_Seal.svgBy Aubrey Murtha – What’s up, new, anxious, smiley Golden Eagles?

Welcome to Marquette, your home for the next four years (or maybe five or maybe six?). Aren’t you so excited? Every year, I use my position as a blogger for The Marquette Educator to congratulate you new kids on the block for all of your successes. As they say in the novel/movie “The Help”: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important,” and we as a Marquette community are beyond blessed to have you join us.  You bring your diverse talents, backgrounds, cultures and languages to our campus, and I am going to preemptively thank you for making our campus a more colorful place to learn, live, and grow.

Forgive me in advance for this is a long letter. You’ve probably heard 1,000 times the standard “get involved” and “study hard” comments from older friends, siblings, and parents. Today, I thought I’d share a few more unconventional suggestions that may help you to make the most of this exciting transition in your life—some more serious than others, but all helpful, I hope.

Make friends with your professors.
This isn’t high school anymore. Instead of thinking of your professor as a disciplinarian who is in charge of the classroom, I urge you to treat your relationship with him or her as if you were scholarly partners. Sure, they know much more than you, but please be assured that you have tremendous insights to share. Learning at its finest does not involve strictly one-sided lectures or the mindless copying of notes. Get to know your professor, pick his or her brain whenever possible, and establish some sort of working relationship with him or her. You may find that they will play instrumental roles in helping you explore your academic and professional passions and point you down unexpected and deeply fulfilling paths.

If you are lost, ask. The whole first week of freshman year, I asked older students to tell me where certain academic buildings were. I asked how the meal plan worked. I asked how to purchase basketball tickets. I asked how to best complete certain assignments. Ask, ask, and ask. We will help you, I promise. No question is dumb. If you’re nervous to ask, find me. I will never laugh at you because I was that student and to a certain extent, still am.

Go on dates.
If she is cute and you like the way she raises her hand in your philosophy class, talk to her. If his laugh is contagious, and he offers to help you with your finite assignment, take him up on it. You’ve heard that dating is a lost art, and based on my college experiences thus far, I’d agree. Hanging out doesn’t mean you’re in love, nor does it obligate you to a second date, but you could miss out on something sort of special if you avoid a date altogether. Heck, my brother just got married two months ago to the very girl he asked out during October of his freshman year. Six years later and they tied the knot. Crazy stuff can happen.

Not everyone is doing it.
Sabrina Bong Bartels included this in her article entitled, “Seven (More) Truths Every Middle Schooler Should Hear,” but it applies to MU students as well. Not everyone is drinking or doing drugs. Not everyone is having sex. Not everyone is skipping church, cheating on assignments or not doing the course readings. Never assume that everyone is doing it, and don’t use this claim as an excuse to justify behaving poorly, neglecting your responsibilities, or taking advantage of another person. “Mom, everyone is doing it!” No, this is a bad excuse, and she’ll see right through you.

Don’t let common MU stereotypes impact the way you experience your first year residence hall.
Sure, McCormick is a fun place to live, but it is not the ONLY fun place to live. Yes, O’Donnell is indeed all boys. But that does not mean that you will ONLY be able to associate yourself with MU men. I hope you all are excited about your housing placements, but if you are not, know that your dorm will most likely far exceed your expectations. You might have heard from current or former Marquette students that Abbottsford is THE place to live, or Straz is THE finest on campus. Chances are, that is where those people lived their freshman year, and they grew to love it so much that they’d recommend it to anyone. Have an open mind about your housing assignment, get to know your roommate and your floor, and then form opinions about your dorm.

Follow your gut instinct.
If a situation feels unsafe, it probably is. If you feel a sudden urge to join Slam Poetry Club, capitalize on that urge. If something somebody says to another student immediately rubs you the wrong way, speak up.   

Go to the basketball games (and/or other MU sporting events).
I can’t believe I even have to say this, but I knew many freshmen who skipped out on Marquette basketball. Why? You can make time to attend a game every once in a while! It is a phenomenal bonding experience, a great way to make new friends, and a wonderful excuse to spend your pay check on some spirit wear. It’s something like $99.00 for 16 games and a T-shirt! That’s an incredible deal, guys.

You aren’t above anyone here.
It’s a little harsh, I know. I’m going to speak from personal experience. I don’t want you all to think I’m arrogant or whatever, but I was a dynamite student in high school. I was also incredibly involved—like way too involved. I applied for a scholarship for MU my senior year of high school and was honestly devastated when I didn’t even get an interview. I thought I deserved an interview. That was my first wake up call. I am not better than anyone at MU, and neither are you. I might be a good student (true), but I stink at freeway driving (very, painfully true). You might be incredibly generous with your time and talents, but you struggle with making friends. We all have our skills. You aren’t the best at everything, but you are most definitely the best at something.

Don’t waste money.
Do you really need that psychedelic lava lamp for your dorm room? Okay, yes, obviously you do. That was a terrible example. I’ll try again: Do you really need that Michael Kors watch? No. Don’t waste your money. Pick and choose, and spend wisely. You’ll probably have some kind of debt after college, and you’re going to need to start saving. Money doesn’t grow on trees—unless you have figured out how to cultivate a money tree. If you have, please shoot me an e-mail after you finish reading this.   

Expand your friendship horizons.
This is the most cliché, but also arguably one of the most important. If you are coming to MU with your best friend and living with said best friend, you guys both need to find ways to meet people on your own. I came from a high school that sent 20 kids to MU my freshman year. One of those 20 is my best friend of 16 years. We chose not to live together freshman year—we never even discussed it as an option—and we ended up in two different residence halls. This was a great decision. We are still best friends, and now we share friends. Expand your social horizons. It’s a good idea, and it’ll help you establish other lifelong friendships.

Wow, that was long. I think I have carpal tunnel. I have nothing else to say besides welcome to Marquette University. You are in good hands, and good luck as you begin this amazing journey.  We are all here for you.

I can’t wait to meet you all this week.

Much love,


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