Letters to Freshmen: The Road Not Taken

This letter of advice comes from junior Mark Munro. Mark hails from outside of Portland, Oregon--a fact easily identifiable vis-à-vis his solid collection of Patagonia. He is currently repping CMC in DC this semester but while on campus, Mark enjoys serving as the President of Students Promoting Environmental Action and Responsibility (SPEAR), editing for the Port Side, assisting Professor Faggen with research, and coordinating overnight stays at the Admissions Office.

Greetings Freshmen,

Although I have not had the chance to welcome you to the idyllic bubble that is Claremont, I am excited to meet you this spring. I am taking a brief hiatus from CMC to intern in our Nation’s Capital as part of the Washington Semester program. From my work in the Admission Office, I know you have spent the last four years working tirelessly to get where you are today.  I imagine that some of your parents and counselors advised to lead certain clubs or delve into community service so that when the time for applying to college arrived, you could stand out amongst thousands of applicants, and you did.

As clubs, research institutes, and a cappella groups court you with meeting requests and applications, remember that you no longer need to impress anyone. While calling cities to determine their “cost of doing business” at a certain research institute might thrill some of you, others will find the work dull. Joining clubs remains a great way to meet like-minded people, but focus your energy on activities that you enjoy. I have regretted taking on leadership roles without having my priorities aligned, letting down those closest to me for an added line on my resume. With the Robert Day School of Economics’ heightened reputation, I have friends who felt compelled to study economics or tack on a finance sequence purely because their peers considered that the path to “success.” Our school’s pragmatic focus might suggest otherwise, but careers on Wall Street and in Washington are not the only places that one can demonstrate leadership.  While you are at 5Cs, one can demonstrate leadership by building a contraption for Harvey Mudd’s E-4 engineering class, cooking at Pitzer’s The Shakedown (props to Julian for his Pad Thai), or volunteering at Pomona’s Organic Farm (a personal favorite).

Take some time to reflect on what you want to do with your time at CMC, and then even a bit after that. If you are anything like me, you may begin to change your mind on a bi-weekly basis about what it is you want to do. But, the beauty of it is, you don’t have to figure this out. To quote Steve Jobs, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking back…Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart. Even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.” If you can confidently say that you are enjoying what you’re doing and feel fulfilled, then that’s progress. Stay true to your values, act on them, and you will leave CMC feeling satisfied.

From Career Services’ internship grants to the Athenaeum’s head-table, CMC has a lot to offer that will enrich your college experience, but only you can choose to take advantage of these resources.  If you have the courage to forge your own path, reach out to alumni for opportunities. I would not be where I am today without the alumni that I have met during my time at CMC.

Lastly, throw caution to the wind, and go to Table Manners. You won’t regret it.