For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 06 2015
by Elizabeth Paul

4 Things Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' Taught Me About College

By Elizabeth Paul - Aug 06 2015

Although Hamlet attended school hundreds of years ago, some things never change. While he probably wasn’t worried about choosing a roommate or making a list of what to bring, the Prince of Denmark has some wisdom that us incoming freshmen could learn from. Here are four things this Wittenburg University scholar taught me about college.

1. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

As first-year students in college, we will undoubtedly face countless new things from the classrooms that seem foreign to the strangers that share a hall with us. The people we meet will come from vastly different walks of life, and each will bring his or her own background and experiences for us to see. They will likely introduce us to things that we don’t even know exist yet, but exploration and discovery are part of the beauty of college, and what better way to dive into this new chapter of our lives than by trying new things? As Hamlet points out, it is important to remember that our perspective determines whether a situation is positive or negative. Keep that in mind, and you can turn any new experience into something positive. So, what do you have to fear? Take that class that sounds interesting. Try a new food. Sign up for that club you’ve been thinking about. Talk to the other students in your hall. You just might like what you discover.

2. You are ready.

The readiness is all.

Going away to college can be intimidating for even the best of students. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by accomplished students, more rigorous academics and unfamiliar faces. The academic and emotional transitions can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s important to remember that “the readiness is all,” and you are ready. Sure, there may be students who are better prepared, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t. Focusing on being competitive primarily with yourself will not only make the transition easier, but it will also help you see that your past experiences up to this point have prepared you to do well. Your school admitted you because they believe that you can succeed on their campus. Preparation is key to success so go to class, stay on top of your assignments, have a strong work ethic and effort and use your time efficiently. And make sure you set your alarm because no one will be there to wake you up when it doesn’t go off.

3. Let your sense guide you.

Let your own discretion be your tutor.

Although Hamlet was talking about the art of acting, this piece of advice can certainly apply to the modern college experience. Going away to college opens up a world of independence — we’re living away from home and, for the most part, calling our own shots for the first time. We’ll make so many decisions that Hamlet would cringe at the number of choices we have. When making these choices, it’s important to remember that you must take full responsibility for the outcome of your decisions as a college student, so choose wisely. Let your good sense guide you to make the right decision, whether it’s choosing a major or deciding what to do over the weekend. Make the most of your college experience, both academically and socially, but don’t forget that you will live with every decision you make. And as Hamlet’s fellow classmate and friend, Horatio, would say, “If your mind dislike anything, obey it.”

4. You have a wonderful brain.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!

Admittedly, when taken in context, Hamlet was merely saying this to express how odd it is that he dislikes mankind. However, his observations of the power of mankind are refreshingly true. Part of what sets humanity apart from other creatures is our ability to reason and create, both of which we can use to better ourselves and the world around us. As college freshmen, we are only beginning to explore the world and all it has to offer (both the good and the bad). Yet, we have been granted the wonderful opportunity to attend college, an opportunity that should not be wasted. Through the exploration of ideas and philosophies, networking and personal growth, education fosters impact, no matter how big or small. We are “infinite in faculties,” and the possibilities are endless. As we move on to the next journey of our life, let us use this opportunity to its full advantage. Ask questions. Seek help when you need it. Meet new people. And maybe read a book or two — you never know what its characters might reveal to you.

Lead Image Credit: Igor Vtornick

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Elizabeth Paul - Vanderbilt University

Elizabeth Paul is a freshman at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Human and Organizational Development and English. She was the editor-in-chief of her school's newspaper and is an avid fan of Taylor Swift, cupcakes and classic literature. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_ElizabethhP.

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