Reflecting on Accepted Students’ Day

By Jonathan Kirshenbaum ’19

Tags opinion

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to Hamilton College. I would also like to congratulate you on making the applicant class of 2020 the most diverse and selective class in the history of the College…yada yada yada…

Now, I don’t know if President Stewart, Dean Inzer or anyone else actually made these remarks, but the point is—do you?

During the two years that I was winding my way through the country looking for that magical institution where I would discover myself, make lifelong friends and expand my horizons part of me expected that when my tour group walked by on campus, the whole school would come to a halt as if everyone at the university was supposed to make every attempt to show us real life expositions of the pictures that graced the school’s advertising pamphlets.

Now, call it ego, call it arrogance, call it whatever you want, but needless to say, after being at college as a student, I’ve seen that assumption systematically disproven. As well it should have been; Accepted Students’ Day is, for all intents and purposes, a sales pitch. Those of us fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend Hamilton get to know its quirks, its unique characteristic behavior, how it runs on a day-to-day basis. These prospies do not.

All of this may seem blatantly obvious, and it should seem that way, because it is blatantly obvious. But the certainty of this idea should not be followed by dismissal. That’s to say we as accepted and enrolled students should not ignore the day’s events. Just one year removed from their shoes, I find it increasingly difficult to empathize with Hamilton’s freshest faces. In fact, were it not for my having to give tours all day, I probably would have forgotten Accepted Students’ Day altogether.

Now, maybe it was the final emergence of appropriate springtime weather, or the anticipatory tension that comes with the conclusion of a semester, but by and large, Hamilton students were generally unaffected by the flood of new potential freshmen (except for maybe the grossly jam-packed Commons lunch rush). We still went to class, still hung out with friends and still proceeded with our lives as we would on any other day.

But just because we may have seen it all before, does that mean we should disregard Accepted Students’ Day entirely? It is true, save for a handful of other times throughout the year, that Hamilton will never pull out all the stops the way it does when its newest “most selective” class rolls up College Hill Road; day-to-day Hamilton looks a lot different. A friend of mine once said, “[The school] only smiles at you when they’re trying to take your money as a student, or when they’re trying to take your money as an alumni.” Now, that’s a different topic for a different time, but as it relates right now, I don’t think we have to approach things so negatively. Pardon the cliché, but we get the privilege of going to Hamilton when it isn’t actively trying to please anyone, and Accepted Students Day should serve as a vehicle to remind us of that.

Two times a week as a tour guide, I get to spend an hour walking around campus, audibly reminding myself why I love, have loved and hopefully will continue to love Hamilton. I am probably a little more honest than my boss would like me to be (sorry, Matt), but only because in giving those tours I can remember so well the way I was thinking and feeling when I was being guided around campus and I want the prospective students to become enamored with Hamilton for reasons beyond the pomp and circumstance.

I am well aware of the complete recantation I have just made, but therein lies the whole point; most of the time, we are driven by our next progression. We are always moving forward, thinking of the next essay we have to write, the next test to study for, the next party, all leading to our graduation from Hamilton and the next accomplishment of a successful high-paying job. That’s all fine of course, and I would be the last person to suggest that you change that mode of thinking, but there is something to be said about reflecting on that first time you stepped on campus and acknowledging that you (hopefully) still feel the same way you did then, even if the circumstances of that feeling have changed. We have not graduated yet, so we should make sure that we enjoy the time we spend on the Hill in the way the administration promises on the annual Accepted Students’ Day.

But what do I know—I’m just a first year.

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