January 31, 2015
Every spring semester, about 35 January admits come to Hamilton at an awkward time to be first-year students. While classmates have mostly already found their college identities with clubs and friends, January admits find themselves stuck playing catch-up in an entirely novel environment, both socially and academically.
As questions arise as to why they are denied admission until January, most students on campus would agree to a slight perception of inferiority surrounding Jans. “The outside stigma looking in at Jans is true,” said January admit Will Driscoll ’15, “they probably think we’re pretty dumb and don’t deserve to be here.” While Driscoll chuckled at his comments, they certainly resonate with current first-year Jan Adam Stern’s concern of a predisposed belief about Jan rowdiness on weekends. “The stereotype is that the Jans tend to be these big party-type people…it creates an expectation.”
With most Jans spending the semester studying with Arcadia University in London, they return with fun stories to tell. However, in terms of finding their place socially at Hamilton, all Jans interviewed reported initial feelings of uneasiness. “It felt like we just got thrown into it real quickly…I felt extremely overwhelmed,” said first-year Jan Jesse Heekin. Orientation did not seem to help either. “We were with the same 30 kids we had been with in London…Games getting to know [each other] better were pointless.” However, naturally due to the small nature of Hamilton, Jans report campus wide friendliness to meet them (there was never a time last week without a recent “All Jans come to destination X” Yik Yak), and the initial shock of so many new faces will likely fade.
One week into their first semester at Hamilton, first-year Jans stressed social adjustment as their biggest challenge. Driscoll, however, three years further along, stated that, “The academic adjustment is definitely more challenging than the social [adjustment].” Driscoll came from an NYU sponsored program in London, of which he spoke very highly. Conversely, first-year Jans expressed universal disgust in the quality of education that the Arcadia London program offered them. On his studies last semester, said Heekin “There were no moments I felt challenged,”. “I definitely worked harder in high school than I did in London.” While the Jans cited boring, repetitive classes and a comically weak workload as partial reason for their lack of satisfaction, they also revealed that their Arcadia GPA does not transfer onto their Hamilton transcripts. This effectively turns their classes into pass/fail. “Even if there was a test or paper, I didn’t feel challenged because I knew it didn’t really matter…It’s gonna be tough getting that work ethic back that I used to have,” admitted Heekin. His feelings seem to summarize that of the rest of the group.
While taking classes in London, Jans are technically not enrolled as Hamilton students yet. However, taking part in the program that the school directs them to should serve as reason enough to provide them with the same quality of education that students on campus receive. Holding Jans to an equal academic standard will prepare them, rather than hinder them, for the challenges at Hamilton, and will also cast away the untrue stereotypes about them on campus. While initial social anxiety and lack of immediate social connections affect all first year students alike (making pre-orientation mandatory will decrease that even further), putting students at a disadvantage academically should not be tolerated.