Dear Class of ’17,
One of my favorite quotes is from Muriel Rukeyser who said, “The Universe is made of stories, not of atom.” So here is the story of finals from my first semester in college.
I took five courses and a lab that semester—it was pretty hectic surviving all the work, and then finals hit and it got worse. I looked at the final exam schedule and saw that I had five cumulative finals, in just TWO DAYS. And worse, I learned that the “finals” I took in high school were not anything like a real college final—my professors wanted me to prove I had learned a whole course worth of material.
I won’t exactly say that in the short term things went as well as I wanted—I drank a lot of coffee, didn’t sleep much at all for three days, studied harder than I ever have in my life, and still ended up with a C in the course (freshman chemistry) that I now teach!! The overnight airplane ride home with the crying baby on the lap of the woman next to me cemented my first finals week as one of the truly memorable “when I was your age I walked ten miles in the snow” stories I like to share.
So this is my way of saying I know how you feel right now and can offer first that I hope you have a better finals schedule than mine and also offer the sincerest wish for your success on your exams, safe travels and the best of holiday breaks.
I offer only one piece of advice over the holiday, and I don't think you will disagree with it: to the best of your ability, relax. Human beings are not meant to go full bore without down time and there is a reason that in their wisdom, the people who made academic calendars told you to go home for five or six weeks and do nothing.
Now with all of that downtime it would be a good thing if you spent some of it sorting out how you have changed during your first semester in college. Figure out whether your choices of courses and majors and roommates and jobs and friends is working for you. The spring will then be a time to cement in place the smart changes you are going to make that will make every semester of college that comes, better than the last.
Again, best of luck with your exams, and we’ll see you in the spring.
Texas '17 Class Champion
Professor of Chemistry
Senior Vice Provost
Enrollment and Graduation Management