The First-year’s Survival Guide

The Editorial Board offers the Class of 2026 advice on how to navigate Amherst.

Welcome to Amherst College, Class of 2026! As the semester gets into motion, The Editorial Board wanted to offer some advice to new students based on our personal experience.

Don’t cling to your expectations of what college is going to look like. You’re entering a totally new environment, and that can be scary. But be open to change. Embrace the discomfort and uncertainty, and use it to propel yourself into personal growth or trying something new. At the same time, stay connected to the things that bring you comfort. Don’t get so caught up in the rush of a new place that you forget to call the people you miss or do the things you love from back home.

Familiarize yourself with Amherst’s resources. Read the Daily Mammoth in your inbox every day: It lists info sessions, on-campus events, and club meetings, as well as a variety of academic, career-oriented, and social opportunities. Use the Writing Center to get help with papers or written projects, the Q Center for quantitative classes, and the library for research assistance. Check out the Loeb Center for career opportunities, resume help, and summer internship funding. And any Community Centers that you identify with are great sources of support. Actively seek out the resources you need and want — Amherst has a ton!

Imposter syndrome is normal, and most people are feeling just as out of place as you are. If you’re worried about social connections, know that you don’t need to have a set friend group. And if you’ve found one, remember that it’s good to have friends outside that core group — there are so many interesting people at Amherst and it’s important not to shut yourself off from meeting them. It may be nerve-wracking to make new friends in a new place, but try to be active in doing so. Invite someone to lunch or ask a table if you can join them. Compliment someone’s outfit and strike up a conversation. People really appreciate it when you reach out and initiate a conversation, especially as they might be too nervous to do it themselves. Seek out clubs and activities you might enjoy, too — there’s no better way to meet new people with common interests!

Throughout high school, you were probably told a number of things that college professors won’t tolerate. But don’t be intimidated by your professors; they care about your well-being and ultimately just want you to learn. If you’re going through it, let them know. Prioritize yourself, and communicate with them about what you’re struggling with and what they can do so that they know how best to help you learn and stay on track. And go to office hours! Professors want to get to know you, and they are a massive help in almost every class.

Building connections can also really make a difference in your classes. Make friends in your classes who you can ask questions, get notes from if you’re absent, and study with. This will not only improve your understanding of the material, but also your experience in the class. Above all, remember to balance your time: Give yourself a class schedule you’re genuinely going to enjoy, and don’t let your work pile up. It’s not particularly fun to pull all-nighters every week or find yourself trapped in the library 24/7.

Spend time outside. It’s easy to find yourself cooped up in buildings for an entire day, but when there’s nice weather, take the opportunity to work on the quad, walk around campus, or go to the Book & Plow farm. Get off campus, too — there are a ton of great places to hike and cool places to visit in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. You can even buy a bus ticket and spend a weekend in Boston. It is important to break away from Amherst’s bubble every once in a while, even if it’s just by taking a walk into town or down the rail trail.

Don’t feel pressured to do things just because others are doing them. Be conscious about where you're putting energy or time. You only have so many hours in the day — say no to things, if necessary. If something sounds cool, be spontaneous and go for it, but don’t be afraid to quit it if it doesn’t turn out to be all that you expected. Don’t put pressure on yourself to figure out your entire future right away; you will do better by focusing on the present. Participate in campus life in some way. Support your friends at performances and sports games. Go to events and get caught up in conversations. Find things outside of classes at the college that you’ll enjoy.

Finally, be considerate of everyone who makes this community what it is. Students, staff, faculty, and Amherst town residents all play a crucial role here. Be respectful of Val workers and custodial staff and have dorm etiquette. If there’s an issue with your roommate, communicate with them now. Be clean and don’t leave food or dishes in the sink — no one’s going to do them for you. Respect the bathroom spaces. (And wear shower shoes! An infection is not worth the convenience.) And while your cordiality is appreciated, when someone’s in the bathroom or brushing their teeth at the same time as you, you really don’t have to talk to them.

Lastly, you can eat alone in Val. It’s not weird. But don’t eat the ham salad.