Sunday, September 04, 2011

An Open Letter to a College Freshman

By Timothy Dalrymple
September 1, 2011

Dear Freshman,

At last your time has come. Leaving behind the old world and the deep ruts you carved in the corner of that world that belonged to you, you’re off to explore undiscovered countries, to join a new and ever-replenishing society of fascinating people and learned scholars and impassioned artists and driven achievers, off to a place where the world is new and so are you. Whether or not your college years will be “the best years of your life,” they will almost certainly be among the most transformative.

The question is whether that transformation will be for the better. Unmoored from the people and places that once defined you, you’ll feel a fluidity in your identity that’s both thrilling and frightening. You may feel as though you can be anyone and become anything. I pray that you will become who you are — the individual you most truly and deeply are, the one God dreamt of when he made you — and not the person that you or your parents or your friends think you should be. In service to that end, I thought I would offer seven pieces of advice. Though it feels churlish to say so, I offer this advice on the basis of some personal experience — more than many and less than some, with four undergraduate years at Stanford, three at Princeton Seminary and seven at Harvard for my Ph.D. I did a fair amount of teaching, came to know many professors well, and spent time too at universities overseas. So, on the basis of those experiences, here are my thoughts:

1. Seek wisdom, not merely intelligence. My father shared this advice with me before my departure for Stanford, and he was precisely right. On a university campus, intelligence is common. Wisdom is rare. Intelligence is cheap, because it’s inherited freely; wisdom is of inestimable value because it’s gained through suffering and sacrifice and years of hard study and experience. Every night at Stanford I watched the most intelligent people doing the most foolish of deeds, chasing after the most worthless of goals, and believing the most baseless of things. Their intelligence did nothing to make them more loving or joyful or genuine. In fact, in many cases it led them astray, as they came to worship their own intellectual powers along with the admiration and accolades and material consolations they could win. They became immune to criticism, self-indulgent, and chasers of intellectual fashions. When you love the reputation of intelligence, then you will do and believe those things that will sustain that reputation. Intelligence does not make you more likely to do what is right or believe what is true. This is why it’s important to…

2. Seek mentors, not merely teachers...

the rest-this is excellent! Send to every college student you know.


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