President Roelofs’s Tips for First-Year Students 2019


Lyle Roelofs

Berea College President Lyle Roelofs

Starting college can be challenging, stressful, and confusing. Here are some tips for making your time at Berea a success.

  1. Trade phone numbers or Facebook Messenger information with someone from each of your classes. That way, you have a friend to help if you miss something or are confused.  And make sure you’re there to help them, when they need it!
  2. Get to know your professors and labor supervisors. The more you reach out to them, the more helpful they can be to you, and they want to be!
  3. Set aside time every day to take care of yourself—listen to music, go for a walk, talk to your friends, whatever works best for you.  (I run three times a week—hope you’ll consider joining me—and do a hard Sudoku puzzle every morning.)  Avoid toxic self-indulgences; you know what yours are!
  4. Check your emails, respond to them and keep them organized. Email is the primary method professors and labor supervisors use to contact students.  You’ll also get a monthly President’s Report from yours truly.
  5. Treat every labor position with dignity.  Your comfort and success here depend crucially on the work that other students do and theirs on yours!
  6. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed; college is much more challenging than high school. If you’re struggling with something, it may not be a good strategy to just try harder.  (Remember the definition-in-jest of insanity: trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.)  Instead you should reach out to your teachers, fellow students, labor supervisors, or counseling services. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed at Berea!
  7. We will get some inclement weather, so make good plans.  Invest in a good umbrella and/or other rain gear. Berea gets plenty of rain and you won’t want to get soaked going and coming from classes, work, events, etc.  We will also get some cold, maybe even snowy weather in the winter—you’ll need a winter coat and hat and gloves or mittens.  Walmart has an affordable selection.
  8. Expect to encounter very different perspectives from your own in convocations, classes, and conversations with your friends.  Learn from those differences; approach everything with an open mind; learn both how to incorporate those alternative perspectives into your thinking and how to better and more persuasively articulate your own deeply held convictions.
  9. Be prepared to interrogate yourself.  If something is going wrong, play the “But why?” game. Bombed the test, did you? But why? Because you didn’t study enough. But why? Because you were too tired. But why? Because you are sleep deprived. But why? Because you stay up too late? But why? I cannot stop playing Fortnite.  Then, be intentional and do something about it!
  10. Don’t forget all the great activities that are available as part of the college experience: from athletics to debate team, from SGA to the music ensembles, from HVZ to TGIF, from intramurals to Kinetic Expressions; but don’t spread yourself too thin by getting involved in too many things.  They should complement your academic success, not get in its way.
  11. Read (or reread) the Great Commitments.  You’ll be amazed and inspired.