Nervous about starting at Peddie? David '17 was too. He's here to tell you about why you shouldn't be.
As I think about the things I looked forward to most at the start of my senior year, I am reminded that these were the very things that caused me a lot of anxiety the summer before I started at Peddie.
I was worried about so many things. For starters, I was not a very social person; I liked doing things by myself and didn't like expanding beyond my comfort zone. Secondly, I was never a very athletic person or a theater person, so I was worried about fulfilling Peddie's athletic program which requires participation on a fall sports team freshman year and either a sports team, training program or theater production every trimester for all four years. Lastly, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do well in Peddie's challenging academic classes. These fears were normal, but my biggest fear was thinking that I had made the wrong decision about coming to Peddie.
Looking back on my anxiety those few weeks before the beginning of school, it seems as though I completely forgot the reason I chose Peddie in the first place: the community. Peddie prides itself on its strong community. Peddie isn't just a school or job for the students and teachers, it's a home. Teachers don't just leave at 3:00 p.m. to return to their "home lives." They are coaches, directors, advisors and dorm supervisors who work well into the night to help students succeed. They live on campus, eat with us, and their children grow up around us. As a result, the teachers here at Peddie have a great dedication to the school and its students. It's not only the teachers, though. The students meet them halfway. We aren't just their students, but their athletes, actors, musicians, and advisees. We put the same effort into our athletics and arts that we put into our academics.
However, that idea had started to fade as my anxiety grew that summer before freshman year, and I worried about making friends and fulfilling my academic and athletic requirements successfully.
Making friends was the first thing on my mind when I walked into Annenberg Hall on the first day of Peddie On Campus Orientation (POCO). Out of the 120 students in my class, I knew two people. But POCO is basically two full days of class bonding activities that are designed to break kids out of their comfort zone and meet each other. The activities were silly - games like a giant Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot!, but the purpose was to make everyone laugh and shake off the nervousness we were all feeling. When you are having fun, you forget to be nervous and friendships tend to happen naturally. After a scavenger hunt, movie night and dance, barriers were broken down and I made new friends. In fact, some of my best friends today are the ones I met at POCO.
The second thing I was worried about was that athletic requirement. I got an email on the first day of classes from the coaches for all the students interested in joining the cross country team to meet at the gate after school. Since I was nervous, I almost let myself use the fact that I didn't know where the gate was as my excuse for not showing up. However, at the last minute, I decided to go, and I am so grateful I did. The cross country team is like a big family; everyone is friends with and supports everyone else, and the coaches are extremely dedicated. The phrase "work hard, play hard" couldn't be more fitting to describe our season. We trained extremely hard, running in all weather conditions, but made time for team bonding. In the late season when the sun set before practice ended and it was very cold outside, we'd have hot chocolate parties in the dorm after practice in one of the dorm lounges. There wasn't a day of practice that went by when I didn't feel a part of the team and glad to be there.
Last but not least, I was worried about academics. Peddie's academic curriculum ranks among the most rigorous; I was not used to a heavy workload, and I spent more than one night that first term nervous about what the next day would bring. But I figured out a good study schedule and routine, which helped to alleviate the stress and to allow me to actually enjoy my time at Peddie. For example, I was passing my math class but my grades were not where I wanted them to be. I never seemed to have studied enough for the tests and quizzes. So, I decided to attend nightly math clinics several nights a week, and I also started a small study group with a few of my classmates. We would meet in a study room a few days before a big test and work out a bunch of problems on the whiteboard.
These two things helped to improve my grade tremendously, but more importantly, taught me a lesson that went beyond math class - you get what you put in. Peddie's academics are challenging, but if you work hard, get help when you need it, and have a positive attitude you will do well. The amount of work teachers assign can seem daunting, but those same teachers will give support and help along the way. I can't think of a single day when my Humanities teacher didn't start off class by checking to see if everyone got enough sleep and wasn't up too. Teachers at Peddie truly care about their students' academic success and personal growth and make even the most daunting challenges achievable.
The final, biggest worry I had at the start of my freshman year was whether I made the right decision to come to Peddie. Looking back now, I can say - absolutely. I cannot think of a better place for me to be. In fact, the things I worried about most back then are the things I am most looking forward to returning to this fall. I have been transformed me from a shy kid into an outgoing person who took advantage of the many opportunities Peddie offers. Peddie is a special place and will always be my home away from home.
David '17 is now a junior at Columbia University, but his reflection on the feelings of anxiousness leading up to the start of freshman year are timeless and shared by many incoming students each year.