Lilly Pace

A Different Kind of First Year Advice

Lilly Pace
A Different Kind of First Year Advice

When I first learned of my acceptance to Northwestern as a journalism student almost two and a half years ago, I was instantly bombarded with unsolicited advice about Northwestern essentials from those who wanted me to have the “perfect” college experience.

I was constantly asked what organizations I was considering joining, where I wanted to live and what my four-year plan was. After explaining that I wanted to live in the nicest, newest and closest dorm to my classes, and that I hoped to join a campus publication where I could write about fashion and lifestyle, I was always met with confusion.

“What? You HAVE to live in Bobb. Your social life will be dead freshman year if you don’t.” “Why don’t you want to rush? Joining a sorority is the best way to make friends.” “You need to join The Daily Northwestern if you want professional journalism experience.

I quickly became so overwhelmed by these comments that I began searching online for advice specifically for Northwestern freshmen. The August before my first year, I spent hours scouring college ranking websites like Niche and StudentsReview, praying I would find comments that encouraged me to live wherever I wanted, join whatever I wanted and do whatever made me happy when I arrived on campus.

However, I was disappointed to instead read the same review hundreds of times on all websites: Greek life is essential to a good Northwestern experience.

“Honestly, the social life sucks unless you go Greek.”

As someone who grew up in Texas, had no interest in joining a sorority and assumed going to school farther north would eliminate intense pressures to participate in Greek life, I was afraid. Although Greek life is a great experience for many people, I have always known that it wasn’t an organization for me. I became so scared about the possibility of not making friends that I considered backing out of my early decision acceptance. Since that wasn’t possible, I spent the months leading up to Wildcat Welcome dreading my upcoming time at Northwestern, convincing myself that I was going to be dramatically torn between giving up my previous disinclination to joining a sorority and being happy at the college I chose to attend.

When I arrived on campus and moved into the newest 2016 dorm—1838 Chicago—I was ready to embrace the beginning of my commitment to “social suicide,” as I was told living on south campus, especially in a new dorm, would hurt my social life. However, on move-in day I met the girl who lived across the hall from me, and she ended up becoming one of my best friends.

As Fall Quarter continued, I lived with no regrets about the Northwestern choices I had made. My two closest friendships began through my PA group, I was gaining journalism experience writing for the life and style section of an on-campus publication and I was happy.

However, when Winter Quarter came and I watched many people rush, I was once again daunted. Although I had made friends, I was afraid that since I wasn’t rushing, it would be difficult to make any more friends. I will honestly admit that at first it was difficult. My friends and I spent many winter weekend nights binge-watching rom-coms instead of going out, as Northwestern events suddenly became very Greek life-oriented. Although I never seriously considered it, the thoughts, “What would my Northwestern experience be like if I just rushed? Am I missing out on the best Northwestern experience?” did occasionally cross my mind.

According to what I had previously heard, I did not follow a “typical” Northwestern student’s path, but I never strayed from doing exactly what I wanted to do—and I do not regret that one bit. By creating my own version of Northwestern essentials, I have made close friends that I know I will have forever and I am interning at a popular fashion magazine in New York City this summer. For all of you freshmen, I cannot stress enough doing what is best for you, whether that is Greek life, a theater group or a religious organization. Don’t force yourself to adhere to the ideas of “Northwestern essentials” if you don’t want to because honestly, there’s no such thing as a universal list of Northwestern essentials. Everyone at this school will have a different experience, and no other student’s experience is going to predict yours. As long as you stay true to yourself, I promise that at the end of the day you’re going to be alright.