Looking back: Advice for incoming freshmen and sophomores


Maddie Barron

Need advice? Use this barcode or visit the story highlight on our Instagram, @berkeleybeacon, and fill us in on all the deets through our anonymous form.

By Maddie Barron and Maddie Khaw

Dear Maddies,

How has this year been for you both, navigating through freshman and sophomore year? What’s your crash course to surviving these years at Emerson?


Inquisitive Imogen 


Dear Imogen, 

I’ve seen the truly horrific, unfathomable things that 18-year-olds in a liberal art school are capable of my first year at Emerson College. I have lived a whole life in two semesters and, thus, have harnessed the wisdom of a thousand suns. 

1) The friend group you make during orientation week is complicated enough to write several analysis books on. Some you will remain friends with, some enemies (maybe), and some you will gently wave to in the elevators. The first week is scary enough and making these friends is a natural part of the experience. I encourage you to join organizations that you’re interested in, some of the most fruitful and beautiful little friendships I’ve had come from being in student organizations. Your O-Week friends are wonderful, but don’t be afraid to branch out when there’s an inevitable biblical-level schism in the group.

     a) Conversely, your next-door neighbors are your friends, not your lovers. Say it after me: “Neighbors are friends, not lovers!”

2) If you’re not a party person, don’t feel obligated to go. I’ve hate-watched many parties, including spending 15 minutes at a MIT Halloween frat party for shits and giggles. The things I’ve seen make for really good stories, however, I can assure you, parties at the monument are not a meeting of the minds. It’s pretty funny to observe for a few minutes and then go to sleep at an appropriate time. 

3) The MBTA is a very valuable asset to me, as someone who comes from a state that hates public transportation. Here’s how to survive each line:

     a) If you want to LEAVE campus, go outbound. If you want to go TOWARD campus, go inbound. 

     b) The Green Line: If you want to come back to campus, take the Green Line North. You can go to Union Square, Government Center, or Tufts and get off at the Boylston stop. All of the West lines stop at Copley, where the public library is located. After the Copley stop, the trains diverge to their respective routes. The B line goes to Boston College, the C line goes to Cleveland Circle, the D line goes to Riverside (get off on the Fenway stop if you want to go to Target), and the E line goes to Heath Street (get off on the Prudential stop to go to the Cheesecake Factory). 

     c) The Blue Line: I only use this line to go to the airport. The nearest Blue line entrance is at the Government Center T station. Take the Blue Line to Wonderland (yes, I know it’s funny) and get off at the airport. You can take a free shuttle bus to the correct terminal. 

     d) The Red Line: This one’s my favorite, mostly because it goes over the Charles River and has cool seats, but it’s really old. If you want to go to Cambridge, take the Red Line to Alewife. You can go to MIT or Harvard on this line. If you want to head south, take the Red Line to Ashmont. Southies (South Boston natives) are really funny. 

     e) The Orange Line: I haven’t been on the Orange Line. I think it takes you Southwest, near Jamaica Plain, the Zoo, Malden and Mission Hill. It scares me a little. Good luck. 

4) During your first semester, you are going to get deathly ill. Covid is a risk on its own, but the harrowing tales of the freshman flu are true. Everyday, there were new fallen comrades. I personally was infected with an upper respiratory viral infection, impossible to heal with antibiotics. I spent a month coughing and hacking blood into a handkerchief like a damn Victorian ghoul. The medicine that your parents make you stock up on will be gone by November, so remember to buy more or stock up at your local drugstore. I also recommend getting pink eye drops (my stories from my pink eye era are too dark to write in print). The Health and Wellness Center loves to recommend buying the highly addictive nose spray, Afrin. I think Emerson has an under-the-table business deal with CVS. You’ll inevitably have to go to Tufts Emergency Room, bring snacks and books. Time isn’t real in that place. 

5) When you’re miserable during Spring semester, burnt out and feeling like a river corpse, I suggest spending all of your money. The only thing keeping me going is the knowledge that on Tuesday nights I can go to AMC and sit in an almost-empty theater (register for the AMC Stubs Club for free to participate in $5 Tuesday movies!) and cry my eyes out. My dwindling bank account is really the only source of joy in my life, which sounds counterintuitive, but say that to all the Snoopy sticker packs I have. 

With peace and love, 

Maddie B. 


Dear Imogen,   

Sophomore slump, in my experience, is real. For me, it was most prevalent on the soccer field, where I found myself lacking the confidence and spirit that I had flaunted my freshman year. But the sinking slump pervades not just in athletic endeavors—it’ll sneak up on you in the classroom, extracurricular activities, or orgs you choose to partake in. Maybe you won’t choose to participate in anything at all; finding yourself lacking motivation, that extra umph you had freshman year? Back then, everything was fresh and new, and you were eager to jump on the breadth of exciting opportunities. Now, as a sophomore, you seem to only be able to muster enough energy to submit the bare minimum to class assignments or drag your feet to the soccer field. That’s sophomore slump.

The ailment plagued me mostly during the first semester, and I was able to bounce back after winter break to revitalize myself for the spring. I used winter break as a time to rejuvenate, returning to campus in January with a renewed sense of self. If you’re facing sophomore slump, I recommend you take a similar route. Before you do anything else, take the pressure off yourself and give yourself time and space to rest. Schedule some downtime, do things you enjoy, and recharge your battery so that you can tackle your next challenge with fortitude.

Next, curate a course load that you’ll enjoy. Take classes you like. Emerson offers some really interesting interdisciplinary courses that might just ignite a passion that you never knew you had. Taking classes that are actually interesting to you will make schoolwork seem like less of a burden and more like a choice—and next thing you know, you’ll find yourself choosing to do the optional reading for your Feminisms class each week, because it really is that interesting!

Now that you’ve curated the perfect course schedule, it’s time to wake up and go to class. When you do, I recommend putting on an outfit. A real outfit. With denim and Doc Martens and everything. For most of my freshman year, I rolled up to class in sweatpants and a sweatshirt—a very comfortable and valid option. If this is your go-to outfit for class, I completely and utterly support you in this decision. However, if you find yourself lacking motivation and developing a case of sophomore slump, try dressing up a little before classes. Plan your outfits the night before, like you did for the first day of school in middle school. Lay out your little jeans and your little cardigan, cultivate an outfit you feel good in, and you’ll find yourself ready to tackle the day.

Now that you’re outfitted for success, my next recommendation is to say yes. To everything. Someone asking if you want to join an org? Say yes. Contemplating whether to apply to that internship or reach out to an old friend? Just do it. Thinking about switching your major or adding a minor? Look at your options, talk to your adviser, and explore all the options. You never know what will come of it, and who knows? It could be something great. Some of the best parts of my sophomore year came from saying yes to things I never thought I would. 

Sometimes, it’s easy to get anxiety and stress yourself out because things don’t seem to be working out the way you want them to. But even if things aren’t unfolding exactly as you hoped they would, remember that things will always work out in the end. As cliche as it sounds, even if your sophomore year isn’t going exactly as you imagined, it’ll all be okay. I try to remind myself that things almost never go as I want them to, but almost always end up just fine. If you’re finding yourself in a sophomore slump, just know it’s not forever—there’s always junior year to look forward to.


Maddie K. 

Need advice? Visit the story highlight on our Instagram, @berkeleybeacon, and fill us in on all the deets through our anonymous form. Xoxo, The Maddies