Class of 1985 — Robyn Hadley
Robyn Hadley, a class of 1985 graduate, former UNC women's basketball player and Rhodes scholar, said as enticing as it can be, don’t overextend yourself in the first week.
“Don’t overdo it. You don’t have to do everything in the first week or even the first year," Hadley said. "The most specific iteration of that would be don’t take too many hours."
Hadley was a first-generation college student and was keen to make her mark early at Carolina.
“I came from a rural community and a smaller high school, so I felt like I had a lot to prove. I took 18 hours in my first semester, and I never did it again,” Hadley said.
She attributes her academic success to her ability to find a space on campus where she was able to fully focus on her work.
“Find a place somewhere on campus where you can take a deep breath,” Hadley said. "For me, the North Carolina Collection was that space — there weren’t too many undergraduates there and it was a place where I could get away from it all, and on days where I needed to study but wasn’t feeling very scholarly, being in a place like that helped raise my expectations to get my work done."
For Hadley, one of the biggest takeaways from her first week at UNC was the combination of pride and fear she felt at the University.
“Growing up in North Carolina, only 25 miles from the University, it’s a place that you dream about going but you’re never really sure if you’ll get in,” Hadley said. “So I think that there’s pride in being there for your family, community, and high school, but then there is this fear, a fear that you might fail.”
Class of 2016 — Houston Summers
Former Student Body President Houston Summers shared his own unique perspective on his time as a first-year.
“The first day I walked into Bio 101, and of course there is like 300 people in there — I was a 24-year-old freshman, this was the first time I had been in a classroom in eight years, and I was just shocked,” said Summers, who spent time in Major League Baseball before coming to UNC. “I really had no idea what to expect and I was pretty overwhelmed, even as a 24-year-old freshman, it was still pretty scary — but just give it a couple weeks, and things settle down.”
Despite being in many ways an unconventional first-year, Summers was just like any other first-years.
“I think I walked into the wrong classroom just about every day during that first week of class,” Summers said. “And as a complete stereotypical first-year, I’m looking up campus maps on my phone, I’ve got the paper campus map, and I’m just tripping over the bricks as I’m walking, trying to find my way.”
His biggest advice: Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.
“Stretch yourself, try things that seem even remotely interesting to you, and after that, try things that don’t even seem interesting to you at all,” Summers said. “Coming in, I thought I would have no interest in student government, clubs, or hard math and science classes, but I dove in and ended up being relatively successful and enjoyed it way more than I thought I would have.”
All three of these alumni stressed the importance of throwing caution to the wind with your first-year experience at Carolina, and making your time here count.
“Enjoy the experience, and know that those four years are going to prepare you to do things you always dreamed of and to do things you never knew were possible,” Hadley said.
“Don’t forget that it’s not just about you; UNC is an incredible opportunity to serve so many people around the world, and I think that is something first-years need to get in the habit of taking advantage of,” Summers said.
“The opportunity is there — it’s just a matter of capitalizing on it.”