The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

With the new year comes the addition of around 4,000 students to the Miami University family. With an average ACT score of 28.3 and high school GPA of 3.75, the academic credentials of the class of 2021 are sound. However, there is much more to college than class, and therefore much more to know upon entering Miami than simply the advice that will help with academic success.

First, it’s important to understand that Miami has a reputation. From nicknames such as “J. Crew U” and headlines in recent months involving the drinking culture, the image of a school that works hard and plays hard is one that has been hard to shake over the years. But this fact doesn’t mean that you should surrender your personality to the crowd. Understand that fitting in should not involve changing your wardrobe or forcing yourself to become part of a culture that is often a perception and not a reality.

Understand, too, the political and social movements inherent to our time. With a polarizing presidential election behind us and renewed racial and social justice issues (the recent white supremacist rally occurred in a college town, the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville), the potential for disagreements to arise in the dorms, on the campus greens and in the classroom is rising. The need to confront and challenge these beliefs, though, at all levels of discussion, is an urgent one, and one that the youngest students here will have to face for the next four years.

In conjunction with that last point lies a more general but equally paramount tip: Keep your head up. It is very easy, especially within the first few weeks, to only pay attention to the more basic activities fundamental to the college experience. But there is more to pay attention to besides class and going out. Pay attention to the policies and events that, though they may not involve a new drink special, can still greatly affect your university experience.

This year, for the first time, credit, in the form of swipes, for students’ meal plan, will not carry over beyond one week. Students now must pay attention to their use of swipes and better plan how they will get the most out of their money each week. This is just one example of a policy change that affects students lives every day. Other potential changes, from university policies to City of Oxford laws to Associated Student Government issues will matter, even if they aren’t the most entertaining bits of news. It’s your money, time and resources that are at stake when such discussions take place. Strive to be a part of them, but at the very least, be a diligent observer.

There, too, is the more fundamental advice that all first-years should heed – learn to be self-sufficient, go to Mega Fair and join groups early. Take advantage of the numerous facilities on campus (library resources, office hours from professors, recreational facilities) and pay attention to your class schedule and requirements. But understanding the big picture reasons for why you are here and what you want to get out of your four years. Additionally, the fun (and safe) stuff and cultural experiences are things that you should absolutely partake in, but those things without communal awareness and self-responsibility will render your degree a simple piece of paper.

These years may seem daunting now, but with some effort, it can be easy to transition into the college life. Just make sure you keep the important things in mind along the way.

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