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Dear Penn Freshmen was started by Wharton senior Lauren McCann.

Credit: Lizzy Machielse

Dear Penn Freshman,

“Freshman year can be tough. Trust us — we were there. But we want to help. Let us know how we can ... Just keep swimming,” Wharton senior Lauren McCann wrote, introducing Dear Penn Freshmen.

The online project provides a canvas for students to publish letters to their freshman selves, detailing all sorts of questions, struggles and triumphs they’ve experienced and offering retrospective advice.

The website was born in management professorAdam Grant’s fall 2015 “Organizational Behavior” class. McCann and her classmates wanted to help improve the Penn campus culture and break the stigma of “Penn Face,” a tendency of Penn students to project the illusion of a perfect life even when they are struggling.

McCann shared excerpts from her five favorite letters with The Daily Pennsylvanian:

The World is Greater than Yourself by Bryan C.

“The world is greater than yourself – Always remember that there is so much more than yourself so think big and think long-term.”

Bryan’s letter emphasizes that it’s easy for students to get caught up in their lives and forget to think about the larger picture — life is too short to not take risks and to live with regrets. He discusses how it’s easy to feel invincible in college and how students should always remember to take care of themselves, accept their failures and not be overcome by them and to learn to build strong connections with the community and the people around you.

“Senior You” is still Just as Confused by Galit K.

“Never forget to love yourself and take time for self care...Be confused. Trust your decisions and feelings, because you are a human and you are valid.”

From discussing dyeing her hair six times — though she never colored it before college — to changing majors and finding her own crew, Galit chronicles how vastly different her life is from what she predicted it would be before arriving at Penn. She talks about how Penn gives you the chance to discover to who you are and says that even though you’ll face failures and struggles — like club rejections, grades and some on-campus recruiting attempts — it’s important to be strong and confident because in time, things do get better.

Don’t Transfer by Mikaela G.

“You have so much ahead of you, and you’re going to fall so deeply in love with people and things that I can’t wait for you to discover. You’re going to feel pain more acutely than you ever thought possible, and you’re going to learn that you’re so much more resilient than you gave yourself credit for.”

As a freshman, Mikaela wondered whether coming to Penn was the right choice. It was nearly 3,000 miles from home, and she was afraid and confused. She even considered transferring — but she held on. Mikaela’s article talks about how it’s ok to feel scared, confused and upset — a lot of other students are too, even though they don’t show it. Penn is a place where you can reach new heights, and while adjusting can be difficult at first if you give yourself time, you’ll build your own niche here. You’ll also inevitably face struggles, but they make you stronger and allow you to appreciate your victories even more.

No Silver Bullets by Bobby L.

“There are no silver bullets. In your efforts to become a better person, are you focusing on immediate or long-term changes? Quick fixes, aka band-aids to problems, are easily undone, and don’t heal the sores they temporarily covered. Meaningful, lasting change within you will probably happen slowly. Be patient. Develop your principles. Build character.”

It’s easy to fall into the pursuit of perfection in a competitive environment like Penn but improving yourself is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. Bobby, like other students, found himself wondering how to find a community of his own, thinking about if he deserved to be here and comparing himself to others. However, he gradually realized that personal fulfillment involves committing yourself to what you are passionate about and focusing on being present instead of focusing on others.

Cherish Everything by Vid M.

“Spend the next four years with an open mind...Don’t try to find yourself—there is no one college formula. Find out how to find yourself, and set yourself on a path towards self-awareness and personal development.”

Success is something you define on your own terms. There is no need to compare yourself to others — your worth does not depend on how your accomplishments stack up to those around you. Vid’s letter says you define what success is and that definition is something flexible that can change every day. In addition, he says that the college journey isn’t something you travel alone. He talks about forming strong bonds with the people around you — friends, family, professors, etc. — and creating a support system for yourself.

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