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The Class of 1940 enters Harvard on the start of the College's three hundred and first year, a circumstance of no little importance. It is fitting and proper that this Class should be asked to attend the Celebration marking the close of the first three centuries of higher education in the United States, in as much as it will benefit by the first four years of the fourth century, years whose glory and worth will be enhanced by the experience of the past.
You Freshmen have been invited to Cambridge before the opening of College to witness the Harvard family, gathered from all parts of the earth to solemnize a birthday and show its appreciation for benefits received. And it can truly be said that every Harvard graduate owes much to the College; the paltry thousand dollars a year handed over during residence as undergraduates does not represent an adequate payment for services rendered, opportunities given. Only in carrying the ideals of the College out into the world, in showing by their own services to the world the value of what they have received, can the graduates of this institution make just return.
The Class of 1940 should witness this Celebration; it will, in the first place, be a sight worth seeing, a side-show to be remembered; more important, it will show the magnitude of the institution, its power. It will show why Harvard's latest Class should consider themselves extremely fortunate in being allowed the privilege of attending the College.
Of all the stupidity showered upon the entering Freshman in the guise of advice, surely none exceeds that of the paternally inclined well-wisher who proclaims, "My son, whatever else you may do, choose one thing and do that well." And the neophyte, being often of a serious frame of mind, that is to say of great potential value to Harvard and in a position to get much out of Harvard, usually rushes into something that he thinks he is interested in and by the end of his first and best year is thoroughly tied-down, perhaps bored, often disappointed.
That is the evil; the cure is simple. Merely reverse the initial advice, "Freshmen, whatever one thing you may do, do a little of everything and nothing in exclusion." This is reasonable advice, for it is true that at no other place except Harvard can the student find so many educational opportunities, academic, physical, and in the realm of human relations. But the pathetic truth is that only as a Freshman can you perocive and try out these opportunities.
Your upperclassman is a marked man. He has chosen his academic field of concentration which ties him down to a certain extent. He lives in a house with only a part of his class and his contacts are not likely to be as numerous. He is an athlete with a rigid training schedule, or he is an editor of some publication which requires a great deal of time.
The Freshman is free, comparatively. He has no field of concentration and his courses can and should be chosen in three or four different fields. In his first year he must explore and see what suits him best. He lives in the Yard and eats together with his whole class in the Union; classmates can be judged and friends picked in this atmosphere. Freshman athletics are not as intensely run as sport for upperclassmen.
Let your Freshman year be an introduction to Harvard, a survey course. Don't hesitate to look around and try things out. Don't overspecialize in one line of endeavor. Don't let your studies get you down so that you feel that you cannot do anything else. Keep your head up, look around, and do a little judicious experimentation. Don't get into a rut during the first year. You will have three other years for this, and these three others cannot be enjoyed unless you have chosen wisely as a result of a well spent first year.
Copies of the Crimson Confidential Guide have been mailed to all members of the Class of 1940; our purpose in mailing these gratis to all new-comers is to aid such people in making a careful and enlightened choice of courses. The opinions expressed in the Guide are those of undergraduates in the College who have already taken the courses which so many new people will have to take this year.
A new section has been added to the guide this year, namely a discussion of the Fields of Concentration open to students in the College. This was done because of the close relationship which should exist between the choice of Freshman Courses and a field of concentration. In the past, many neophytes have not been warned about their approaching concentration and as a result have found themselves totally unprepared and unequipped to make an intelligent decision on this point. All prospective members of the Class of 1940 should bear this point in mind and endeavor to collect evidence concerning their likes and dislikes during the first part of the year so that they will know in what subject to specialize. Faculty decisions only lead to a waste of time.
The Editors of the Crimson have another reason for collecting the information which is printed in the Guide besides that of helping new Freshmen. In the past there have been great discrepancies between courses, some being better than others, some very good, some very bad. It was hoped that through the criticism offered in the Guide members of the faculty would be persuaded to make changes in their courses and better them. Also, they would be forced to make some alterations because of drastic drops in enrollment. It can fairly be said that this has happened in many cases during the last three years. As evidence, the large number of revised courses being offered Freshmen this year can be pointed to.
It is to be hoped that criticisms of some fields of concentration printed in this year's Guide may have the same effect.
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