Dear Freshmen,

Adam Grant has been recognized as both the youngest tenured and highest rated professor at the Wharton School (the business school at the University of Pennsylvania).

While he has achieved great success in a variety of ways (published articles, books, TED talk), the one item that captured my attention from his web site was a project called “Dear Penn Freshmen“.

The project grew out of Adam Grant’s 2015 class in Organizational Behavior. Here’s a brief explanation from its web site:

This is a collection of letters from Penn upperclassmen writing to their freshmen selves. These notes are filled with advice, anecdotes and random thoughts in hopes that their words will make readers’ first year at Penn just a tad bit easier. We’re hoping these letters will foster a better Penn culture and assure freshmen that failing an ECON10 quiz doesn’t mean the world is actually ending.

Along the way, we hope our words will inspire a renewed environment built on curiosity, kindness, humility, & a prioritization of laughter, health and the little things. 

Upperclassmen: if you’re looking to pay it forward with some wonderful advice, or merely looking for any reason to pause your studying, let us know and we’ll get you on board! 

Freshmen: read on and let us know what you think. Freshman year can be tough. Trust us, we were there. But we want to help. Let us know how we can. 

Wharton student Lauren McCann is the one who took the initiative to make this happen—the website had over 10,000 hits in the first 24 hours alone, and other schools are now adopting it.

After reading this, I want to do this at Villanova.

I’ve often thought of having students who did well in one of my courses come to my class the first day of a new semester and offer advice to the new students for doing well in the course. But I like the Wharton approach better, since it gives both the seniors the chance to carefully write down what they want to say and more time for the freshmen to reflect on the written words as compared to listening to someone give a five-minute presentation on the first day of the semester. Plus, the Wharton approach is much broader, not just focused on academic success, but success as a young adult.

I plan to put something together this weekend, and send it out to my former students who just graduated two weeks ago. Hopefully they will be willing to share their thoughts with the incoming freshmen. I think it’s a great way to have the graduates feel like they are still part of the school and to have them think about what they have learned over the past four years, both in and out of the classroom.

For the freshmen, it’s a way to perhaps relieve a bit of the stress they are feeling of being at a new environment and what the next four years may hold.

I’m excited about this project; thank you Lauren and Adam for the inspiration and for making it a reality.

Published by

Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

3 thoughts on “Dear Freshmen,”

      1. I was just thinking of asking some people at church to write letters to the freshmen. Nothing different from your idea … just a group effort to honor and support the kids we just recognized in a service a couple of weeks ago. This could happen around graduation time (too late for that this year) or just before school starts.

        That’s all. It’s better than buying them an iTunes gift card. 🙂



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