The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

"How Was Harv?"

by Miriam Rutzen

From Henderson County To Harvard Univ., Miriam Rutzen, After

Her First Year, Answers Her Most Frequently Asked Question:

Harvard Class of 2013

(Editor's Note: I spotted Miriam Rutzen, West Central's 2009 graduate and a basketball scholarship winner at Harvard University, enjoying the Henderson County Fair Queen pageant and asked her the questions she has been asked a million times:

"How was Harvard and what was your first year like?"

After we visited, Miriam graciously agreed to answer my questions in a form of a story for our Quill readers.

Having followed Miriam throughout her high school years at West Central, I have always appreciated her willingness to share her experiences. You can follow along with Miriam's adventures more closely on the Internet as she updates her blog regularly:

"A Letter to Incoming Freshmen"

-by Miriam Rutzen, Special for The Quill

As the yearbook from my junior year in high school says, "I thought I knew, but I had no idea."

Time management?

Focused and positive attitude and outlook?

Determination and consistency?

I thought I had all of these going for me as I headed into my first year at Harvard, but I did not realize how much more I was going to need. Humbled, beaten, worn down, traumatized, I experienced what most may call the normal average homesick transition from a small town high school to a big city college.

From Henderson County to Harvard, change was inevitable and in all aspects of life.

For one, on the basketball court my statistics went from 18.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg, and 5 spg, to 3.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and .7 spg.

My 4.0 gpa dropped a whole letter grade to a 3.0.

My comfortable happy-go-lucky life turned into a stressed and overwhelmed first few months of torture.

But I survived. With many prayers, phone calls, hugs from new friends and teammates, and letters from home, I survived my freshmen fall and spent my freshmen spring recuperating.

Did I make the right decision? Would I do it again? Am I going back this fall? Did I learn, stretch, and grow? Am I happy with the school, my team, and roommates?

Yes, yes, yes, to all of the above.

And that is why this summer, rather than spending my time in a state of denial towards college and the future in general (which is what I did last summer), I would like to pass on some of the most important advice I learned.

I hope that it helps you avoid some of those cloudy days and late night "I-want-to-come-home-NOW" phone calls, and instead helps you to strap in, get prepared, and be ready for a year of some of the wildest rides of your life.

Although it may come as a shocker, your high school teachers really are on to something when they say learning to take personal initiative and responsibility is a life skill and helps prepare you for college.

Times that by 100 when you actually arrive on your college campus. You are in charge of you and no one is there to hold your hand.

There are many things I would like to pass on to you, but I think a few of the most important items stem from that.

Do your homework. Get to know the school before you move in on the first day.

I was overwhelmed by the noise, people, and busyness for the first two months, and although there is not any way to simulate that experience fully, knowing your surroundings and how to get where you need to go on the best routes will make a huge difference.

Be responsible for your time. Learning time management truly is a life skill and one which will be tested to its limits during your college years.

Between homework, hanging out with friends, and extracurricular activities, sleep will seem like a dream from the distant past.

Some easy tips to help you manage your time more wisely are:

Everyone is in the same boat and a ball of nerves the first few months; do not let that stop you from making what could be many life long friends.

My last note would be not to let the bar drop. I cannot help but think of my years in high jump.

When I first started, obviously the bar was low, but as the years went on and I got better and stronger, the bar raised.

By my junior year of high school, I peaked at 5'6". I never would have reached that high if I would have let the fear of failure and knocking the bar off keep me from jumping.

The same applies now.

I set the bar high and for the first few months, I knocked it off and landed on it, but that does not mean I stopped jumping.

Instead, it meant I started training. With coaches, professors, teammates and friends, it did not and does not surprise me that training has not been hard to do.

Incoming college freshmen, You Will Survive.

And if you need to, just listen to the song. I did.

Miriam Rutzen
Harvard Class of 2013

From left front: Emma Golen (Michigan), Victoria Lippert (California), Miriam Rutzen (Illinois); Top: Elle Hagedorn (Pennsylvania), Jasmine Evans (California).