Back-to-school guide: Boston College

We asked current students and recent graduates to give us the inside scoop on their colleges before the school year begins. Here, current student Ariana Igneri tells us the best and worst things about Boston College, and also gives advice to incoming freshmen.

Click here for a full-sized version of the cheat sheet

Tell us about three things you think are “right’’ with your school:

1. Because BC education is grounded in Jesuit ideals, students are encouraged to become “men and women for others’’—to use their educations to make the world a better place. Graduates from BC seem to live these values out in their day-to-day lives, whether they’re volunteering at a local homeless shelter, fighting for social justice abroad, or simply holding the door open for the person behind them.

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2. BC places a strong emphasis on conversation. Students learn how to think about the world and how to talk about it, sharing ideas with friends late at night in their common rooms or with professors and mentors during office hours and over coffee.

3. There’s a strong sense of school spirit at BC—even when there isn’t a football game. Kids wear BC gear to class, covering campus in maroon and gold, and alumni come back years after they graduate to see their team play in Alumni or Conte. It feels good to be a Superfan, an Eagle, a part of something so proud of its whole.

Tell us about three things that you think are “wrong’’ with your school:

1. The competitive culture at BC is overwhelming. It can be hard for underclassmen to break into clubs and to meet people by getting involved. There are auditions, applications, and interviews for everything, from dance teams to volunteer organizations. It’s too much.

2. BC students are committed to overcommitting. They all have internships, jobs, leadership positions, and practices. They don’t realize that by trying to do everything, they’re actually doing very little. It can be hard for students to dedicate themselves in a complete sense, when they have to juggle a million responsibilities.

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3. Housing at BC feels like survival of the fittest, even though it’s just based on a lottery. Students have to band together in groups of two, four, six, or eight and register for a pick time, hoping to get a room that will fit all their friends. But things don’t always work out. If, for example, a group of six doesn’t get a slot, they have to kick out two people to fit into a four-man. It’s a horrible system that ruins friendships and makes campus a scary place in early spring.

What advice, specific to your school and campus, would you lend an incoming freshman?

Before starting my undergrad, I thought it was important to be sure of yourself—to know exactly what you like to do, where you like to shop, and how you like to think. I was convinced that confidence was the key to being successful in college. Until I got there.

When I arrived at BC my freshman year, I was crammed into a small forced triple in Chevy. My roommates were nothing like me. One was Finnish, the other was a cheetah-print-obsessed cheerleader from Texas. They went out on the weekends, like most kids, while I stayed back watching rom-coms or covering arts events for the campus newspaper. I was laid-back and quiet, spending time by myself because, I figured, my roommates’ scene “wasn’t me.’’

The very excuse that kept me from building a strong relationship with my roommates stopped me from meeting a lot of great people and from trying new things at school. It took me two years to realize that I was my own problem—that my self-assurance wasn’t helping me; it was hindering me. Believing that I already knew everything about who I was held me back from learning anything about who I might be.

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My attitude didn’t just affect my social life; it affected my academic one, too. While at BC, I majored in English and Philosophy (Perspectives) because I knew reading and writing critically were my strong suits. I veered away from classes that I understood nothing about, assuming I wouldn’t enjoy them—or be good at them. I’ll never know if I like statistics, or political science, or biology because, unfortunately, I never tried them. That was a mistake.

At a place like BC, you have four years to challenge your ideas, your interests, your habits, and even your fashion sense, among a group of students doing the exact same thing. College isn’t about unwavering assurance. It’s not about knowing yourself inside and out. It’s about recognizing that self-discovery is an ongoing and endless process. When you’re confident that that’s true—you’ll know all you’ll ever need to know. Of that, I’m sure.

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