Back-to-school guide: Emmanuel College

We asked current students and recent graduates to give us the inside scoop on their colleges before the school year begins. Here, current students Abbi Matheson, Brian Burns and Paul Rowley, who are members of the school newspaper The Hub, tell us the best and worst things about Emmanuel College, and also give 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. People who love what they do. Emmanuel faculty teach and lead at the college without lethargy. After years of independent practice and study, these people keep everything locked down because they’re genuinely enthusiastic about their work. Without being overly sentimental, we’ve got an ebb and flow effect where top notch professionals and the impressively knowledgable come aboard and suddenly become essential to all operations. Their feedback is revered; they contribute so much to our education for the life of how long they stay and beyond. When students talk about how excited they are to actually learn concepts and engage with lectures, that’s a big deal. Likewise, the undergrad population is very dedicated to their growth and impact on a broad scale.

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2. Attention to first-year students. Emmanuel offers resources and a voluntary program for incoming freshmen who demonstrate they might benefit from guidance by older students. A lot of colleges and universities do that, but Emmanuel once went so far as to invite select first years to campus weeks ahead of their other peers, acclimating them with older students, the workload and lifestyle change. The program was entirely voluntary and free of additional cost. Wet Hot American Summer it was not, but the freshmen who participated were awarded college credit for attending tutorial classes and completing assignments. It wasn’t just a foot in the door, it was a hand to hold at least for a little while. That’s just compassionate (and a concerted effort to retain kids who struggle).

3. Dining Services. Oh, God. The food is pretty good. #blessed. Our dining hall is a special place, and we don’t let the COF forget. Sure, you can eat out in the neighborhood – it’s well equipped to appease. But at 8:48 p.m. on a Wednesday in November, sometimes you want a plate of reliable, familiar chicken and fries (veggie burgers are also available!) They’ll whip it up for you in the Atrium Cafe. Eat on a comfy couch in the Yawkey Center alone and push your troubles aside like a glob of ketchup. Everything’s fine.

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

1. Clear eyes, full hearts, sometimes Emmanuel needs to stop. The name of our Intramural sports team is the EC Saints. We are the self-appointed Saints of Boston. Let’s not kid ourselves; we have a bit of a moral superiority complex. There’s a fine line between benevolence and just being haughty. Thankfully, there are also good people who respectfully observe this and work without a personal agenda, but no matter where you go there’s always an unfortunate bunch. What’s most egregious – really the worst bit, because it’s truthfully not so bad to learn here – is the occasional hostility towards accepting criticism of well-intended efforts.

2. The myth of the sexless, dry campus. There is literally sex and alcohol on campus all the time, at any given moment. Even right now. If you’re considered inebriated, you’ll get written up – even if you’re returning from somewhere else off-campus. (Some students feel like it’s not safe for them to come back after parties for fear that they will get in trouble.) The trash chutes are filled with giant rubinoff handles come every break. We all see it. People (safely) drink a lot here, quietly. Concurrently with that, until the 2014-2015 year, a loosely enforced policy in residence halls stated that “Emmanuel does not condone sexual activity in resident halls and calls students to behave in a moral, ethical and respectful manner at all times.’’ The policy was rarely, if ever, enforced – it’d be a little degrading if it had been – but was finally retired with a progressive definition of healthy relationships versus sexual misconduct, including a new platform for reporting abuse. Good on you, EC.

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3. Halo. Oh God, someone euthanize our mascot. Please. You could take our spirit awards back if it meant Halo would disappear. Halo the Saint Bernard attended Mayor Menino’s funeral procession as the hearse carrying his body drove past Emmanuel. Someone from PR took photos of him with students. It was kind of tasteless. Halo (independent from the person inside Halo, who gives Halo life) is generally very creepy and should go away.

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

Classes at Emmanuel are generally very small, with no more than 30 or so students in each section of a course. You tend to get to know your professors pretty well just by showing up to class. It’s important, though, to get to know your professors outside of class. Go to their office hours! Most of the time they just sit there alone. They’re more than happy to talk to you about the class, your last paper, or life in general. It’s especially important to get to know your professors if they are involved with research on campus that they are interested in. When they’re looking through stacks of applications, it will help you stick out above the rest. You can also ask these professors for letters of recommendation for graduate school or future job applications.

Because classes are small, it’s important to actually do the reading for class. It may seem like a lot when you go to do it, but you’ll thank yourself when you’re sitting in class and the professor calls on you at random. Don’t just skim the assigned pages, either. Sit down with a pencil, highlighter, or a pen and mark important passages and write yourself notes in the margins. When you’re in class the next time, you can reference that caffeine-induced revelation you’ve scribbled out and earn brownie points with your professor.

At Emmanuel, there are lots of on-campus job opportunities in different departments of the school. You can be a tutor, work in the library, the dining hall, in professor’s offices, or as a part of the maintenance staff. They are very flexible with your class schedule, and you can have as many or as few hours as you feel comfortable with. You’ll be glad for that little extra money in February when there’s snow everywhere and nothing to do but see a movie.

Emmanuel requires students to declare a major their sophomore year, but don’t let that force you into making set-in-stone decisions about your educational future. If you don’t know your major or aren’t sure about the one you’ve chosen, take lots of different classes your first semesters. Figure out what you like and what you don’t. Allow yourself the possibility of changes down the road, both in your major and what classes you want to take.

It’s good to know the dining hall schedule and plan accordingly; always have snacks in your room. If you don’t want to eat fried food late at night (really the only option past 7 p.m.) stock your fridge with healthy snacks. The Star Market across the street is decently priced and accepts Fenway Cash. You’ll be glad you had that late-night pick-me-up when you’re cramming to finish a paper. Unhealthy snacks are also good, because sometimes you just need your friends Ben & Jerry to help you through finals.

Finally, most importantly, call your mum. Really. She’ll be glad you remember her.

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