The Dear Georgetown Freshmen website – a website launched by Misty Li (MSB ’17) showcasing letters written by upperclassmen to their freshmen selves – has garnered over 17,000 views since its launch Sept. 12.
The Dear Freshmen program was originally founded at the University of Pennsylvania by Lauren McCann this past February, and has since spread to Georgetown, Cornell University and Carnegie Mellon University among other schools. Georgetown’s website currently has 11 letters from upperclassmen to freshmen.
McCann, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania last year, said she started the program to connect with freshmen and help other upperclassmen leave their legacy at the school.
“Maybe someone will read their letter and not resonate with them, but if even just one person can read your letter and something spoke to them about that, then I think people found that to be really valuable and a way for them to connect with younger people and leave some sort of legacy,” McC¬ann said in an interview with The Hoya.
Li, who worked with McCann on implementing the program at Georgetown, said the movement is intended to support both upperclassmen and freshmen: for upperclassmen to reflect on their own freshman year and for freshmen to realize they are not alone in navigating their college experience.
“Hopefully it’s a two-part reflection process that seniors when they write the letter they see how far they’ve come since freshman year but also on the flip side of that, freshmen that are reading these letters are going to see that a lot of seniors have these perspectives,” Li said.
The website also hopes to dispel the idea that everyone is having the same first-year experience, according to Li.
“The culture is almost in a way that you don’t want to quit anything because you feel that you can do it all. So I would say that that’s like, beyond a stress culture, which I don’t think Georgetown really is,” Li said. “I think that it’s like a culture that promotes being busy.”
Olivia Hinerfeld (SFS ’17), who wrote a letter on embracing challenges at Georgetown, said she hopes the website can bring upperclassmen and freshmen together.
“I hope that these letters can be a tool to connect new students and upperclassmen that serves to develop and grow mentoring relationships,” Hinerfeld said.
According to Hinerfeld, the project is not only geared toward freshmen, but is an opportunity for upperclassmen to evaluate their own college experience as their college careers come to an end.
“I think it’s a great way to reflect on our time at Georgetown and to distill our thoughts on what we care most about at this school,” Hinerfeld said.
Since the launch, the response from freshmen has been mixed. While one student reached out to the website an hour after the site launch, others, such as Marie-Claire Hazbun (SFS ’19), said the letters may not be helpful.
“I understand the concept of older, ‘wiser’ people passing their knowledge down, but in my experience, sometimes listening to these ‘enlightened’ individuals isn’t always beneficial,” Hazbun wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Often they just echo conventional wisdom — so I think it’s important to take this kind of advice with a grain of salt.”
The university is supporting the program on social media, to help raise awareness and reach more students according to Media Relations Manager Ryan King.
The Dear Georgetown Freshman website will also include a section, called Transfer-to-Transfer, to provide advice and support for transfer students, according to Li.
“The transfer experience is different from the freshman experience,” Li said. “We didn’t feel that it would do either group justice to combine them together.”
Li said she hopes the Dear Georgetown Freshmen Letters program will eventually help foster a closer campus community.
“These letters would help to be a small step towards the progress of building a renewed campus environment around, like as I think the website description says, creativity, curiosity, kindness, an appreciation of all the little things that we have come to love about Georgetown,” Li said.