HMC Lesson One: Asking for help

Hello, my name’s Mason! I’m a freshman at Mudd, and this is my first blog post!

Headshot of Mason Acevedo, the writer of this blog post.

Mason Acevedo, HMC Class of 2022

I was not the archetypal good high school student. I procrastinated on big assignments, I didn’t study as much as I should have, etc.. I got through most of high school without really working for my good grades and test scores. When it was college-decision time, I knew that HMC’s rigor and intensity would present me with a challenge I had never experienced before. I’d heard many horror stories about students at the top of their class in high school who went to demanding tech schools and suddenly struggled mightily, even in the subjects they were once good at. 

Upon deciding to come to HMC, I mentally prepared myself for what it would be like. I imagined I’d be constantly stressed and I’d spend the vast majority of my free time fighting to simply stay afloat and pass. 

Picture depicts a person screaming, wide-eyed, while debris is flying all around their head. They look very stressed.

What I imagined I’d feel like at HMC (NOT how it’s actually been!)

However, that’s not how things are here. Yes, my classes are more difficult than anything in high school and I’ve had to manage my time better. But am I constantly stressed, worried about failure, and generally suffering? No!

Why? Well, I learned a very important lesson as soon as I got here, at Orientation.

Orientation was a lot of people trying to cram as much information as they could into the brains of the frosh (freshman). It felt like every person in every position in the college had something to tell us, from honor board chairs and dorm proctors to deans and presidents. None of us frosh remember everything that all the different people told us in their speeches, (thank goodness we can find information on the internet) but I can assure you that we got one message over and over again, loud and clear:

When you need help, ask for it. Everyone here wants to help you.

The President of the college told us that.

Maria Klawe stands behind a speaker's podium

President Klawe speaking to new students and parents during Orientation.

The Dean of students told us that.

Picture of Dean Gonzalez in a black blazer. Foliage in the background.

Anna Gonzalez, Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs

And even some of my suite-mates, who weren’t standing on big podiums giving official speeches to the incoming class, told me that.

So, when I looked at my very first math assignment and didn’t even know what the question was asking, I went to Math AE (short for Academic Excellence, it’s peer-to-peer tutoring).

Screenshot of a reminder email from the AE tutors. Features a picture of two excited 'minions' from the 'Despicable Me' movie series (presumably excited about tutoring).

Screenshot of one of many emails the AE tutors send out before their help sessions.

When I didn’t know what happened to the length of a rhino while it moved near the speed of light, my suitemate, who’s not a tutor and probably never wants to think about special relativity for the rest of her life, helped me.

A cartoon drawing of a rhino.

An artistic interpretation of Robespierre the Rhino, in Robespierre’s stationary reference frame (Robsepierre’s length would be contracted along its direction of motion if Robsepierrre were observed in a reference frame moving relative to the rhino).

When I went to my chemistry professor’s office hours at 4:00 with my homework that was due at 5:00, and basically said ‘i have no idea what this is pleasehelpme’, he did.

Mason Acevedo (the writer) and Professor Johnson in a selfie together. Both are standing in a classroom, with slightly awkward and forced smiles.

I visit Professor Johnson every Wednesday for office hours before my weekly chemistry homework is due!

In short, the main reason that I’m surviving (and dare I say thriving?) here is because HMC taught me an important lesson before I even set foot in a classroom: We want to help you, so please ask for help.