Most people are apprehensive about this course during the first week of the term, because they do not know what Philosophy actually is or what to expect in a Philosophy course. You have had seven weeks to figure it out, and while you might still have some unanswered questions, you know a lot more than you did when you made your Introductions.
Would you have felt more comfortable when the course began if some student who had already taken PL201 sent you a letter in which he or she shared their experiences in the course? Most people would answer, “Yes.” Because, no matter how reassuring the Instructor sounds during the first week, a first-hand account from a former student seems a lot more credible than do the platitudes from someone who spent way too many years in college, studying this stuff in detail.
So, here is your chance to be that “former student” and to share your wisdom and what you have learned with someone who will be entering the course, possibly knowing even less than you did when you started PL201. And, keep in mind that there is a good possibility that these “Letters to a new student” could, in fact, become something that new students can actually read. So, you want to be honest, be precise, and try not to scare them away! 🙂
Here are some things that would be useful to new students, and you can probably even think of others that are not mentioned here.
• If you were apprehensive at the start of the course and have decided that this class ended up being a lot better than you thought it would be, be sure to start your letter with that information, since it will calm the new student immediately.
• At what point did you decide that there might be something useful in the course? What was it, and why did you think that it might end up being useful?
• What is the most important thing that you learned about yourself while taking the course? How is figuring out that detail about yourself important to you?
• Who was your favorite philosopher and why? (If you have more than one, feel free to discuss them all!)
• What is the most surprising thing you learned during the course?
• Which week(s) did you enjoy the most, and why? Which week(s) did you enjoy the least, and why?
• What is the most useful skill that you acquired that you will be able to use in either future classes or in your “real” life? How will you use it?
• Is there something that you wish your Student Advisor had mentioned when he or she signed you up for the course? More than likely, it was the answer to the question, “What is Philosophy?” Could you explain what philosophy is in one or two sentences that might be helpful for Student Advisors to mention to students? How would you explain it?
• What else would you like to tell a new PL201 student that you wish someone had told you during the first week of class?
• Any final comments?
Remember that you are writing a letter that is supposed to make the new student feel less apprehensive and more confident about taking a class for which they probably have had no previous experience. It needs to be at least 400 words,