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The curtain falls on Fall 1

It’s interesting timing that this Thursday, October 8, is both the Round 1 deadline for Yale SOM Class of 2012 applications and the last day of “Fall 1” courses for the Class of 2011. What a difference a year makes! Around this time last fall many of us were anxiously putting the finishing touches on our application essays; prodding our recommenders to hit “submit” already; and settling in for a long, arduous, wintery wait. (Sidebar: wasn’t there something more cathartically satisfying about running to the mailbox everyday in high school awaiting college news than hitting “refresh” on your Gmail?) Now, a year later, it’s all smooth sailing. We read Econ cases while undergrads fan us with palm leaves. Accounting is held outside in the courtyard, the class in a “Kumbaya” circle, as waiters proffer Bloody Marys. Employers chase us from class to the gym to the bars waving offer letters for the summer. And like characters in the Matrix, we stare a screen of moving Blue Stock simulations and see an alternate reality that makes sense.Yea, I don’t buy it either. Rather than a daydream, Fall 1 has been more like fraternity Hell Week. Sleep deprivation? Check. Task overload? Check. Mandated team work? Check. Second-years using scare tactics? Check. An inordinate amount of time spent in a suit? CHECK. OK, so no milk challenge, but then again I guess we don’t know yet what the Stats take-home is going to ask of us. But, as anyone who has gone through an initiation process—Greek or otherwise—will attest, hell weeks exist for a clear organizational purpose: to build character and fortitude; teach customs and etiquette; and bond a group of people over a shared struggle. And bond we have, in classes, group assignments, impromptu study sessions, weekend getaways, company presentations, and school happy hours. We’ve paid our dues by making it through the “Fundamentals” portion of the curriculum; with this behind us we can start, as one second-year put it to me the other day, “what you really came here to do.” Already it’s apparent that FYSS (First-Year Shell Shock) is wearing off. We’re learning the ropes: keeping suits and ties in our lockers, remembering our nametags, and managing our Outlook calendars down to the color-coded minute. We’re initiated. And once next week’s finals are behind us, we’ll feel like our full memberships have at long last kicked in.