After officials reimplemented the encouraged summer reading assignment for incoming freshmen this year, orientation staff plan to use the recommended book to teach a lesson on normalizing regret.
The New Student Orientation staff announced a suggested “common read” of “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward” by Daniel Pink in June to help freshmen students connect with the orientation theme of Empowering Community: Reflection & Resilience. Freshmen said the University sent them a complimentary physical copy of the book, which was a “worthwhile” read on how to reincorporate regret into their life as a catalyst for improvement.
Colette Coleman, the vice provost for student affairs and the dean of students, said students will discuss “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward” during orientation and hear remarks from the author. She said she hopes incoming students will find commonalities in their discussions about the book and connect with each other through their discussions.
“We encourage our incoming first-year students to read the suggested works because they embody powerful themes that our GW community holds dear: community empowerment, reflection and resilience,” Coleman said in an email.
From 2006 to 2015, the University’s “First Chapter” program encouraged incoming freshmen to read and engage with a summer reading assignment so that they would have material to bond over during the beginning of their freshman year, but officials said involvement in the program started to decline in 2011. GW discontinued the required program due to continued low student participation in 2015.
“The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward,” this year’s newly reimplemented reading, is based on a global public opinion survey that tallied about 21,000 individuals’ biggest regrets – like not making more connections throughout life – to teach readers lessons about how to analyze mistakes and find a solution to move forward. Daniel Pink, the author of the book, will deliver a keynote speech during Orientation Week Wednesday to discuss his book and the lessons he wishes he had learned before he entered college.
Pink said GW is “awash” with opportunities, and freshmen should feel emboldened to connect with their peers as they kickstart their college career because a common regret from the book’s survey was not connecting more with others.
He said that the survey found that some of the biggest regrets for college students were not studying abroad during college and not taking enough risks in life like taking a course in college just because it sounds interesting.
“People tend to regret what they didn’t do much more than what they did do, that’s what really sticks with people over time,” Pink said.
He said regret is a misunderstood emotion because people in their late teens and early 20s tend to “wallow” in their mistakes instead of using them as a sign to problem solve and prevent making the same mistake again in the future.
He said dwelling on the past could prompt freshmen to engage in negative self-talk, but he recommends that students try to speak to themselves with kindness to grow from their experience. He said he hopes freshmen who read his book will examine a past mistake in their life and make a change to avoid feeling that same regret again.
“It’s a normal part of the human experience,” Pink said. “What really matters is what we do with our regrets whether we use them, we don’t ignore them. We don’t get stuck in them. We use them as an engine for going forward.”
Izzy Banks, a student coordinator for orientation, said many freshmen are anxious about transitioning to college because they are seeking a flawless four years. She said “The Power of Regret” pushes readers to look at their possible future mistakes in college as teachable moments.
“First-year students often express having anxiety around creating the ‘perfect college experience,’ and I think this book will help students dispel that myth,” Banks said in an email.
Freshman Anjana Murugan said “The Power of Regret” taught her to use feelings of remorse as a “tool” to fix issues in her life instead of dwelling on the past. She said the book included stories of Pink’s survey participants letting fear of the unknown stop them from taking action throughout their life.
“I think that’s the message I really took and I really hope in college at least, I’m just going to go for things kind of off the bat rather than waiting,” Murugan said.
Freshman Julia McGillivray said the University implemented the reading during a convenient point in her life, since the lessons from the book brought learning back into her daily routine during the summer when most students aren’t consistently reading. She said “The Power of Regret” encouraged her to think about how she wants to move forward from past mistakes from high school throughout her college career.
“Everyone’s super nervous about making a mistake and like everything going downhill, but it definitely didn’t make it seem as scary,” McGillivray said.
She said she didn’t get as involved on campus as she would have liked during her freshman year of high school, which prevented her the opportunity to meet her close friends earlier – a mistake she plans to correct in her freshman year at GW.
“I’m definitely going into freshman year already researching clubs and organizations I can join and places that I can go to meet people so I can make some good friends early on freshman year,” McGillivray said.