The First Year Answers: Brilliance and Bravery College Forum

The First Year Answers: Brilliance and Bravery College Forum

It’s hard to believe that our graduated seniors are now college freshmen! In August we hosted our second annual Brilliance and Bravery College Forum to prepare students for university life. We covered finances, syllabi, personal health and more to arm students with resources and information for a successful first year.

We kicked off with icebreakers and quickly moved into a breakout session on savings, spending, and success. Staff discussed which banks to choose, APRs, the meaning of “cash advance,” and the value of credit cards versus debit cards.  

Next up was a discussion on college demographics and culture. This session explored the imposter syndrome. This is a phenomenon of feeling that everyone around you is successful, but you can’t be successful in those same roles. The imposter syndrome can be common for freshmen, especially for students of color on primarily white campuses. To combat the stresses of fitting in and feeling accepted, staff shared the importance of finding community through groups and clubs.

“A lot of students are going into predominately white colleges…They come from diverse high schools but also were on a super diverse rowing program.” – Alumni & College Success Manager, Regina De Los Santos, on our ongoing conversations on what the college experience might be like.


The second annual Brilliance and Bravery Forum helped prepare our most recent alumni for the freshman college experience.

During our syllabus session, we broke down what a typical syllabus includes and how to use it for success. Since our students are competitive, they raced to find office hours, exam dates, and required textbooks during the syllabus scavenger hunt. There were a lot of questions about buying new or old textbooks, or simply renting them. Hint: check out or for great textbook rentals! The syllabi session was fun, but our “speed dating” breakout session really allowed students to hash out any burning questions they had. Staff dispersed throughout the room, allowing for private questions to be asked. Students got answers about studying abroad, relationships on campus, sex, and drugs.

“I’m always so impressed with students and their vulnerability. I’m always reminded in these types of workshops how willing Row New York staff is to help students – we have a community created around sharing and helping one another.” – Julia Fillman, Academic Program Coordinator & FAO Fellow

We ended the day with our piece on sexual violence on campus. During this session, we talked about sexual assault vocabulary and statistics. The discussion really hammered out what consent truly means and how to combat the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.

The Brillance and Bravery Forum wrapped up with reflections on how students were feeling about heading out so soon. We also took the opportunity to make sure students knew Row New York was always there for them and to stay connected through our alumni network.

Many thanks to Jessica Rispoli of Select Equity for not only sharing a space for our workshop but for her work as an amazing Youth Engagement Specialist here at Row New York!