The Worry Letter

All, know that there was a lot of information that came out last week. We are working hard on collecting some of the questions that are being asked in the Call Center (which is open this Monday-Thursday from 10 am-3 pm Eastern at 336-758-7500). Know that we will bring you more detailed information and answers in the days to come.

My sense is that we have thrown so much news and details about COVID at you last week, so today I want to take a pause and go back to something much more general. I ran a blog a few years ago that was particularly well received by our families, so wanted to give an updated version for all those who might be new to the Daily Deac since it last ran.

I was an English major and took a couple of classes at Wake where we read works by famed American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. What I share today is not great literature, but a letter Fitzgerald supposedly wrote to his 11 year old daughter, Scottie, back in 1933.  It reads as follows:

Things to worry about:

Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,


Some of that advice is too simplistic for 18-22 year olds, of course. But on another level, it is a really beautiful way for a parent to tell his daughter that the list of things they are worrying about is probably too long, and What Really Matters can be summed up pretty briefly.

As an academic adviser, I have had many students confide some of their worries to me over the years. Here are some of the most common worries they share:


Disappointing parents and families; that could be anything from choosing a major they fear their family doesn’t approve of, to a romantic partner they don’t like, etc.

Not knowing what to major in

Feeling like everyone else at Wake has life all figured out (but they don’t!)

Greek life – afraid they won’t get in, or they don’t want to be part of it at all and are afraid of standing out, or they don’t want to be in their loved one’s same Greek organization

Not getting into the WFU business school (or any med school, law school, etc.)

Feeling like I don’t fit in here (hint: everyone feels that way sometimes!)

Getting a job after college

I know that COVID adds a whole new potential set of things to worry about, because there are so many unknowns in the world. For me, an anxious person by nature, being reminded of all the known things – the constants in life – helps to make things better.

So think about your Deac, and think about whether it could be an exercise for you to write your own Worry Letter before the academic year begins. If you were going to write a Worry Letter to your student, what would you say?  What would you want them to know about life, and how to differentiate the small stuff from the Really Big Important Stuff?  What advice would you give that they might cherish?

Food for thought on a steamy Monday here in Winston-Salem 🙂


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

Categories: the daily deac

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