The Worry Letter

Editor’s note: While this was a pre-scheduled blog post, we want to share this message that went out yesterday regarding vaccination documentation.

As I continue my vacation, here’s another oldie-but-goodie from the archives.

If you knew me in real life, you’d know I am a weapons-grade worrier myself (it’s part of my genetic makeup; I come from a long line of women who worried). I was also an English major. So imagine my delight when those two aspects of my life collided and I discovered a ‘worry letter’ that author F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have written to his 11 year old daughter, Scottie.  It reads:

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,


Granted, this is overly simplistic and appropriate for an 11 year old. But this is a beautiful thing to try to do for a child – help them separate the wheat from the chaff in the world of worry, and focus them on the things that feel the most important.

I don’t know each of your specific students and what their worries may be. But I can tell you some of the general worries that I hear when students confide in me:


Disappointing parents and families – by choice of major, by grades, by going Greek (or not going Greek and they think their parents want them to, or not getting into their mom or dad’s Greek organization), in their choice of romantic partner

Not earning as much money as their parents do/taking a lifestyle backslide after college

Not feeling any great academic passion/difficulty in deciding on a major

Not getting into the business school/med school/law school/leadership position/Greek organization, etc.

Getting a job after college

So, Deac families, I offer you this as a point to ponder in the remaining weeks of the summer: 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 Bad Stuff? What advice could you give that they might cherish?

Do you think your student would want to have this kind of letter from you?  Do you think it would help ease his or her mind in times of worry when they are far away from you? Maybe this is just me, but there was nothing in the world that made me feel better than knowing I had mom and dad’s love and approval, no matter what. Especially when I made a mistake, got a bad grade, did something foolish.  They were still there for me.

I invite you to write your own Worry Letter to your student if you choose.  It may mean more than you can ever imagine.


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