How do you decide to which school you are going to devote four years of your life and countless dollars? Talk to people who already decided. Brochures are alluring and recruiters persuasive, but admission counselors are paid to make schools sound irresistible. Students however, are forking over their lifesavings to attend and will relate exactly what they love and loathe. College is a huge commitment and you must be informed to make the right choice; so ferret out the dirty details counselors gloss over. Talk to students and learn the idiosyncrasies of the school. Are classes really small? If you blow up the chemistry lab do you automatically fail? College is enough of a shock without learning that Domino?s doesn?t deliver. But realize that the effort doesn?t end when the forms are mailed. Now you must make college count by taking advantage of your school. College is about education, but its not the lectures on electron repulsion that are memorable, it?s the stories and corresponding life experience that you will tell your grandchildren. So talk to hallmates, go to the Queer?s & Allies barbeque, cheer obnoxiously at homecoming and enjoy all the opportunities offered to you.
The best advice I can give on finding a college is for students to go where they feel most comfortable with the campus environment. On any campus tours a prospective may take, the student should try to picture themselves as students on that campus. Also, many campuses offer overnight programs that students should take advantage of for their top few choices of schools. The overnight programs generally allow students to stay on campus with a current student, sit in on classes that are of interest to the student and even meet with professors or coaches. These really give students an insight as to what life as a student at that particular college is like. Once students enroll at a college or university, they should take advantage of the many opportunities college offers. Students should get involved with student organizations and also pursue interests they thought they may never have a chance to explore. Another import thing is to really maintain a good relationship with your professors; they can really help you out, even in ways you never thought they might. Enjoy student life, study hard and have fun. Four years go by faster than you may think!
Finding the right school for your child is like getting engaged - if it works out it could be the perfect marriage, otherwise you spend exorbitant amounts of money on the divorce. You need to know what kind of student your child is - can they work independently, do they know their social limits, have they always struggled - and then match this with another university and their strengths. From my experience, you can never go wrong with the small, liberal-arts choice: with strong foundations in multiple areas of study as well as close interactions to keep your child on track, these schools have a reputation for producing independent-thinking, strong-working and talented adults. Futher, if your son or daughter isn't sure of a field of study I suggest the ultimate liberal art: philosophy. It is a recorded fact that philosophy students score the highest (as of the last study) on the GRE Verbal, Analytic Writing, and the Quantitative sections (with the exceptional of Engineering majors on the Quantitative). That goes to show that not only liberal arts but philosophy which is at its roots prepares students for almost any academic goal.
Finding the right college is all about YOU: your priorities, your interests and abilities, your preferences. The college search can be overwhelming, and many highschool graduates feel as if their entire future is hanging on this decision. The key here is not to let yourself feel crushed by pressure, expectations, or uncertainty. Instead, let the process of searching for the right school be fun, exciting, and gratifying: you've earned this. Choose a college that will foster what is important to you, whether it be a global perspective, a deeper religious life, readiness for the workforce, etc. Set your sights high! Even if you don't get into your top school, you might be pleasantly suprised to find that your second choice is a perfect fit. If it isn't, it's not the end of the world--you can always transfer. Once you get to school, keep an open mind. College is all about broadening your experiences and your way of thinking. Try taking a class you wouldn't normally have considered: you might be surprised at what you learn--or you could even unleash a hidden passion. Remember: the pressure's off, and it's all about you.
My advice to prospective college students and their parents in terms of making the most of the college experience is to consider three things: cost, educational environment, and residence life. Cost is pretty self explanatory; you have to ask yourself "Can I afford it?" You should research colleges to see what kind of financial aid they offer to help offset expenses; my college, for example, offers aid based both on academic merit and financial need. Also, get help filling out your FAFSA if you need it, but don't pay anyone to do it for you! By educational environment, I mean the manner in which you learn things. Do you do well sitting in a big lecture hall listening to a professor, or do you prefer smaller classes with more direct interaction between you and your instructor? You should also research your professors to see if they hold the highest degree possible in their field. Finally, I use residence life as a general term for your life outside of the classroom. Is a big social scene important to you? What about Greek life and other social activities? It's important that you remember to have some fun while in college.
The main thing that I would really advise families to do is to visit the school. Have the potential college student sit in on a couple classes in the field of their interest. Also, set up meetings with a couple professors. Finally, walk around campus and get a feel of the atmosphere, including what the students are like. My college offers overnight stays for prospective students. If the college that the student is looking at has this opportunity, take advantage of it. There is nothing more important than getting to know the atmosphere, students, staff, faculty, and academics. The college one picks will be his or her life for the next four years. Because of this, dive in and get to know as much as poosible before agreeing to go there. College isn't just another four years of academia, but rather another chapter of life. Because it's a place that one will learn more about his or herself and mature, it's important to know more about the environment of the college and not just how it looks on paper. Because college is where one truly develops as an adult, it's very important to experience the environment.
In my view, the most important advice for myself would have been to take a foreign language for more than 2 years. I took Spanish for 2 years in high school and after seeing how many people were already well prepared to continue on with it in college makes me regret not taking more years of it. The beginner classes at Allegheny focus on speaking the language fluently, which is why I feel that I would be at a disadvantage if I started taking a Spanish class now. High school prepared the students for what to expect in a foreign language class and I wish I could have been a part of that. There are college owned dorms (for example the Spanish house and French house) with allow students to connect with one another on a deeper level aside from having the their own foreign language club on campus. The foreign language programs offered are extremely beneficial if a student is interested in going to a foreign country to study abroad. If only I would have taken a foreign language more seriously in high school, many more opportunities could have come my way in college like the ones listed above.
I would reccommend that students visit the college and think about if they could imagine themselves walking around the campus. Picking the best college for you depends on your personality and the way that you learn. If you feel that you need more faculty attention then you should attend a smaller college. At Allegheny we allow prospective students to come stay the night with a current student and i feel that this gives them a better idea of what things would be like if they decided to go there. Making the most of your college experience will require you to step out of your comfort zone. Be open and express your ideas and there will no doubt be someone that shares those thoughts with you. Going to the orientation events is a good way to get involved and meet people if you are more shy. Becoming involved on campus is the way that i feel you will get the most out of your college experience. Making connections with faculty and alumnae will also allow you to get more out of the college that you are attending. Just try to have fun, be honest, and open-minded!
The college process was one of the most terrifying and stressfull periods of my life thus far. I personally made a lot of mistakes and would love to go back to that time with the knowledge I have to re-do everything. My first mistake as an applicant was believing all the hype of college applications, becoming obsessed with the process, and giving into the uneccesary stress. I should have stuck to the mantra, you will get into a college and you will be happy. Also, I should have eliminated some of the excess extracarriculars I packed into my first semester which were incredibly distracting and forced my focus on entrance essays to come in second. I should have also made sure that I would be happy at each school that I applied to. I didn't. Instead, I just chose a few random safties that I hated "just in case." I would have forced myself to start the process at the beginning of my Junior year rather than mid-way through it. Lastly, I would have told myself to be a bit more open-minded, becuase even very unattractive schools can have hidden pleasant surprises.
In high school, I believed that I was liberal, but really I was conservative and narrow-minded. I have my own way of accomplishing tasks, and strongly believed everyone else should follow my lead. When I went to Allegheny, many of my friends thrived by working under pressure. For them, writing an entire paper hours before its due date produces their best work. At first, this was hard for me to accept, and I attempted to change their personal style. But as my first semester progressed, I realized that I cannot control those around me, nor can I ask them to conform to my wishes. Every person must deal with their own decisions and work ethic, and I cannot decree to them how I feel they should work and act. By accepting this truth, I realized how much I had distanced myself while I was in high school. No one wants to be friends with someone who attempts to change them. So my advice to my senior self would be, " Relax, and accept others for who they are." I lost time attempting to change my friends, insteading of learning to tolerate and learn from them.