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American University

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

When it come to finding the right college, put down your books and go visit the campuses. Yes it is important to go to a good school, but it is more important to get on campus and see how you feel there. Go with your gut instincts. I felt most comfortable at my now school and I have never regreted going. It's the people who go to a school because they have legacy or because it's a top rated school that are miserable. My father went to MIT and transfered after a semester (to another good school mind you) because he thought it was his top school, and then got there and was miserable because he didn't feel right on campus. You're going to be living there and working there for four years (give or take), you have to feel comfortable in your own skin. As to making the most of your college experience, don't worry about who likes you, you're bound to find some of the best friends of your life just being you. Join clubs that you like, do things that you like to do and life will seem great.

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Pick a university that makes you feel at home the second you step on campus. Find a school with a wide range of extra-curricular activites and a program which suits you best and you will never have a chance to be homesick. I never had a difficult time fitting in at AU because there were so many groups to get involved with and so many different things to do that I never got bored or lonely. I have made friends that will be with me for the rest of my life. My class sizes are small, which is very important to me since I prefer to have relationship with my professors. The professors here are extremely willing to help students, which is a definite perk. The campus is in the midst of an amazing city, yet it is not spread out and has a definite "campus" feel to it. I like the fact that I can take a shuttle bus to the metro and be anywhere in the city within a matter of minutes. AU is a perfect fit for me because I feel home here. Every student should find a place which feels like home.

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After my first year of college, being able to talk to myself when I was a senior in high school would have greatly impacted where I am right now. I have always thought of myself as a good student and one thing sticks out to me that I would share with my high school senior self that would help better my college self. During my senior year I was fortunate enough to be accepted into my schools porter scholar program and I was able to take a class at Beloit College during my first semester of my senior year. This experience really helped show me what college was going to be like and made the transition much easier. However, I was not able to take part in this program my second semester due to the number of advanced placement classes I was enrolled in. Knowing what I know now, I would tell myself to do anything possible to take advantage of the porter scholar program again to gain more college experience and make my transition from high school to college even easier for me.

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After graduating high school I had a different plan for the next year than my friends and classmates: I was taking a gap year to live in Germany with a host family, attend a German high school (gymnasium), and immerse myself in the language and culture. My year abroad can easily be described as the best year of my life this far. However, my return to the U.S. and reimmersing myself into an American culture and beginning college turned out to be a greater challenge than I expected. While American University is definatly the place for me and I have found several good friends, I realize that as I first entered college I should have shared my experiences in high school and home as well as my life in Germany. Overall my transition into college and the stresses of classes and scheduling lessons was a smooth one, but everyone should take into consideration the maturity gap between every person beginning as well and be flexible to other peoples backgrounds, habits, and ideas.

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A letter to myself on graduation. Dear Megan, It is your last day of high school and a whole new scary world awaits you on the other side of the stage. In just three short months, you will be leaving your family and friends to move 1,000 miles away for school. The move will be difficult because you have always had people surrounding you who know how to support you. Although you often have a hard time learning to trust people, you quickly make plenty of friends and then you must decide who your true friends are. I am not going to lie, your first semester of school will be difficult. To make the transition easier, don't let yourself get lazy. When you get lazy, you become depressed and that just leads to a more difficult road. Please remember that it's ok to ask for help and although your parents are across the country, they will always be there for you and will always support you. Take care and don't forget to believe in yourself! Good luck! Megan

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While there are many factors affecting the selection of a college, place an emphasis on the value of the education received. I found myself easily adaptable to widely differing campuses and school cultures; thus, retrospectively I would approach the selection process like a finance calculation (weigh the full cost of attendance against the anticipated long term value of the degree earned). In order to calculate the anticipated long term value, I would advise myself to: Fully understand the value derived from a college with a strong brand. Simultaneously, be cognizant that there are a multitude of highly competitive opportunities available to students from lesser-known schools. A high performing student from a mid or low-level university may be afforded more opportunities than an average student at a well known school, because recruiters and hiring managers appreciate achievement. Thus, consider the ability to excel when factoring for strength of the brand.

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I have been an athlete my entire life, from age five i was kicking the soccer ball around, so when I started applying for colleges everyone assumed it would be for sports. However, that wasn't the case. My best advice for parents and students is to apply to a school that matches all your personal wants and needs. For example, my requirements were that I wanted a medium sized school, located in a big city, that had a strong international studies program, and neutral weather. So what did I do first? I looked at all schools that had a strong international studies program. From there I kept breaking it down, until finally I landed on my perfect school, American University. This school was gorgeous, located in Washington, DC, it was medium sized and had an amazing SIS program. Later I was recruited for soccer and everything fell into place. So the important thing is to do your research and find the school that fits you, whether it's a big name school or not.

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Selecting a college is a choice that must begin early, before high school even. When I have kids -- hopefully not any time soon -- I will take my fourteen year old to three schools: a very elite one, a state school, and a community college. I will then inform them that it is their choices and a reflection of their effort that will determine where they will go. Along with this I will promise to always help and encourage them, rather than reflect negatively upon them. I will try to help them find what is best for them, rather than what I wanted. Who knows? While the elite school may satisfy some, others may find home a comforting atmosphere and feel safer in community college. Most, it seems, will choose the middle road. However, I would remind my child it is not where they go that matters, but what they do with the education they would receive. Thus my advice would be for students to find where they can flourish, and for parents to support this choice.

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College is more than just studying and going to class. It is a life changing experience. I have learned some of the most valuable lessons that anyone can learn. First of all, college is a good way to transition from High School into adulthood. Although the professors are very helpful, you are completely responsible for your own success and your own failure, while still being in a setting where there is some chaperoning. Because American University is very culturally diverse I am exposed to a lot of different type of people from various backgrounds, which has made me more cultured and opened my eyes how the rest of the world operates. In High School a lot of times many people are exposed to only one demographic. Going to college has been a real eyeopener. In order to make a impact on more peoples live it is essential to be aware of where they come from and how they operate. The diversity of American Univeresity has allowed me this experience.

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As much as prestige may influence your application process, do not let it affect which school you choose! Selecting the right school for you has nothing to do with how long ago it was established or how many of its graduates now work at United Nations. Visit potential colleges and find out the stuff that really matters - not what they tell you on campus tours. Are people available to help you with difficulties in your academics and social life? Is there always something to do on campus? Is there usually free food to be found somewhere? Are there outlets for the activities, hobbies, or careers that you want to pursue? These are really important! Be sure to talk to some current students. Current freshmen can tell you about adjusting to college, while juniors and seniors have a better feel for the school's academics, policies, and campus life. In short: make sure you get the whole story before you start accepting acceptance letters!

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