Truthfully, every student draws from his or her college's "universe" to gain a personal life education, an education broader than books--but deeper than wild weekends. The most telling decisions probably hinge less on reputation and more on the personal experience, the overall environment, and the available "tools." These choices distinguish bustling city campuses from serene traditional colleges; access to monumental government labs is pitted against access to prestigious alumni, and most importantly, the character of the students and faculty--erudite philosophes, Blackberry-carrying wunderkind, normal kids, etc--something difficult to gauge without a campus visit or some insider information. Fortunately, insider information is easier to get with the internet: social networking makes the currently enrolled more accessible, and most students are excited to dish their views to potential peers. Also, prospective students should always reconsider self imposed limitations--far from home becomes essential novelty. Finally, never be afraid to aim high, financially or academically. "Reach" schools can be surprisingly within range, and between private institutions, school aid offices, and government help, the only limit to financial aid is how far one is willing to dig. At college and on the way one rule prevails: be fearless!
The transition from high school to college is a stressful and electrifying one, where every aspect of one?s life and personality is put into question. There are many tasks necessary to complete and characteristics of colleges to consider and this can be indubitably overwhelming. However, it is important to always consider what one truly wants out of a college, a city, and out of life. Although issues may arise about the expenses, reputation, and opportunities provided by certain colleges, it is imperative to recognize one?s personal abilities and goals. It may be useful to organize a chart containing personal goals, fears, capabilities and inabilities in accordance to different aspects of a specific college such as finance, profession and/or major, social life, and possibly even personal quirks like food or weather. Moreover, it is important to remember to pursue any possible scholarship opportunities. As a college student, there are more than tuition expenses but expenses in food, transportation, social activities etc. The transition to college encompasses more than a change of people and studies but in lifestyle, thus one?s personal desires and capabilities should be the foundation of every step taken in direction toward one?s degree.
Look for strong academic credentials and reasonable financial aid. Determine ahead of time whether the amount of financial aid offered is constant from year-to-year, and whether tuition is scheduled to rise. If so, the frequency and extent of these increases should be evaluated. It may be difficult to ascertain without speaking to those already attending, but certainly worth the effort. Also important is whether the student will live on campus or commute to classes. I strongly advise in favor of living on campus for a number of reasons. The first is practicality: proximity to classes, professors, administrative offices and school facilities is essential, especially during the first year when students are typically adjusting to a different lifestyle. The second reason is a social one for those interested in making longterm friendships and partaking in the college experience. The best places to live, especially as a freshman, are large dormitories where the atmosphere is friendly and the administration sponsors activities which are important in creating bonds with peers. Although it may seem undesirable to share living quarters, dining halls, etc., with so many others, it is the surest way to make friends and enjoy your time at college.
Even people who profess their undying love to their alma mater will admit that entering college was not easy. Besides moving away from home, navigating the dining hall, and doing laundry for perhaps the first time, college students must rediscover and reaffirm their values. Here’s my advice: remember that the best friend you can make is yourself. Many students compromise their values to fit in with people they have only known for a short time. My first semester, I sacrificed to make friends, staying up late socializing when I had homework, laughing at jokes that made me uncomfortable, and holding onto relationships that had no true foundation. While one should have many acquaintances freshman year, I should have worked harder to maintain my integrity than to maintain my relationships, for it is better to lose one’s friends than to lose oneself. Therefore, I advise: pursue your passions, study hard, and have alone time. As an older classmate once warned, write down several things you promise you will never do in college, and stick to the list. After giving yourself some time to reaffirm your values, reevaluate your relationships and invest in those that will help you to grow.
It’s surprisingly easy to bob through college like a paper boat on a stream. I careened through my academics without much reflection, and before I knew it, I was docked at graduation. Hindsight is 20-20 but this much is true: set a goal greater than graduation and create a structure that enables you to attain it. Take small steps to reach bigger ones. Assess. Reassess. Network with professors in your field: pick their brains and inquire as to how they arrived at the present moment. Degrees are one size fits all: meet with your academic advisor and consider tailoring your curriculum in ways that suit you best. Join an organization to meet people who share your values and interests. Drink, eat, sleep in moderation. Exercise and discover healthy ways to reduce stress. Be present. Schedule and honor time for yourself. Consider graduate school or PhD programs, if that is your thing. Be kind to yourself. Mistakes are inevitable. You can always start anew. Cherish free pizza. There are few times in life where so many resources are at your disposal. From art and music, to mental health and career development, be opportunistic and understand that you have choices.
Spend time assessing your interests, both academically and extra-curricularly. Look for schools offering not only opportunities in these fields of interest but many more. Visit as many schools as possible. Sit in on classes. Eat in the dining hall. Talk with professors; find out how passionate they are about their students and about their field. Talk with students; find out what they like about the school but also what they dislike. Ask what they wish someone would have told them before going to college. Talk with a student who is considering transferring out and find out why. Talk with a senior and see what they are doing after they graduate. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to look far from home and close to home. Don't be limited by finances while searching for schools. Realize that transferring is an acceptable future option. Stick out the first school you choose for a full year before transferring. Don't be afraid to make friends and try new activities. Don't judge others and don't worry about being judged. Listen to your advisors. Love learning. Follow your dreams. Fear not. Embrace opportunity. Smile. Laugh. Relax.
It is important to really experience college life at a school, even if you are there visiting for a night. Some students base their decisions on solely aesthetics rather than real personal experience. I think it is extremely valuable for perspective students to research their schools as intensely as possible and ask attending students at that parictular university/college for their personal exepriences. Tours glorify their schools and sometimes overexaggerate things to entice perspective students. However, you will really know what school is right for you when you do visit-it should be an instant feeling of comfort and warmth. When I first visited BU, I immediately felt a sense of comfort; I loved seeing students sitting out on the bu "beach." But, it was really during orientation when I met a girl who became my best friend and still to this day is my closest friend. College will be the greatest time of your life, and you will meet people who could change your life forever. Make every minute last, it goes by all too fast. Get involved, do things you would never nomrally do, find yourself. Make yourself apart of the school and leave your mark!
Finding the right college is difficult for many students, especially those who do not know "what they want to be when they grow up." I changed my major 3 times during college! For those students, a large college is a good choice because it provides an opportunity to explore different fields and allows for you to change your major. A smaller school may not offer the new major you want and then you will need to transfer schools to pursue your interests! For students who do know what field of study they want, they should find the schools that excel in that field. Do a little research and find the top schools in that field, then narrow them down by your other priorities (cost, location, size, religious affiliation, etc). Some students need a school that is close to home, while others feel comfortable traveling further, but want a school with a diverse population. Whatever you want, there are many search engines online that let you search for colleges that meet your specific parameters. Finally, remember to ask your parents, teachers and friends who are already in college for their advise: nothing beats the wisdom of those that care about you.
If I could rewind the clock to the beginning of my first semester at Boston University, I would sit myself down and clearly explain, "Do not underestimate any part of your college career, from your academic classes to your social life." My present self might blankly stare at my future self, "What exactly do you mean?" Entering into college, I wanted to be active around campus, achieve amazing grades, meet tons of new unique people, and overall just be involved. Throughout the first semester in Boston I worked hard at accomplishing these set goals but I strongly overlooked some aspects; I underestimated just how much time and energy all of this would take. I quickly ran myself into the ground because I just kept on underestimating as time went by, taking the semester with it. When I should have been asking for help with classes I pushed on until I finally caved in and sought help with tutors and teaching assistants. By then my grades had suffered and I realized my fault. I had been active, volunteering and participating in functions around campus, but I lost myself in the rush of the moment. "Practice self-awareness; be sensible."
The shock of meeting a future version of myself is merely a harsh exaggeration of the disbelief I already felt as a high school senior; the secure life I had been meticulously building for years was crumbling, leaving me vulnerable to the mysterious universe looming ahead. Instead of preparing, I obliviously focused on my old life, fearing change. ?Stop worrying,? I would tell my younger self, ?College isn?t scary! You won?t need to abandon old friendships, but you?ll find it easy to connect with new people if you extend yourself. You don?t need an outlined career path; you?ll form academic goals while exploring your interests. You?ll have independence to follow your passions, but stay organized so you don?t become stressed. Also, spare yourself early classes; you are not a morning person.? If I took my advice, I would not have been anxious. I would not hesitate to strike up conversations in the elevator, ask professors for help, or explore on weekends instead of retreating home. It would have been helpful to hear these words from such a valid source, allowing me to fearlessly leap into college life instead of gingerly easing into it.