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Bowdoin College

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

As a student and a parent, it is important to understand what you would like a school to provide to you and your son / daughter as a student. Depending on your interests and personality, there are certain schools that would be best for you. For instance, a small school can offer unparalleled research and advanced study options, but may not support a large traffic load of companies recruiting for internships and jobs. Try to imagine yourself at that school: would you miss football games or find the ocean invigorating? Do you want to be close to home or have the ability to walk into your professor's office to ask a question on a specific problem? There are so many factors to juggle, having a solid understanding of what will make you happy and what are the most important factors to you will help narrow down your choices. Once you find that perfect college, take a step back and understand all it has to offer - do you want to go abroad, join JV tennis, hike on the weekends with the outing club or start a debate group? The opportunities are limitless and your passion will carry you forward.

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First impressions are often correct, but they aren't necessarily the best way to judge something. The day I visited Bowdoin, it was raining hard, it was cold, and I don't remember anything particularly exciting happening. That may in fact be the best way to describe the entire experience as well. However, I would never go back in time to choose a different school. Bowdoin is slow paced, and far enough away from a city to feel connected to nature, while still being a day trip away from some of the East Coast's biggest cities. So, don't weigh your first impressions of a college too heavily. At the same time, first impressions are powerful, and if there is one thing that I can say without a doubt made my college experience the best that it could be, it was this, "ignoring the general education requirements". A liberal arts education is about finding out who you want to be, and learning how to remake yourself should you end up being something different. Explore your interests first, and you'll be surprised how many of the general education requirements get done while you are doing so.

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The right college for you is the one where you can imagine yourself living and learning for four years. This can be challenging, considering that most people change dramatically during their college years. When it comes down to it, though, I believe that the best colleges offer a broad enough range of activities and academic fields to accomodate such growth. Of course, food, housing, security, and countless other topics will play into your decision as well. But remember that what really matters in the end is what you will have gained by the time you graduate. Although the party scene may seem essential to you now, will it be as important to you by the time you're a senior as the possibility of doing one-on-one research with a professor? So my main advice is to use your imagination. Imagine yourself in the library, on the quad, in the student union, off campus, on campus. Would you be comfortable there? Happy there? Learning there? Trust your imagination. Because pretty soon, that imagined future will become reality. And that reality really is the best four years of your life!

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Don't worry about rankings or what others think of your choice. Identify what is important to you and focus on choosing the school that is the best fit. Talk to current students at your potential schools. They have the insider information and will give you the real scoop. If you have concerns, bring them up early. Spending four years at a college is a big decision and you want as much information as possible in order to make it. At the same time, step outside of your comfort zone. College is a time to try new things and have experiences you may never have again. Take a class in an unfamilar field and take courses based on the reputation of the professor. Get involved in a lot of activities early and figure out what you are passionate about as time goes on. Don't get overwhelmed and don't feel like you have to have it all figured out. Academics are imporant but much of the learning happens outside the classroom. You are not just paying for a piece of paper to hang on the wall, you are paying for the opportunity for self discovery. Take advantage of it.

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In the end, it is not the college, but rather, the student, that makes the experience successful. Difficult as it is, it is important to put aside the name of the school, and the GPA/SAT scores of its students. Instead, try to think about what is really the best match for you. A school can have a fantastic reputation, but this doesn't mean it will be the best fit for every student. In the end, a person will be successful if he/she feels connected to the college and its community. Further, regardless of whether or not a student is enrolling in his/her first choice school, or a "safety school," it is absolutely crucial to go in with a good attitude. The student's first year, and even the first few weeks, can make a big impact on the overall experience. Even if you feel that the "college process" has treated you unfairly, once the time comes to enroll, try to put the past aside and take charge of your college experience. It's up to you, and every single college and university can provide a top-notch educational and social experience if you seek it out.

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The "right" college is not about applying to the highest-ranked or toughest-to-get-in to school. It is about looking at everything, from the academics, to the food, to the sports and other things that you will spend time doing on campus. You might find that the cultural groups on campus, or the library facilities, or the food are among your most important priorities. I would remind students that you can be happy at almost any school, and finding the "right" school is about finding yourself and understanding will make you a happy student for the next four years of your life. Parents, if you are helping your child pay for school, then your job is to find out how compatible your son or daughters top choices are with your financial situation. Getting into the school is only half the battle, and make it clear to your son or daughter that you will do the best that you can in helping them attend the school if their choice, but that they may need to keep their minds open to make this decision the best one for the whole family. Good luck and don't stess.

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To find the right college, students must put their own aspirations for the future above all else. Students must disregard pressure from parents and others to go to certain schools and pick where they feel most comfortable. When deciding on a school, I thought it was very helpful to actually visit the school and stay overnight with a student. When you stay there on your own you get a feel for what it is like to be a student there and can see if it is a place you can see yourself living for four years. I think getting involved is the best way to make the most of the college experience. This year I tried new clubs and sports that I never imagined I would try. I left my comfort zone, took risks, and tried new activities that I was nervous to try, such as diving. It is also important to utilize the resources on campus, such as professor's office hours and study groups. To make the most of the college experience, students need to learn how to balance academics and extracurriculars and just have fun meeting new people and forming new friendships.

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Don't be afraid and don't worry so much. Everything always works out in the end, even papers when they seem like they won't get finished at two o'clock in the morning the night before they're due (although that has only happened once!). I would tell myself to be courageous and to be a "yes-man," or rather "yes-woman" in my case. So many of the opportunities that present themselves to you in college will only present themselves once, and you'll never again be in a place that is as mentally scintillating and where the people are as actively enthusiatic about everything in the world as college is, or a place where there are as many "free" opportunites as there are at college. Don't let opportunites slip away from you. Go to the guest lectures; go to the poetry jams; go to the concerts; go and have coffee with a professor; go to your fellow peers' preformances, and whatever you do, make SURE you go to every acapella concert that you can. As far as you know for certain, you only have one chance to live, make sure you truly live it.

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The truth is that Mom and Dad should have some input. Parents are there as they have been throughout a child's adolescense, to guide them into making informed decisions. Parents should be there to remind a student that just because he or she likes the facilities, there are other factors to consider or that just because they had a good time during their stay at a particular college, students should remember that there is more to a college than just the social scene. That said there is a very important aspect to finding the right college that is 100% in the hands of the student. After making a list of schools that meet the academic, athletic, aesthetic, and career oriented criteria, the school must feel like home to the student. When I chose Bowdoin it was because I went there and felt that I had a real connection t the school; I could envision myslelf going there. So Parents I advise you to help your children make an appropriate list for themselves and after that take them to each school and let them decide what feels right.

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As much as I wanted it to be there, there was no soundtrack playing in the background of my days and I did not have an omniscient voice intermittently narrating my actions and thoughts. I lived in the real world, not a movie, which is something I seemed to forget a lot of the time in high school. Throughout most of my high school career, I mistakenly thought there was a real meaning and look to the word ?normal?. Now, I do not want to turn this into a sentimental rant missing only the quiet violin in the background. What I do want to do, though, is urge my high school self to realize that only I have to power to make myself feel good about who I am. Be proud of the A?s, flaunt that curly, frizzy mess called hair (I mean, models tease their hair, right?), and sing those show tunes loud and clear. The key to success is not only knowing yourself, but also accepting yourself. I love pop music but, the advice I would give myself would be to make high school ten times less dramatic as those songs make life out to be.

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