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Bryn Mawr College

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

Do not choose a college based on one aspect, your interests may change, that college will not. KNOW YOURSELF. Choose a college with many offerings that interest you now. Choose a college with many offerings that don't interest you now (because they will later.) UNDERSTAND HOW YOU GROW. Think ahead. Where will your interests take you? What school will best develop these interests into a variety of options for your future? YOUR HAPPINESS WILL NOT DEPEND ON YOUR COLLEGE'S NATIONAL RANKING. Make your decison for yourself. College is about learning how to be self directed- now is a good time to start practicing. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. Your college will offer an abundance of offices, programs and staff dedicated to aiding your college experience- USE THEM. You are dynamic- PROVE IT. Get involved. Develop positive relationships with professors. The "Real World" is quickly approaching. Do not hide from it. EMBRACE IT. Search job postings for a better outlook on what lies ahead. Fatten up that resume. PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE, LIVE IN THE PRESENT. Make friends. Study. Party. Eat well. Sleep well. Take responsibility for your actions. Get excited. Get focused. Relax. ACHIEVE BALANCE.

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During the college application process, I was offered a full-scholarship to Bryn Mawr College. Unfortunatley, it was recinded on the basis that I was not "diverse enough", i.e. I was a lower-income inner city-kid who happened to be white. I was still accepted to Bryn Mawr, however and decided to attend because of its stellar academic reputation, thus abandoning my original desire to attend a fine arts conservatory program at other institutions to which I had applied and been accepted. At Bryn Mawr I was able to persue studies in fine arts, the sciences, literature, religion and anything else I could think of. If it was unavailable at Bryn Mawr, the faculty and staff would help me to find a class, internship or program at another institution at no additional tuition. I did struggle financially, working 3-4 jobs in addition to my rigorous academic schedule, directing my own theatre company, representing student government, student outreach, volunteering and mentoring. Whew! There were many times I felt like giving up, but the support of my fellow Mawrtyrs was unrelenting. I stayed, earned 2 degrees and am entirely satisfied I made the right decision in attending Bryn Mawr.

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If I could go back to high school and give myself a single piece of advice, it would be: “Don’t worry, you can handle it.” This statement is vague but incredibly applicable and, as I have found in college, accurate. I have discovered in my now three-year experience of higher education that certain classes, assignments, and social situations can be daunting. I have also discovered that these anxiety-inducing areas of my life are completely manageable and that I excel more often than I fail. I can be resourceful, creative, innovative, and confident even when I didn’t think that I could. The discovery of this independence has been not only exhilarating but comforting. There is a security in knowing that in any situation it is entirely within my abilities to seek help, restructure my strategy, and take the time to work through a problem or challenge. In high school this kind of independence was not absent but rather fledgling, so my feelings of autonomy and personal security were absent. I appreciate everyone in my life that supports me but I’d like to go back and assure myself that I am definitively my greatest resource.

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It's important to find a college where you just feel inherently comfortable. A great education is important, but there are many different schools at which one can learn and accomplish great things. But the part of college that will really make the difference is how you feel about your school, and how you feel about yourself while you're there. If you are constantly worried, upset by your peers, your social situation, or anything else, however small it may be, it will distract you from making the most of your academic and cultural education. so when looking at colleges, it's most important to feel comfortable and have the things that are important to you. The college experience itself is up to you. As the student you are no longer held by the tight standards and requirements you had in high school. Feel free to build your own schedule, take the classes that interest you, get as involved as you want with your activities, and take ownership of your time. College is a wonderful experience, and one that teaches lessons both inside and outside of the classroom, but you have to make it your own.

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The most important thing to remember about college, to really get the most out of those tuition dollars, is that you are there for the betterment of yourself. For probably the first time in your life, it's completely up to you what you do with your time. The Internet, friends, alcohol, and drama are all great forms of procrastination, but you really don't need to shell out more than a few thousand dollars a semester to find those diversions. Learning, too, can occur outside the classroom, but the kind of learning that goes on in the hallowed halls of higher education isn't readily inferred from life experience; hence the academic sphere. So be sure you're where you want to be, and if you're not, remember that this is also this first time in your life you can actually change how your education progresses. Investigate shared courses, participate in campus extracurriculars, change the community around you for the better. Being about yourself also means considering the environment around you. College is about making yourself and making your community what you want them to be.

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Be honest with yourself and search yourself for you priorities and inclinations, both natural and fostered, from now. Lay out a path so that when you're feeling lost or tired you can just take it one step at a time. Regularly reevaluate your path, and don't be afraid to alter your path in a healthy way. Don't sever your ties with your family and the community in which you grew up. They can support you on your path and help you figure out your goals once you have your diploma in hand. For graduation is rarely accompanied by an AHA! moment. Also, it is so important to GIVE BACK. People's strengths are brought out when they serve their neighbors. Get involved with tutoring younger students--you'll be surprised how much advice and friendship you can offer! You'll remember when you had those same questions, reflect on how far you've come, and continue to set your goals higher. Learn about the cultures around you and across the globe. Always do your best and remember to keep the innocence and creativity of a child while learning to be responsible.

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1. Money is an issue. It made me feel guilty having my father pay for my $48,000 tuition and not enjoy college. It's just not worth it unless you know you'll enjoy college and what you want to do. 2. If you are interested in Medicine, Law or some other professional job, definitely attend a smaller school. 3. ALWAYS RESEARCH THOROUGHLY ABOUT THE COLLEGES YOU ARE ABOUT TO ATTEND. You never know if you might have bad luck and attend a "safety" college. 4. Alumni connection is very important. For example, UC schools have a poor alumni net work because the schools are so big and public; whereas Bryn Mawr College has an excellent alumni network. I chose Bryn Mawr College over UCLA. I hope my choice was worthwhile. 5. Don't worry about the name as much. Nowadays it's what graduate school you came out of that matters. 6. Don't think College as somewhere you go next because everyone else is doing it. Definitely attend and graduate from a college, but if you want to take a gap year between high school and college do discover your passions--do it.

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Before you start the application process, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Then brainstorm things that schools could have that would overcome your weaknesses, and play to your strenghts. If you're naturally shy and had trouble making friends, you want a school with a strong sense of community, a good freshman orientation program, extracurricular activities that you are interested in, and lots of activities on-campus so that you don't have to do the legwork to find people to be friends with. If you're really independent and motivated and enjoy going beyond coursework, you want a school where undergraduates have opportunities to do research and work closely with faculty. Know yourself before you start looking at schools - whether big cities make you anxious, whether small towns make you claustrophobic, whether you are fine flying home twice a year or if you need to be within a 2 hour drive. When you know what you're looking for in a school, you'll be able to tell whether the places you're considering will be a good fit for you!

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Choose the place that feels right to you. I must have taken classes regularly at 4 different colleges throughout my undergrad experience, I saw how each college brought out some parts of me and hid others. In the grand scheme of things, going to the "right" college is not that important, but it does affect how you will change. Although I would have been equally well-educated at any of the four college I attended (UPenn, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, Haverford) my personality and character would have been different. This is something to take into consideration. Are these students the kind of person I aspire to be? As for making the most of the college experience...just remember that it is YOUR experience, and you always, always have options. Very few things are set in stone. If you are unhappy with something, as long as you can figure out what you want, you will be able to find a way to get it. Be positive and open and brave, and never give up. And never forget to have fun. "It's only life, afterall. "

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I would tell myself to slow down and really think about where I'm going and where I want to go. I would take the list of colleges that I was planning to go to and cross out every one that I was applying to just because of the name. Then, I would create a completely different list based on where I really wanted to be and where I felt my heart was. Despite everyone elses opinions of where I should go and what I should do with my life, I would make myself work toward and really feel what I (emphasis on I) wanted. Then I would let myself know that when I did get in college, wherever that may be, that I would need to take care of my happiness as well as my school work, that I didn't need to be close to the first people I met (i.e. my roommates) and that there are plenty of very interesting people at school that are worth meeting and getting to know. Most importantly, I'd tell myself that even though I went to a small public school, I'm smart and talented and should believe that.

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