Be responsible to know about your college choices, asking questions about the faculty, classes, environment, spiritual atmosphere, extracurricular activities & athletics. Ask them to describe their typical graduate, both in personality & beliefs, but career placement & goals. If you cannot justify becoming that person, that college is not right for you. The right college will shape you into a person you like seeing in the mirror. Take ownership of this choice. At the right college, making the most of the experience is dependant upon your willingness to try new things. You will be drawn into participating in activities that interest you, that cause you learn & grow. Whether it is athletics, the arts, community service, or campus life, allow yourself to enjoy the new experiences. Be tolerant of activities that may not necessarily be 'your thing', and be open to changing your own mindset. Find student and faculty mentors who resemble who and what you wish to become, and meet with them. Learn from them, & experience life with them. Continue those friendships past graduation. Search yourself, explore your desires and dreams. Take time to enjoy this time, as well as learning as much as possible to succeed professionally and personally.
Parents and students should decide what they want out of a college before looking at the options. A list of priorities could include things such as high-quality academics, athletics, focus on the community, food selection, housing possibilities, etc. Just as each person is different, each university or college will appeal to different individuals. If a student loves being surrounded by people, going to sports' events, and playing sports herself, then perhaps a larger college with an extensive athletics department would be a fit. There are thousands of colleges in America, and each is different. My first piece of advice is to determine what the student wants out of college and from their decide which insitute of higher education would best fit him. How does a student make the most of the college experience? Be involved! Work diligently at the academics, but do not completely sacrifice a social life for academia. Attend sports events, join clubs, find a place to volunteer in the community. After college is completed, hopefully the student walks away with more than a diploma. College should be a place where students learn life skills and effective ways to serve others. Be involved in people's lives.
College is a time of transition on many fronts. Not only is the student thrown into a time of changes and challenges, but the family behind is left to an uncomfortable, unknown relationship with a once-close member of the family. I would encourage each transitioning to embrace this change, though, rather than to fear it! Growth is an inevitable change, yet beautiful as well. Incremental release from the previous life allows for changes to take place, bringing forth a mature member of the family able to produce and influence in greater ways than before. This member now lives as a convoy of the family, entirely independent yet completely associated with the name. With this in mind, the student ought to seek every moment with the fullest of his being, striving for excellence in all aspects of lifestyle. The remaining family members ought now also endorse their newfound role and relationship with the student, seeking to support and encourage them through this time. This mindset allows for the ultimate success of both the family and student. It bridges the gap created by a new lifestyle, keeping the now morphed relationships intact while bringing about succes in the most essential ways.
Hindsight is insight. Several times, I have thought how my college experience would have been different - knowing what I now know. As a high school valedictorian, a "Type A" who only knew how to get A's, and a people pleaser, I entered college with high expectations for myself. I also carried the weight of my perceived expectations of others. These expectations created undue stress throughout my undergraduate career. Being a college cheerleader, I also felt the the pressure of people "looking at me" and trying to fit a certain stereotype of who I was supposed to be physically and socially. I wish I could go back to 2000 and take the high school senior Autumn to the local coffee shop. Sitting in the oversized comfortable chairs and sipping hot cocoa, I would listen to her expectations and fears. Then I would gently say, "Lighten up! It is ok to not get an A. College is about growing academically but ALSO socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Take time to be with others and take time to be with yourself - no textbooks allowed. Most importantly, what you do does not make you valuable. You are valuable because of who you are! :)
Upon embarking on the college search, it is important for the student and the parents to identify a clear objective or purpose in pusuing higher education and why it is worth making that investment. As for myself, I do not view my college experience as simply preparing me for a specific job opportunity. Rather, I am primarily pursuing college as a means of completing my education while at the same time benefiting from an experience which fosters growth and independence and which just in general helps develops successful strategies for approaching and conquering life's problems. For many people it seems that if the college decision is not based on career objectives then it is based on finances or the subsequent lack. However, it is not really fair to compare the pricetag of a particular institution to the potential employment situation directly following, for college is a long term investment. I myself cannot afford the college I am attending, neither could my three older siblings, but somehow we are all making it through and learning to allow our immediate indebtness to motivate us to work hard now to eventually reap the benefits later.
Picking the right college is a huge deal because it will impact one's life forever. It is important to pick a school that not only has a good academic program for one's anticipated major, but also a good career services department to assist with the process of job hunting upon graduation. Even more important than this, however, is the values of the school. Pick a school that has beliefs and values that are similar to your own. Beliefs and values infiltrate every aspect of student life from social circles to the classroom. Cedarville, for example, places a lot of value upon reaching out to the surrounding community and distant countries in the world. This has strengthened an already strong passion for ministry and missions, and broadended my outlook on many things. As an RA here on campus, I have gotten to interact with countless students here and it has been an enormous blessing. Although academics are extremely important, friendships and networking are the heartbeat of college life. The friendships I have built here are going to last for a lifetime and beyond. Stay on top of academics, but never neglect your friends and social life.
When trying to find the right college or university, a common mistake prospective students make is to equate opportunity with success. It is important to understand that the primary determining factor in whether you are happy with your college experience is what you put into it; the time you apply to homework and classes, the effort you put into reaching beyond yourself to make friends with diverse backgrounds, and the perseverance with which you pursue your dreams are what will determine whether you accomplish your goals. If you are planning to pursue an academic career, the prestige and reputation of your undergraduate school are less important than where you do your graduate work; if you are pursuing a business-related career, your grades do not matter as much as your experience and your ability to convince an interviewer that you are a hard-working, trustworthy individual. College is the gateway to the rest of your life; it's where you practice to become the person you will be for life. So the most important question to ask yourself about a college is: is this a place where I will be comfortable for the next four years of my life?
Firstly, consider not what the dreams of the parent are, but what the dreams of the student are, and what skills they have. Everyone tends to do better and be happier throughout the college experience if they are doing and studying something they truly love. Secondly, consider what the college is offering to both of you, the parents, and the students. What is available on campus and in the surrounding area for the student? If you love the outdoors, are there parks and preserves? If shopping, are there malls or quiant downtown shopping districts? If ministry and outreaches, are there missions, shelters, etcetera, in the area you can be involved with? What support structure does the school provide for the parents? Is it easy to trust that your child will be safe and cared for? If something serious happens, will they contact you? Do they maybe have a service provided so you can send your child gift certificates for a local eatery when they've had a bad week, when you're 600 miles away? Quality of education and distance from home are considerations we all keep in mind, what I've suggested are things we might not think of.
When I look back at my experience of choosing what college to attend, I can't help but laugh at how little thought I actually put into my decision. My parents both graduated from Cedarville University, and they had been trying to sell their alma mater to me since I was a small child. It worked for my older sister, who hesitated to choose Cedarville at first, but graduated with no regrets about her experience there. But I believe that my decision to attend CU was obvious for other reasons besides family tradition. I identify with my school--it's character, its mission, its outlook on education. As an academic, I found at Cedarville uncompromising standards and a curious community of students. As a Christian, I found an institution that is serious about practicing faith in original and productive ways. As a young person, I found a network of faculty that encouraged me to work to turn my ambitions into reality. I would encourage any prospective student not to ignore her mind's eye when researching what college to attend. Find a school that you can identify with, an environment where you feel you can thrive and pursue your goals.
I absolutely love being asked about my college Why? Because not only were my four years incredibly exciting and fulfilling, but because they gave me an understanding of myself and my world that launched me with confidenceinto the post-college "real world." Sunny-day philosophy classes on the lawn, three hour dinner conversations in the cafeteria, and a study-abroad semester were the contexts for wrestling with some of life's biggest questions: what is the best way to live? what about God? how should I make a difference with my life? The answers I gained to were profoundly shaped by inquisitive and caring friends and by professors willing to be engaged in and out of the classroom. Through them, my time at college prepared me not only for a career but to approach life with deep purpose. As I apply to graduate school to teach history at the collegiate level, I know not only where I am going but why I am going there. Yes, I gained professional skills at college, but I also learned compassion, creativity, and critical thinking. It is those skills and a deep sense of purpose that made my college so very, very valuable.