The college experience will be one of the best experiences of your life if you find a college that fits your wants and desires. The first steps in choosing a college is to narrow down what you are looking for in a college, both the academic and social aspects. The next step is to do some research on the colleges that match your criteria. The internet is a great source of information and there are multiple web searches that can help narrow down and extract some of the colleges that may be suitable. There also exist a lot of inexpensive books that provide information on a good number of colleges from small liberal arts colleges to large universities. Third, you have to visit the colleges to truly get a feel of the atmosphere. Ask some of the students who attend the school about their feelings and how they enjoy the campus. The best information is the inside information from the students who attend the university. Finally, the best piece of advice I can offer is to choose Clemson University. Clemson is rated for some of the happiest students, and has given me the best experience of my life.
First make sure the school is affordable. It can be a hard pill to swallow when a student finds out they have to take out $10,000 a year in loans to attend the school they want. Next, make sure that the school will be a comfortable fit for the student. I think that participating in an orientation session or programs that offer overnight visits are a great start because your student will get to interact with the students at the school they plan to attend and see what their life is like from a first hand perspective. Not to mention there are usually opportunities for the parents and students to meet with teachers and professors who are in the respective major of the student's choice. I think the best way to make the most of the college experience is just by getting involved. Finding something of interest to participate in is a excellent way to meet people who share those same interests, to network for future references, and possibly explore the world. Whether it's playing a sport on an intramural team, joining a specific organization, or volunteering the access to success is at your hands.
Visit any and every school you have in mind and stay over weekends. Try your best to get a feel of how your life would be on the campus. Make sure to do lots of research on the department of your major, even try to set up meetings with some of the professors and department heads. The more you know about the school the better!! Always remember that YOU are the individual that will be attending this school for four years; don't go to a college for anyone else. So many of my peers I meet here on campus give the lone reason that they came to this school becuase their grandfather, father, or mother graduated from here. Your college of atttendence should be of YOUR CHOICE only at the end of the day. Once you get in college just remember to always put yourself out there to meet new people. Networking with peers, professors, department heads.......anyone, is very important in college. Never know; one day you might need a recommendation from that boring chem professor or maybe that quiet kid in your business writing class may be the hiring manager for that job you want after graduation.
My college experience thus far has given me a fair balance of challenging and pleasant surprises to learn from and take forward in life. Going in, one knows that the experience will at times be challenging and, hopefully, at many times fun. However, these times occured in many unexpected ways in that the greatest challenges were not always purely academic, and the most fun was often not had in an intoxicated state. In my case - having ventured out of town, out of state and even out of continent to go to college - it was, in this way, just what I had sought: to broaden my experience within a completely new and wholly conducive environment. Prior to my college education, there was a lot I didn't know about myself and the world I would soon be immersed into from under the wings of my mildly overprotective parents. In my time in college though, every pleasant surprise told me a little more about who I am, or would like to be, and every challenge ensured that I developed the tools I would need to be successful in a world that, arguably, I now know I know less about. Valuable, indeed.
I have gained autonomy, knowledge, and field experience throughout my college experience. It has been valuable because when I graduate, I will be ready for the "real world". Although it has almost nothing to do with classes, being on my own has been the real reason for my maturation and self confidence. I have learned how to do laundry, how to stay involved in campus life, and how to pay bills. Most importantly, though, I have realized that I CAN be on my own. I have learned so much about what it really means to be a teacher, including its history, its psychological side, the interpersonal skills needed, and what makes it worthwhile. Actually being out in the field is so beneficial to my life after graduation; mostly, it helps me prepare for the everyday occurences. For me, since my major is elementary education, I get to learn about lesson plans, scheduling, and grading. Field experience also prepares me for the unexpected: the kid throwing up or the tests going missing. My college has prepared me for my future career and helped me to actually feel capable and ready for it.
I would say that parent helping their children is a must. The whole process is can be very overwhelming when attempted by oneself. Since there are so many colleges to choose from, I suggest the student take some time and serously reflect on his/her personality, likes/dislikes, and vision for the future. Afterwards, he/she should make a list of 5 or 6 characteristics that he/she desires in a school and would not happy without. This part should be done independently from the parents so that the student does not confound their desires with that of their parents. The students and parents do need to sit down together though when it comes to identifying financial capacity of the family. The final decision should not be made until a campus visit has been done. This is extremely important because all colleges try to sell themselves on paper/internet ads - you need be in the presence of the campus facilities and administration in order to make the most informed decision. Lastly, be positive! Realize that attitude is more than half the battle. Make a decision and go with it :)
FOR PARENTS: Do not do all the research for your kids, and don't try to influence them based on where you think they would like to be. This is the time when they need to be taking control of their lives. Do not call academic advisors, do not request more information from programs, and once they are in college, do not contact their professors. Advisors and professors want the students to be taking control of their future, and they don't necessarily care how much the parent cares. They want to know the student cares. If your kids do not branch out and experience life for themselves in college, when will the best time for that be? FOR STUDENTS: College provides the best environment to utilize resources, meet people, and learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. Take college as an opportunity to experience life in a semi-sheltered environment. There will be no other time in your life when you are surrounded by so many of your peers who are all interested in learning and growing. Study hard because it will definitely pay off, but never forget to have fun!
Procrastination is my strong point. Throughout high school there were few assignments that I completed prior to the night before the due date. Fortunately, I became good at procrastinating and could actually produce good work with insufficient time. However, over my fall semester I realized the hard way that this method would simply not suffice. In high school I was able to leave assignments until the night before, then use that whole night to complete them. In college, when I tried to do this, I would be hit with other assignments or plans that night, and I would have to say no, because I had left my assignment until the last minute. So although my work did not suffer as much, although I'm sure it did suffer a blow, what suffered more was my contentment. Instead of being able to go to events, have fun and make new friends, I put myself in a position where I had to seclude myself in my room or the library instead and work. So if I could give myself advice, I would tell me to use the free time I have wisely and don't wait until the last minute for anything.
I invisioned my freshman year of college to be "perfect." I had read material on first year college experiences, and had followed the advice of the experts. My "College Checklist" was flawless. And, the polaroids taken during orientation would allow me to plan the space of my dorm room well in advance. I thought "making the transition" would be a cinch... I was wrong. My dorm was far too small to accommodate everything (including myself); the dinning hall was a nightmare; 9-hours of sleep became a distant dream; and my roommate and I were incompatible. Fortunately, the work load was not too overwhelming, despite being a first-year architecture student. Although I had no trouble in the area of academic achievements, I suffered significantly in almost every other aspect of college life. Now a second semester freshman, I have gained some insight. The advice I would have given myself as a high school senior is simple... don't stress, there's no point. Just take it all in stride. It's all anyone can do, no matter how much they plan, or consult "the experts."
If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would start by telling myself to forget considering that degree that I am not really interested in and pursue what I love. At the end of these four years of college, I have to go out in the world and if I spent four years in misery studying something I do not care for, those years were wasted. Also, I would tell myself to get more involved. Senior Year goes by fast and it can be hectic with International Baccalaureate classes and extracurriculars, but you have to enjoy yourself and get involved to make it count. Another thing I would stress is the importance of applying for scholarships. As a student from a low-income family that is paying my own way through university, money is the key to everything. Scholarships can make or break you and cause you endless amounts of stress when you have to worry about where the next payment from school will come from or how much you will owe in loans afterwards. Overall, I would tell myself to do what I love, get involved, and focus on scholarships now rather than later.