As a high school senior, you're probably wondering what college is going to be like, curiuos about the amazingly talented friends you'll meet, and somewhat worried about classes and getting a good GPA. Rest assured that the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy has been a wonderful tool to help prepare you to deal with any academic difficulties and stresses that you may encounter. I'd even go so far to say that the workload at IMSA was more difficult than what you'll experience in college. Instead, focus on the incredibly diverse and multi-faceted array of individuals you'll meet during orientation week and throughout the semester. The true learning and fun you'll have in college will be through interacting with these students and faculty and discovering their pool of knowledge that will help you mature and gain a more comprehensive worldview. While Columbia University or any other school you apply to may be prestigious and filled with expensive labs and famous professors, the true value of a college education lies in the students who make up and define the university itself. Never forget that and always seek to branch out and meet more such individuals.
Treat the college-selection process like a game of ?Hot or Cold?. As you consider each of your choices, garner a sense of ?how warm it feels?. The warmer a choice feels, the more it is in alignment with what you want and expect from college. This, of course, encompasses everything from the perks of moving away or staying near and surrounding environment to the financial burden and school strength in your intended degree program. It is a decision that your personality should dictate: you?ve always been one to climb to the highest ledge and then take a leap of faith. Direct yourself toward a population that you either already enjoy or aspire to be more alike. Socially speaking, personas are fine to have, but just be sure they are all naturally occurring and true to you. When in doubt, be yourself and treat every new face like a potential friend. Be aware that your resources extend beyond your immediate family and friends, and utilize those resources like an RA, a professor?s office hours, or career center services to your greatest advantage. Remind yourself that everyone wants you to succeed, but nobody expects you to do it alone.
Be prepared for anything. College comes with many unexpected surprises, and the only way to deal with them properly is to simply expect the unexpected. It sounds cliche, but it really is true. Be prepared for late nights of studying, lots of hard work, and the chance that your grades won't be as great as they were in high school. However, I think the most important piece of advice for college is to just make the most of it. Academics should obviously come first, but it is so important to be able to recognize that there is so much more to the college experience. Make great friends, explore your campus, and make great memories that will last, because in the end, this is what will matter. In the process of making these memories, you learn so much about yourself, which is one of the greatest lessons that you can learn. Your grades will only give you so much satisfaction; the friends and memories you make will last so much longer. There is nothing worse than looking back on your college experience, and wishing you had taken advantage of your surroundings, because these are years you can't get back.
For me, I had a lot of trouble deciding between attending Northwestern or Brandeis University. I didn't make a decision until I stayed over at both schools and compared my visits. It turned out that I had an amazing time at Brandeis, where I met people as a prefrosh that I am still friends with today. At Northwestern, I found it boring and not for me. So I guess I would really recommend visiting the University while it is in session, and if possible to sleep over and stay with a current student to get a real perspective for the school. I was also very glad I chose Brandeis because of the courses required and the opportunity to study civil engineering at Columbia University. I wanted a liberal arts education but in my sophomore year realized I also wanted something related to architecture, and the civil engineering program with Columbia was perfect. So it is important to know about the courses you are required to take, because if I had attended a different university, with stricter required classes, I might not have had the chance to take the art and science classes that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Instead of taking a year off before college, if I could speak to myself as a senior, I would say, “Have courage. Do not let your fears discourage you.” I have learned that procrastination is dangerous because it gets in the way of progress; without it, I may have had an Associate’s Degree in Nursing today. This period in my life was very difficult because going to college seemed to be an impossible feat: I was afraid. It’s hard to know what to expect, because some people portray college as a colossal task. Although it is challenging, it has brought about positive changes in my life that I never anticipated. Had I not taken that bold step to begin attending college, I may not have discovered what I wanted to do with my life: help others. I have surprised myself by exceeding my academic expectations and maintaining a 3.8 GPA. College has made me a more knowledgeable person, formed character in my life, merged my path with that of new friends, and implemented in me a passion for learning that I never possessed. Most of all, I know now that people should welcome frightening learning experiences ahead.
I would tell myself to be as involved as possible, and relax. It is very stressful trying to make new friends, especially when you're used to the comfort of your old high school friends. However, by involving yourself in the community and staying focused on where you are in the now, the transition is so much easier. Many factors can hold us back from enjoying and exploring college life--long distance relationships, going home too much--both of these break your focus from the here and now. I would tell myself two ways to involve myself in campus life: do what I love, and do what scares me. Doing what you love brings the comfort and familiarity to school, helping me feel more at ease. Doing what scares you helps break you out of your shell, learn new things, and allows you to meet new people you wouldn't think of getting to know before. Telling myself to relax is most important--making the transition is hard for EVERYONE...no one is prepared, everyone is scared. Just trust that you've made the right decision. Relaxing yourself allows you to feel fearless, and nothing will make you happier.
Choosing a college can be one of the most daunting decisions of an individual's young life, but it should also be fun. First, remember that there are dozens of colleges that want YOU as a student. In all the anxiety of applications and awaiting acceptances, don't lose sight of the fact that you are a commodity in high demand. Second, narrow down your selection by setting your priorities. Do you want to go to school in a major city? In a suburban area? Or do you want a more isolated campus, away from the world? How important is school rank to you? Diversity? Academic rigor? Are you looking for specific academic or extracurricular programs? All of these will influence which schools you decide to apply to. Most importantly, visit the campus! There's no better way to get a feel for a university than seeing it up close and personal. Talk to students if you can. It's more important to talk to upperclassmen than freshmen. All first years take some time to adjust to their new school, so talk to the veterans. They'll have a better feel for what the entire experience is like. Good luck!
"Places!" The world is your audience, you are the director, and there is no script to follow. This is what I wish to share with the next "actor" who stumbles onto that college campus stage with a pre-written script they are most certian will land them that perfecct job, perfect life, and perfect self. Whether an actor or not, in order to get the most out of college and life, one must look at the world as a stage and prepare themselves to play any and every part. The key to giving a riveting performance is to savor what inspires you, listen to your every dream, and not fear the unexpected. Inexplicable beauty and promise lie between structure and improvisation . When one is able to accept that a definitive path may not always lead to where you expected, it's the tool of improvisation that fosters the resilience needed to persevere. Lastly, though you will be asked to play many roles, some which may feel uncomfortably far removed from your true self, remember that it's just a costume and your just an actor and underneath it all, YOU are still there. "Lights, camera, action!"
The best piece of advice I could give myself would be to “finish strong.” Towards the end of high school, I had already been accepted to college, and, as many high school seniors in my same situation have done, I was not exerting full effort towards my studies. I didn't understand that attending school was a privilege; it is rare in life for learning to be one’s primary responsibility. So, it would behoove me to take advantage of my time in a learning environment. Now is an ideal time for me to return to the academic environment of business school, to be surrounded by like-minded and collaborative students who wish to share their unique experiences and perspectives. My work experience has provided me with important technical skills and a useful knowledge base spanning corporate finance, accounting, valuation and investment management, amongst other areas of focus. Returning to school will allow me to focus on specific areas to round out my skill set. I plan to take advantage of the opportunity ahead of me, and to fully dedicate myself to my studies while I am enrolled.
College is perhaps the most life-changing of experiences in your academic career. Its goal is to challenge the very foundation of your beliefs and values, and the most important piece of advice in making the most of your college career is to be open-minded. You will take at least one class that will challenge your current way of thinking, and perhaps make you uncomfortable with these new ideas being thrown at you. You are forced to accept them because you need the grade, but enjoy this experience because this is what makes college so new and exciting! Strike a balance between work and social activities, but keep in mind that there is more to a social life than partying. Be active in volunteerism - it is what makes society function at its best and allows you to meet new friends with similar interests. For those trying to look for the perfect college, remember that looks are deceiving. Immerse yourself in the college for a day - attend a class and talk to the students and faculty there. You will be surprised at how many things they tell you that are not in the viewbooks!