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Duquesne University

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

I would advise parents to be active in their child's search for the right college, but to allow the incoming freshman to select where they feel they will be comfortable and successful, because the student is the one who will have to live/study there. Also, do not limit your child based on your financial situation; you are both eligible to apply for loans that don't require payment until after graduation. Students, research more than just the academic prestige of each school you are interested in; there is so much more involved in college life than just your classes. Be sure to personally visit each campus and tour as many facilities as you have access to, you gain so much more perspective than just viewing their website or reading up on other students' reviews of the school. Once you feel that your parents and you have made an informed decision of where you wish to study based upon your own personal criteria (campus size, security, activities, academics), get involved on campus. What gives you the full college experience is to get involved in campus activities, service in the surrounding community, and socialization with your fellow students.

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The college application and acceptance process is a big event in the lives of students. It is said that you go to college to make something out of your life and skills. But college is much more than just that; it is not your future, but rather the springboard to your future; it is not the place where you become something, but rather someone. Colleges and universities are academic institutions, but the academic aspect is only half of the experience. College is a place where people learn more about themselves than at any other point in their lives. Through academic studies, successes and failures, new social situations and experiences, extracurricular activities and volunteering, life in a fraternity or sorority, college shapes people through and through. Those four years are commonly reffered to as "the best four years of your life," but the most important year by far is freshman year. It is important to find a school where you feel you can easily adjust and acclimate to the college experience and lifestyle. But most importantly, the thing to keep in mind is that college is like a machine; the more work you put into it, the more you get out!

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The most valuable lesson I gained in college is self-reliance. Most students gain independence in their first year of college, but I find the term self-reliance to be very different: Independence is an unearned gift, whereas self-reliance is an acquired quality. I studied Emerson's essay “Self-Reliance” in high school, but only now am I beginning to truly understand it. Self-reliance is the ability to trust in one's self and knowledge despite what others do or say. As a Physician Assistant major, my professors have told me to prepare for a long, grueling road ahead. Although I did well in high school, this statement intimidated me; however, I learned that self-reliance is key to overcoming this fear and achieving success. Flipping through the pages of Biology I had to study was overwhelming and frustrating, particularly as I heard laughter from the hallway; however, I ignored the distraction and focused on my work. While the average score on that first exam was a D, I earned an A. I concentrated on my studies and trusted the knowledge I attained. Self-reliance is a valuable quality I am sure to carry throughout school and life.

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Choosing a college is like choosing a good running shoe. If the shoe does not fit properly, the runner will experience pains that permeate his entire body. With those pains the runner is less likely to journey as far. But if the shoe is supportive not only will his feet rejoice, but his body will capable of continuing the journey for miles upon miles. The runner is compared to the student. The pair of shoes is the college in which he/she chooses. If the fit is poor, the performance will also be deficient and the "body" will ache in spirit, pride, and enthusiasm. But, if the fit is perfect the student will exceed expectations and continue the journey through life with a sense of accomplishment. In conclusion, make sure the university or college fulfills every need in mind, body, and spirit and success will surely be achieved. Look for every opportunity on campus and off to learn and grow as an individual. Never become satisfied with the knowledge attained, but continually hunger for more knowledge and more life experiences. This will truly create a perfect college experience and more importantly, a life experience.

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While high school tries to ready you for the adventures and perils of college, please be prepared that college is everything and nothing you expected. While you may predict the difficulty of classes, the degree of home-sickness, and the ungodly emphasis on drinking, there is much that will surprise you. First, friendships take longer to form than the first few weeks of school. Friends that stick closer than a brother may develop after years of hard-work, investment, and sacrifice and that is ok and natural. Secondly, there are two kinds of students in college—well there are more, but only two you need to worry about—students that want to pass the class and students that genuinely want to learn. It is time for you to develop a passion for learning and not just passing, because it is these students who will change the world. Finally, life will not always go the way you picture—an important life lesson to learn early. During school a death, a sickness, a divorce, a breakup, or any unpredicted struggle will come your way and may change your life goals and dreams. Do not be overcome, but grow, press-on, and thrive.

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I would give myself the advise to incorporate myself into many more high level classes. My high school poorly prepared me for the atmosphere present at a University. College professors are much less interested in minor details such as hall passes, using the water fountain, what you are wearing, or whether or not you are eating in their presence. These professors are more interested in providingtheir students with important information; whether or not a student chooses to learn is their choice. Although I have always considered myself a proficient student in high school, college classes caught me off gaurd with higher intellectual expectations. Although I did expect college classes to me much tougher than high school classes, the amount of time my high school adminstration spent on formulating new dress codes, behavioral rules, and conduct rules, disracted me from more intellectually stimulating courses. Knowing how different college is from high school, I would advise myself to better prepare for a college enviorment, rather than forming familar routines with the high school enviorment.

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"Knowledge is Power"; a wise and familiar quote to us all, the implications of such a statement hold true for any college student. But what is knowledge? Is found in that which we obtain deep in study, in the pages of a book or the words of a lecture hall? Or perhaps it is something deeper, something that lies within the self, that which is found through experience and life itself? I would argue that it is a combination of both, and that one cannot exist without the other. It is true, scholastic aptitude and capability are measured in terms of how learned one is in various subjects of higher learning, but all that is obtain from a text book shall hold little meaning to he who is without passion, he who does not live, he who breathes with no experience, for all the knowledge in the world is wasted without wisdom, that which comes only from experience and life itself. My college experience founded that wisdom vital to knowedge, crucial to the power that lies within us all. I learned much of Sarte, Camus, Shakespeare, Calculus and Physics, but i learned more about myself than words can describe.

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There are numerous things to consider when making such an important decision as to what college is right for the individual. The first thing is researching schools that are known for what a person is choosing as their field. Then make visits to both small and large schools as well as a few in rural and city areas. Get a feel for what kind of location and atmosphere fits. Next, talk to admissions, faculty, and even current students all of which will most likely present you with the school you prefer as well as the one that prefers you. A bit of advice would be to go into the admitions office with substancial academic and financial questions. Let them know what a brilliant person you are with other great college offers, but do not be snobbish and let them know you are sincerely interested in their school. That will most likely result in some scholarship offers. As far as the actual college experience itself, most people want to not only do well in school in order to be successful afterwards, but also to enjoy the time while they are there. The key thing to strive for is a good balance.

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To put it simply, I would recommend that parents and students alike leave a little room for uncertainty. College is a time of exploration, where a student can find him or herself and truly learn where their strengths and interests lie. To expect to have all of that figured out as a graduating senior in high school is unrealistic. Students change their minors and majors all the time; transfers between universities are commonplace. I feel that a studen trying to fit him or herself into a certain academic or athletic mold right at the outset is being counter-productive, as that student shuts out other possibilities that would be open to a student who was less "certain" about what they wanted. The most important question students can ask themselves when selecting a college is, "Is this a place where I can grow intellectually? Spiritually? Is this a place where I think I can find out who I am?" Then, if they keep their eyes and minds open, possibilities that capture their passions and their interests will appear before them, and, in time, their future will fall into place before their eyes.

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The advice I would give to myself would be to trust in the decisions you make. In the time of choosing the right school and also making the transition from high school student to college student, many questions are asked. I would say to myself, "Have faith in yourself." At those moments, decisions seem life changing. They are really life learning. So much pressure and lost hours of sleep are put into making decisions. After experiencing the first semester of being in college, I wish and most other freshman would agree, that no matter what you choose to do or what school you get in to, the decisions you made were good ones. If they were not, learn from them. If I were to go back in time and talk to myself and other seniors it would be the same message, enjoy your last year in high school and do not worry so much about the decisions you make for your future years. They are all life lessons learned. Don't make decisions in haste or take them too lightly. Remember most of all, your parents really do know what they are talking about and have learned many life lessons.

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