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Eastern Illinois University

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

I cannot imagine my life today without my college education. The time spent in desks, on the quad, participating in extra-curricular activities, forming lasting friendships, joining a Bible study, cheering on our athletes and studying in the library are various activities that have shaped me as a person. I have always believed that education goes far beyond the classroom. Education is knowledge gained through interactions, hands on experiences, making mistakes, learning from them, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to meet new people, and time spent in the classroom. Eastern has provided me with a wealth of learning opportunities ranging from getting involved in my church, my jobs as a Resident’s Assistant and a Fitness Instructor, a variety of volunteer opportunities in the Charleston area, participating in community events, experiencing diversity training, and through countless hours invested by professors. These experiences have shaped me and given me the skills that will allow me to see problems in our world and actively work to find solutions. Memories from EIU that I will carry with me are the times that I got to make a difference, small or large, in a person’s life. People are what really matter.

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The advice I would give to parents or students about finding the right college is getting a head start on in it. I would start looking in to it during a student's freshman year in high school. Parents and students should request different brochures from different colleges. This way you will have colleges in mind already and what requirements are needed to get in their schools. Also, start looking for scholarships during this year. Most scholarships want students to be involved in high school and doing community service. Therefore, you will be inovled and active, which will look good to the different organizations that award various scholarships. The next advice, I would give is visiting the schools to see how the campus looks, how well the people treat you, the housing, and other things that will be helpful to making your decision. I know my school wasn't my first choice, but they had a program that took minority students to Eastern Illinois University. It was an all paid expense trip that including: transportation, housing, food, free things, and waivered our student enrollment fee. After attending that program it finalized my decision. College is the way to go.

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I would tell myself that staying fit and active in organizations are two of the most critical components while enrolled in college. Whether you are involved in different activities in school such as sports, clubs, or organizations, staying on your feet keeps the stress off and makes school more enjoyable. This is important because if you're eating right, staying involved, and getting an appropriate amount of rest, believe it or not, it does affect your grades greatly. If you practice healthy habits as a senior, you are likely to carry these good habits with you into college. Your body and brain need well balanced structure in order to function properly. A healthy lifestyle is important in school so that you will have more energy and be focused during lectures. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle in school, you will have the stamina and the energy to perform all your activities throughout the day without falling asleep. Also, make sure you set goals for yourself transitioning into college. By setting goals, this gives you something to look forward to and a sense of accomplishment when you complete these goals. Keep a strong head on your shoulders and you will excel.

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Currently, I study in a community college in California (first semester). Being independent, creative and keeping moving forwards are three most principal things I have learnt up to now. In Vietnam, I used to be familiar with the learn-by-heart method, which means everything is provided already for students and we tend to be negative. But here, it is totally different. In 2010 fall semester, I registered ESL 119, ESL112, CSIS110 (Computer class). Personally, the U.S. education encourages students to discover and learn by themselve, not depends on what said in textbooks. I enjoy the learning method here so much. My writing as well as communicating skills have been improved day by day. I try to be more creative not always stick with theory. For example, when making presentation in class, I always focus on new things to make my speech become more interesting. Telling jokes, playing games, or simply sharing personal experiences help me to be more confident in public. Community college is truly a good prelimenary to transfer to four-year university -- especially international student of which English is not native language. Try best and not regret for your time.

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When it comes down to finding the right college, there are several factors the student must look for. If they have a chosen major or profession, it is important that the student's prospective schools offer courses and degrees oriented toward those particular areas. If neither have been picked, the student should look for a school with a broad range of courses that can be explored through their first years to help them decide on an area of study and a future career. Finances play a key role as well, if a college offers financial aid to a student, the student should look most heavily at those institutions first. The most important part about choosing the right college is that the student feels comfortable living and studying there. They should be comfortable with the campus and community as for eight months a year, it will be their home. To make the most of a college experience, students need to get involved on campus. Find and join clubs and organizations that interest the student and dedicate time and energy towards them. Go to school sponsored events and activities as this will help the student meet new people and build lifelong friendships.

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Students should do a minimal amount of research and visit prospective colleges that they may want to attend. If the student knows what major they want to persue, make sure that major is offered and how that program is ranked in comparasion to the other universities' programs. Students and parents should talk to friends who have gone to those schools to get their inside prospectives, as well as stay there for a day or a weekend. Ask friends from high school what schools they are looking into. All colleges are expensive but try to choose one that is not too overwelming so that acedemics, not working all the time, is the main priority. To make the most out of college one should be open-minded and want to get involved. They should try at least one volunteer organization or opportunity, join a club related to their major, and get involved with something they enjoy doing. By having groups of people to talk with and possibly can help them with classes, the student can network and not feel alone during a time of transition. They should not be afraid of meeting new people because you can always have more friends.

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If I had the ability to talk to myself as a high school senior about college life and the transition involved I would advise my younger self on two very important topics, which is: to live frugally and to not be afraid of change. It is easy as a high school student to not recognize the importance of living frugally, especially when the only funds available are from student loans. While the money may, at first, seem everlasting, college students, including myself, can become rudely awakened by their spending habits and are challenged by the consequences that they must face when they realize that funds are running low. I would also advise my younger self to not worry so much about the changes that will ensue. While the prospect of moving away from home into an entirely new situation may be daunting at first, the move into college life is an adventure that I?ve come to appreciate and enjoy. I would not only be able to tell my younger self that I have found myself growing tremendously because of the change, but that I also have begun new and wonderful relationships with people from all ages and backgrounds.

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Prospective students and their parents should research the colleges they consider attending. Choosing a major always seems to be an important question and may help the student narrow down his/her choices. However, it has been my experience that college advisors will tend to push for one major that is based on ACT or SAT scores. As a high school senior full of hope and promise, I went to several orientations, chose my university and picked my major. I felt pressured (whether real or imagined) into choosing a major that was extremely difficult for me. By the second year of college I had become increasingly uncomfortable with my field of study. I felt like a failure and dealt with depression. I would advise students to take general education classes the first two years of college. By the second year there is growth, maturity and adjustment to the college routine. Students will be able to make better decisions on the field of study that really interests them. For me, the answer was as clear as the nose on my face by the second year, however it took me four semesters to realize it. Don't give up!

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I have only been at this school for a week so far, yet the relationships I have made with students and faculty far surpass any expectations I may have had before arriving. By far, these relationships have made my college experience most valuable. Most students came here for the selfish reason of getting a degree and launching their own careers, yet they are far from being selfish. Especially in my dorm community, I have already found a family that embraces me and catches me when I fall. Because we all understand that the life of a college student can be very hectic and frightening, we seem to have created a net of safety and understanding. Faculty and staff are equally generous and the relationships I have established with these folks are truly astounding to me. I used to think that all professors were in it for the money and that other members of staff were here just because. But I have come to learn that these people have a purpose, to help students and encourage growth. The janitor helped me find my first class and the librarian gave me directions to the nearest gas station. How cool is that?

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I would tell myself that college is totally different than high school, both socially and academically. You are going to college to prepare for a career. That is your top priority, by far. Do not make the mistake of abusing the freedom you will have once you get to school. Wasting time on stuff that is not even socially related, and is still not academically related, is the easiest way for you to dig a hole that is difficult to climb out of. However, do not hesitate to make new friends and participate in different group activities. Remember to only be yourself. There is no one you have to impress (at least, there should not be). Unfortunately some of the same social cliques that exist in high school still exist in college. Even some of the same types of drama still exist. Rise above it. Do not abandon your prior beliefs and values without a lot of consideration. If you run into trouble, ask for help. Trust the people you are friends with to have some sort of knowledge that can help you. Learn from them. Most importantly: Rely on God, because He will always be there for you.

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