"Look to your left, look to your right, your future spouse might be in sight." That's how my freshman orientation to college began. Many (if not all) campuses seem to have sayings that are unique to them. Pay attention to these gimmicks. Find someone on the campus you're looking at, and ask them to use a student-perpetuated quote to describe thier campus community. If you asked my friend Matt, for example, to describe his rustic forestry school, he would call it a place where "the men are men and the women are too." Students have a way of using catchy sayings like that to cut right to the essence of their environment. Beyond learning campus catchphrases, my advice is simple: don't stress. When my friend Jonny was in high school, he drove a state away to look at a college he was interested in. He got out of the car, took in a deep breath, and said, "Smells like home. I'm goin' here." You, like Jonny, are an intelligent person. You know what's right for you and what's not. Identify your needs and wants, and if a place just smells right, go there.
Looking for the right college is an extremely important process. Not only do you have to look for the place where you will be given the best opportunities, but you need a place that will not send you into a finicial crisis. With the economy and the cost of living being in such a massive upset, finding both is usually quite a trial. My advice is to not pay attention as much to the cost as to the atmosphere of the school and the activities available there. Finding a place where you can bring some of your interests with you is critical to the college experience because it wil help you to maintain some of your identity. college is a life changing experience; a time when you discover what you want to do with your life. If you leave behind the things that you love the most, then you will look back years later and wonder what could have been. Instead of doing this, be willing to take risks and discover your own passions in every field, not just in your major. Learn from your mistakes but never regret them. Find a school that will let you be yourself.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior, I would tell myself an anonymous quote that I read in the past that helped me to get through the first few months of college. "If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we've never really lived". During my senior year, I was anxiously looking forward to making the dream of me, attending college, become reality, however I never expected what a drastic and overwhelming change that really is. I would remind myself not to take for granted the luxuries I have at home: the smell of home-made food, the sounds of my parents talking in the other room, or the knowledge of my brother and sister being but a floor above me. I would prepare myself to feel nervous, but encourage myself to replace any fear with excitement because these changes are what make life uncomfortable at first, yes, but beautiful with time. Every change is different, but one more way to rely on God. I would remind myself that I am right where He wants me, and that change and growth are magnificent.
I believe education serves purposes beyond simply preparing one for a career. A meaningful education not only achieves this preparation, but also empowers one to help others through their own, newly refined abilities. I feel that my own education can be a valuable means of expanding my capacity to help others and positively affect my community. The decision to attend my local community college, Los Angeles Pierce College, turned into a significant experience of my life. Many obstacles were presented by attending Pierce, such as having no official transfer curriculum, transfer agreements, or counselors to guide me to my four-year university. However, I managed to secure and thrive in my required courses. I have learned through this entire process that my success depends on my determination and perseverance. Along the way, I have developed persistent, resourceful, and motivated characteristics. Consequently, the confidence in my ability to accomplish both my educational and career goals and to take control of my future has expanded immeasurably.
If I could go back in time and speak to my former self, I would say, start applying to college early. Applying to College and Universities late gives you less time to make a decision on a life long career. It will be confusing and a waste of money in the future. All of us want to prepare for our dream job, but in reality very few are in the career we attended school for. I spent two years getting a degree in Computer Technology thinking it was going to be a perfect career once I graduated, but was severely disappointed when the economy went down and I found out Multi-million dollar companies in small towns need only one IT employee to run it. Here I stand, with an Associates Degree in Computer Technology, working a minimum wage job and unable to live in a larger city where odds of getting a job in my field is more probable, but not guaranteed. Therefore, do not wait around for things to fall in your lap. Make decisions on what you want for your future, so you won't waste your time and money in becoming a professional college student.
Make sure to research the school and its policies thoroughly before you decide the attend the school, so that you know what you are getting yourself into. Also, research many different schools to determine which is the best fit for you. Talk to actual students at the college, as well as faculty and administration in order to get a good idea of what the people are like and what it would be like to attend the school. Don't rush into any decisions--think everything thing through before making a final choice on what school to attend. Make sure to visit the school, if at all possible, in order to be able to take in the atmosphere/environment. If you have a chance, even sit in on a class or two, to get an idea of what they may be like. Also, find out the graduation requirements of the program you are interested in, to see what you will need to do/take over the next four years. Plus, try to speak with the head of the department in the program you are interested in to find out more information about your intended major and what is involved.
When looking into a college, it is important to think not only of majors and careers, but of the whole person. Certainly majors and careers are a huge portion of your college experience, but what really constitutes a life well lived? At the end of your life, will your identity rest in your job and your salary, or in what kind of person you were, and what kind of life you lived? Did you love your job and serve faithfully in your career? Did you make a difference in the world, or your particular sphere of it? Finding a school that will not just prepare you for a career, but will in addition shape who you are as a person is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And it is worth every minute of the search. Going into college with the attitude that you're going to have a big impact is a false notion. Expect to be changed, stretched, broken and challenged by your classes, your new friends, your professors, and your campus community. It is up to you to make the decision to put yourself in a place where you will be changed for good.
The first advice I would want to give myself is to not take 18 credits the first semester of college or any semester for that matter. College is not all about studying and working. There are many lessons to be learned and memories to be made outside of the classroom and books. It is not worth all the money you pay to go to school if you do not spend time with friends or have fun. Yes, school work is important and honoring to God, but it is not everything. Remember, failing a test is so minimal in God?s eyes. He wants to use you for His glory, so do not hide behind books all the time. Sleep is extremely important. Be sure to get decent sleep, or you will regret it. You will be more cheerful and attentive if you get good sleep. Also, make sacrifices for others and give of your time to help others as much as you can. It feels good. Be creative and use your time wisely. Choose specific fun things to do with your friends and plan accordingly. College life is wonderful. Make the most of every opportunity and trust God in everything.
Before starting your search, write down 1 or 2 key things you absolutely must have in a college, and 2 or 3 you would really like. Grove City had my main qualification, and my 3 important ones! Also, make sure you visit the campus, and don't underestimate the importance of a beautiful campus. It's so relaxing to just walk from my dorm to class and vice-versa because of the beauty of Grove City's campus. I also love how close the dorms are to each other, so it's easy to visit your friends. Distance from home is also important, as you might want it far enough away to keep you from driving home every weekend, but close enough so you can still go home for breaks without too much trouble. (I would recommend the neighborhood of 6 hours.) Most importantly, don't get too obssessed with school work. When it's all said and done, it's the memories of the relationships and good times you had that last the longest. Pick a school we're you'll click with the people, the culture, and the community, and you won't regret your decision.
Look long and hard at each school. What made this school for me was that it stretches me where I need to be stretched but is comfortable enough that I feel welcome and able to branch out and grow. The faculty were willing to go above and beyond their positions to make sure I have the oppertunity even if the school didn't offer it. So take the time to meet with the people in the department of your major find out if you could work with them and learn from them. Also, find out as much as you can about the community of students at the school, you will get so much out of your education if you are in an environment of people who are diverse in their abilities and interestes but also have similar goals and direction as you so that you can work with them and learn from each other to reach those goals instead of feel frustrated and alone. You want to find a school that will be worth your time, effort and money. A school where you will really grow and enjoy the learning process and come away with more than a college degree.