As the oldest child in my family, my parents were understandably nervous about sending me off into the collegiate world. Their solution was 'The Great College Search'. Beginning my junior year, every family vacation was built around looking at schools. Coming from a large high school, I thought I wanted a similar setting- some type of large university. After seeing a few of these, I realized a small school would better suit my needs and interests. I wouldn't have realized this without going to physically see these schools; talking to students and professors was an incredibly important part of my search process. I am forever grateful to my parents for taking the time to visit schools with me. Their willingness to discuss pros and cons of each school was crucial to the decision I made. Once I enrolled at Hamilton College, I got involved in a variety of activites. I fully encourage students to participate in anything and everything their school offers. Whether it's a sports team, a club, or a volunteering opportunity, activities are a great way to meet people and feel like part of a community. You only have four years- make the most of them!
If I could go back in time, I would first congratulate my (younger) self on choosing to attend Hamilton College. My education here has given me countless opportunities: fluency in a foreign language, multiple occasions to perform research with leaders in their fields, study abroad experiences in Beijing and D.C., an internship at the State Department, commitment of my professors to my success, and the opening of countless doors to help me pursue my future. But patting myself on the back for my decision would be neither the most prudent nor the most useful purpose of this conversation. I would rather talk about the second hardest part about the college application process; that is to say, after letters (both big and small) arrive in mailboxes and decisions are made. The "hurry up and wait" phase, that frustrating springtime before graduation, is precisely the time to enjoy the results of hard work without abandoning them to "burn out." I would tell my younger self to make the most of those 2.5 months, because as frustrating as it might sometimes seem, high school is a part of who we are and a foundation for our future selves as well.
Students need to make the college experience their own. It is normal to feel out of place the first year for some students. Do not transfer because of this as a three year resident advisor I will say that is a normal feeling. I fell in love with my school when I visited as an accepted student. Hamilton was the best place for me. It was small enough to be part of a community, yet large enough to have some privacy. It is normal not to know what major to pick. An overly specialized school is not the best choice because it leaves little space for changing once mind. Parents let your child find their own place yet be there to support and offer advice in a non judgemental way. Students are nervous enough. Both students and parents allow space. Let your child dorm. This will help them prepare for an independent life. Students it is fine to have reservations about leaving but consider it. You do not need to move from the western to the northern united states. Keep in state financial aid in mind. There are ways to be away from home and still be in-state. Goodluck..........
The best advice I could give to parents and students about choosing the right college is to get a head start. After your Junior year in high school over the summer visit as many campuses and meet as many admissions officers as possible. INTERVIEW INTERVIEW INTERVIEW! I can not stress that point enough! An interview is one of the most important parts of the admissions process. It enables the admissions officers to put a smile and a face to an application. Admissions officers do not just want to READ what you have to say, they want to hear it, to interact on an person to person basis to grasp a sense of your personality. There are ALOT of different colleges in the country to attend. Such as Liberal Arts schools, Universities, and Trade Schools. ASK QUESTIONS! It is important for the parents and students to gain a full understanding about life at each institution. You are not being stingy and annoying by asking questions, remember if you attend that institution you will be paying them! So get out there, do research, and put a face to your application!
During the few short weeks that I have been at Hamilton, I have met many new people and experienced great things. I participated in a week long pre-orientation program called Adirondack Adventure and learned about team work in difficult situations. I really bonded with the people on my canoe trip. After that, regular orientation was also important in bonding with people. Now that school has started, I eat once a week with my Adirondack Adventure group. I love my classes and I am getting to know my professors. I have found that the more I participate in class, the more I learn. It was very valuable to participate in Adirondack Adventure to start to build interpersonal skills and get close to people. Now I still want to get to know my professors and the students around me because I had such a positive pre-orientation experience. The whole Hamilton experience has been valuable so far because I am learning in my courses as well as learning in interpersonal situations. I didn't know anyone else going here, so everyone was new and it has been an adventure!
If I were to talk to myself as a high school senior, I would first and foremost tell me to get excited for an amazing period in my life. College is a time of transition and excitement. Life-long friendships will be made and much self-growth will occur. Although you will be taking many classes to prepare yourself for the future, this time will present to you lessons that you allow you to learn much about yourself. Have an open mind! People at college come from everywhere and have so many awesome perspectives and ideas. Be willing to live within the larger community of college and the smaller community you will find in your dormitory and room, if you are to live with a roomate. Be open to the tumultuous experience of living with new people. It has its up and downs, but can be such an enriching experience. I am so so so excited for you. College is amazing. Take classes in new subjects, meet as many people as possible, join lots of clubs, volunteer, play intramural sports, go out and again I repeat have an open mind. Get ready for the next stage of your life!
First of all, you need to visit a college to know whether or not it is good for you. There were plenty of schools that looked great on paper but when I finally visited, I realized it was a terrible fit for me. I suggest when you visit a college, write down what you liked and didn't like so you will get a better idea of what you are looking for. But don't get too caught up in finding the perfect college, because there are many that you would be very happy at as long as you have an open mind and a good attitude. Also, never underestimate the importance of the social life at college, especially if you are planning on living on campus. Even though the college is about learning, you need to be happy and have fun to get the most out of college. Many of my friends decided to transfer just because the social life was too limiting. Look for a college where you can get involved and make friends and find out what students do on weekends. If the college is very isolated, make sure there is a lot to do on campus.
I would highly suggest starting early and making a list of all the possibilities. Research them and determine which ones are feasable to visit. Also, consult guidance counselors and teachers opinions towards the institutions you have interest in and see if they think that you will fit and succeed in the given school's environment. But once again, I can't emphasize enough, start early and visit often. The more times you visit, the better you will develop a feel of the school, and not just a facade that can be put on by tour guides. Also, don't be afraid to seek out coaches and professors to talk to. From my experience searching through liberal arts schools, both are usually willing and excited to meet with potential students. This is one more way to get a feel for the school. Those are both good options, but the best is still talking to students. They will be honest and give you the best descriptions of what classes, social life, and the actual school is like.
I'm actually a tourguide and therefore spend a great deal of time talking to parents and students about colleges, and I honestly believe most people are looking at details that don't much matter. The truth is that once you find a college at the academic level you are pursuing, all the colleges are very similar: if you are looking at small liberal arts colleges, for example, they're all going to have a challenging curriculum and great programs. The most important thing you can do is find a place that feels right and where you know you can be happy for the next four years. If a campus seems miserable when you visit, it probably is, and you probably don't want to be there. If you have time, do an overnight so you can actually meet students. Its definitely worth the extra effort- you are going to be there for four years!
At the end of the day, you want to find a place where the students, faculty, and staff are friendly. For some, college can be a major transition, but it helps a lot if you don't feel like you are all alone on a big campus. When trying to figure out what size school is best for you, it is important to remember that no matter what size school you attend, you will most likely have about the same number of friends. The thing to focus on for school size is that class size. If you learn well in an enviornment with lots of personal attention, lectures of 500 people are probably not your best bet. Being open-minded is the key to having an enjoyable social life on campus. Be willing and excited to learn about someone's background and interests that are different from your own.