College is an intense time of change and is a step into finding yourself in the real world. When looking at schools, look around not only at the academics, ask yourself, "can I see myself spending four years here with these people?" The friendships formed at university are as important as the degree. To have the support of a strong community of friends and professors is crucial to having a strong college experience. Once you have picked your university and have arrived, find a social group that will support you (and it is natural if this group evolves and changes during your college years.) In your classes, get to know your professors. They are there because they love teaching and love students. (If not, choose a different university!) Your education will be richer for it. And at the end of four years, you just might need a recommendation, it certainly helps to build those bridges sooner rather than later. Oh, and don't worry about GPA...too much. They are numbers. (Besides some professors start the alphabet with "B.") Remember, its about the knowledge and friendships gained, not numbers on a sheet of paper.
If I could go back and visit with myself as a senior in high school, being uncertain of the future and terrified of making life decisions, I would want to want to reassure my young self that it is okay to make decisions. I've learned that everything in life will be ok as long as you take it as a learning experience. Remain certain in who you are, what goals you want to accomplish, and take the time to enjoy it along the way. Get to know new people, take advantage of exlporing new outlets, and take time to learn what matters the most to you in life-- friends, love, happiness. Looking at the incoming freshmen at Hanover, I often catch myself smiling. I smile for their innocence, their vast opportunity before them, and their youth-- the places from which I myself have grown as they will. With my time at Hanover coming to an end, I look back on my years here with great satisfaction as a senior. Meeting the people I consider my family, becoming immersed in a supportive, engaging, and nurturing environment, I feel privileged to be a part of this unique home for four years.
Ok, Leah. Here's the deal. College is totally different than high school...not necessarily in a good or bad way; it's just different. Trust me. When you get there, you'll know exactly what I mean. Suddenly, everything changes. You're living on your own, taking care of yourself and calling all the shots. Mommy and Daddy aren't around anymore. Now YOU are the boss, and it's the best feeling in the world! Or is it? Well, take it from me. While being at college can be very liberating, it can also be very intimidating. I'm not going to lie...the transition is tough, especially when you're attending an academically-challenging school. Much will be expected of you, and everyone will be telling you something different--get involved, study hard, party all night long! You might find yourself wondering, 'How do I handle it all?' Well, first of all, understand that no one can do it all. The best thing to do is prioritize your activities and work to find a balance between them. It might be difficult, but don't give up. Embrace every opportunity you are given and never stop learning.
"How do you find the right college?" and "How do you make the most of the college experience?" are two different questions. Keep in mind that some colleges will be more to your liking than others. I would advise students and parents to look within a range that is reasonable in regards to finances, the student's tentative life direction, and the student's preferences. That is to say, do not attend a school you cannot afford, do not go to a school that does not offer your desired program, and do not go to a campus you know you'll hate. Otherwise, apply for as many scholarships as possible and take a chance with the best offer - read the fine print, but you can always transfer. When you feel okay about your decision, immerse yourself in the campus community. My best advice is: take interest! Join a club, ask a favorite professor out to lunch: these are ways to make friends, make your time at college more pleasant, and gain influence for later in life. College is but a few years of a person's life - make the most of your time and money, and spend it wisely!
The best advice I can give is to go on visits and experience the school first-hand. Pay attention to everything at the college, including how secretaries and admissions ambassadors treat you. If you can, talk to students and professors in your potential major. Their job is to communicate the strengths of the school and make you feel welcome. If a professor doesn't pay attention to you as a visitor, you can be sure that they won't pay attention to you when you are their student. If a professor seems annoying or uncaring in a ten minute discussion, you are likely to find sitting through several hours of class each week very frustrating. When you have narrowed your decision to a few schools (3-5), go on overnight visits. This allows you to get a feel for the social life, study habits, living situation, and other aspects of the campus that are difficult to detect from daytime visits. By experiencing both the academic and social environments, you can make a better decision about what school fits with your career goals and personal preferences.
Imagine what you would absolutely love to do for the rest of your life; not necessarily what career you want to pursue, but rather the active state of your being. Based on this, I would find a school that is reputable in the general field of interest that you have chosen from the previous statement. There is always the chance that you can specialize after graduation, so undergraduate degrees have a lot of flexibility in terms of figuring out what you want out of life and generalizing your degree. For instance, I am a biology major here at Hanover College, yet my focus of study is in plant ecology. This does not limit me either, as I also get to explore the realms of philosophy, theology, anthropology, and geology as special interests outside of my major. The undergraduate degree is designed to educate you. Therefore, you should develop as a well rounded, well studied individual before you specialize in a field. That way you can bring a diversity of experience to the table when you do choose your path for a career or graduate study.
My advice is directed toward the student because I had no assistance from a parent in choosing a college. First of all the student should be knowledgeable of her financial situation. If parents are willing to help, that is great, but if she will need to take out loans she needs to secure a co-signer and plan to repay the loans after graduation. With the financing in mind, looking for a college or university becomes a checklist of personal preferences and sensibility. The student should check for his or her intended major, talk to current students, visit the college (not just for the parties), and definitely sit in on classes in which future professors will teach. The reason for these precautions is that in order to do well at a college the student must be comfortable in her surroundings and it is even better if the professors are not only great teachers but also very approachable. The greatest motto I have learned from by year and a half of college is that being surrounded by good people makes one's life experiences that much better.
Although succeeding in high school was rather effortless for you, college will not be as easy. You didn't have to study much (or really ever at all) in high school, but in college, that's most definitely not the case. You'll need to take your academics seriously, work hard, and strive to do well. You're going to have study infinite times more than you have in the past years in order to get good grades. And while mom and dad are pushing you to get those good grades because they believe in you and know that you're capable of doing so, do it for you. Push and do well for yourself. Nothing in life that's worth it comes easy. It all requires a lot of hard work. But you can do it. Study, manage your time, and focus. Nothing can stop you. But take full advantage of this great opportunity to learn and better yourself. You're going to be exposed to a whole new world and you should experience it through open eyes and with an open mind. Don't be afraid to try something new. And get involved! Good luck!
As small as my experience has been since I began college at Hanover College, I have to say that many of the worries I had about being in college were completely unfounded. I worried that I would be homesick and lonely without any of my high school friends or my parents to see everyday. But my first week here in freshman orientation, I made friends with almost everyone in my dorm hall I though a Liberal Arts college would be extremely difficult to handle. However, my high school, which was a college-prepatory school, truly helped me and preparing me for the college experience, so adapting had not been a huge problem for me like it had been others on campus. It's been too early to really tell, but I feel as if college has really helped in gaining a social life as I didn't have one in high school, as well as relaxing and having a bit of fun every once it a while. It has taught me how to "chill" so to speak.
If I could go back in time and give advice to myself as a high school senior the number one thing I would say is that "it's okay to be yourself" and you will develop more into yourself in college. In high school and freshman year of college I was always concerned with what others thought or with what others were doing. However, I soon discovered that I shouldn't care at all. The transition from high school to college allowed me to become a truer version of myself and I'm glad I picked the right school. Along those same lines, I would say that playing a sport in college isn't really that big of a deal. I thought I had to play soccer in colelge and if I didn't was a failure. I quit soccer after my sophomore year at Hanover and I couldn't be happier with my decision. Also, I would tell myself that the first year of college is harder than you think it will be and you need to spend more time studying.