Don't be afraid of not knowing what you want from your future. It's often best to go into any college experience with an open mind and allow yourself the freedom to explore and fall in love with a subject. Take "wild" courses and involve yourself in new extra-curriculars. Do the things you've always wanted to do but never had the opportunity to. College is a compendium of four years of growth and realization. How can you ever discover yourself and your passions if you 'play-it-safe' and stick with the activities and people you have simply become used to? If you want to find the right college, you need to visit the campus and envision yourself there--try to see how it would be if the weather was despodent and gloomy, for example. Could you still see yourself enjoying the experience? If you are undecided in what you want to pursue as a major, look at the strengths of school in all of the fields offered--are there any truly outstanding programs you want to try and professors you want to work with? Finally, remember that your dream school isn't always your 'right' school!
College is the time to lose yourself and find who you are, try something new and fail, and form lifelong relationships. Living in a dorm with three people I'd never met before was a chance to reinvent myself and the rules I wished to respect. I made dozens of choices daily that were inconsequential but added up to a lifestyle. I messed up in some respects (letting physics take over and ignoring my messy room) but got other things right (visiting office hours and finding new ways to study). College is a low-risk arena to live life the way you want and adjust your attitude and actions based on the responses you get. However, college is also "the real world." The clock's ticking, and our (bad) impressions on people won't be erased. College is a marathon. The training you've done makes a tremendous difference, and if you don't keep running after knowledge, you'll lose the glorious 26 miles you've already covered. Ahe words of others via iPod or present company help me go the extra mile that's a part of college campus people have access to but don't necessarily use.
There is NO failsafe way to make absolutely sure that you are choosing the right school. In fact, I should dispel the myth that there is only ONE right school for you. There are many schools that you will be happy at. Your job is to find out what set of qualities make a college attractive to you. Having said that, it's important to visit each and every school you are SERIOUSLY considering. This means spending a weekend in a dorm, attending classes, talking to students about their experience, exploring the surrounding towns or cities. You will have to spend four years here in this new place, away from your parents and (probably) your high school friends. And when you get there, wherever there is, there is no point in holding back. You're on your own, in a way that you couldn't be in high school, no matter how independent you think you may be. Don't be shy is the most important thing I can say. The fall term of your freshman year will probably not be too rigorous academically. So MEET PEOPLE and HAVE FUN before settling down for three exciting and challenging years.
Of course, the selection of a college or university is not one to be taken lightly. A lot of thought goes into it on both the parent and student's side. But I remain not completely convinced that a "right college" exists. Most students at one school would have been equally happy at one of many other schools. So I think regarding the college search process, my advice to applicants would be to apply everywhere that you could conceivably see yourself going in the end. Then, leave it up to the colleges to decide. Once you have your acceptance letters, then worry about the decision. Chances are, if you have a good attitude, you'll be fine. Making the most of the college experience is a hard thing for many people to do. My advice can be summed up in two words: CHILL OUT. College is not about grades, and it's not about who does the most activities. More than high school, it's about the relationships you have with others and learning how to eventually function in the real world. The one thing that can most easily ruin a college experience is stress. So relax. Be happy. =]
When picking a college, it's important to read all you can and then visit campuses and talk to admissions officers, current students, etc. Once you begin college, explore and figure out what you really love. Sign up for classes you think you may not be good at, but are interested in and work hard; GPA is not the most important thing. After your exploration, narrow it down to just one or two things so you can engage in those things fully. When you know what direction you want college to take you, talk to as many people as you can--professors, teaching fellows, counselors, peers--to get a sense of what you need to do to accomplish your goals. Make some plans based on what you learn from talking to others; plan your course sequence if your goals are academic in nature; if you are interested in research, get situated in a lab early; if you like theatre, join a production. In order to learn, volunteer to do anything, even if it's not the most exciting job. As you prove yourself, you'll be given more responsibility and ultimately gain respect as a campus leader.
Walk through the campus and close your eyes. Can you imagine yourself here? Can you imagine yourself walking through this courtyard every day, taking classes in that building, sleeping in the dorm you visited earlier? There are hundreds of great campuses in this country, but that doesn't mean every one of them is the right fit for every person. Knowing the right pick for you is like knowing what kind of muffin you want for breakfast. Both pistachio and blueberry are equally delicious but you can visualize the one that will make you happiest based on your individual style and taste. At first, you can narrow down your choices by objective measures. If you know you want to take Arabic, you can eliminate the schools without it. Or if you play rugby, you can knock of schools without a team. But when it comes to making that final decision, imagining the day to day process of going to class, spending time with friends, and just living your life is what will bring you to the choice that will not only provide you with a great education but will make you the happiest.
I would tell myself to take things easy and plan your future based on what you really desire, rather than being preoccupied with or stuck in the present. In high school, I was always so worried about keeping my attendance, grades, and homework absolutely perfect that I ended up using all my time and eventually, I faced heart-related health issues . I never took the time to relax; I was just so absorbed with deadlines and time limits. These mistakes led me to finish high school early with a GED because of all the pressure I put onto myself. In the end, all those struggles I went through weren't worth it, because I eventually chose to quit instead of going to college the traditional way. Now, if I look back, I wish I could've done things at my own pace and taken the time to learn other things outside of school, like photography or dance, which are things I am passionate about now. Doing your best in school is always a great thing, but make sure to think about whether or not your actions and behavior will be beneficial to your plans and dreams for the future.
In three words: Visit The School. No matter how much research you do, no matter how many people you talk to, no matter how well you think you know a school, you can't really know whether a certain school is right for you until you immerse yourself in the campus life. Don't just do the standard admissions tour- mingle with the students, visit the dorm rooms if you can, eat the food, sit in on classes. Visualize yourself as a student there, and ask yourself if you can imagine this place being your new home for the next four years. Oftentimes, a school you thought you liked before visiting will turn out to be completely different from what you imagined, and you'll be glad you visited before making a decision. No Google search or conversation with an alum can replace a personal visit, because the little things you never thought would factor into your decision (i.e. the quality of the food or the size of the dorm rooms) can be the things that affect your quality of life the most. Spend a few days visiting, and you'll ensure a successful and happy four years.
Do not choose this place because of its name. And do not choose it because it is the "gold standard of American higher education." Because in truth, it is not. There are places, particularly small liberal arts schools, which in reality may give you a better education in the classroom. Do not choose it because the professors have big names. Take into account how far it is away from home...you do not know how difficult travel is until you have a 6-hour delay trying to get home for Christmas. Choose this place if you want to do research, if you want more extracurricular opportunities than you know what to do with, and if you want peers that challenge, inspire, and yes, at times compete with you. Choose this place if you are incredibly self-motivated and willing to seek out your demigod professors in their office hours. Choose this place if you want to be among some of the smartest most talented people in the world--and don't mind putting up with some of the arrogance you'll inevitably encounter from a few of those people along the way.
Hi Vanessa. I see that you notice the resemblance. I?m you, me, five years in the future. I?ll prove it, at nine you developed you first crush on a boy named Sergio. He was dreamy. (sigh) I?m here because we?re, I mean, you are going off to college soon. I remember how nervous and genuinely concern I was at times. Your biggest questions at the moment are, will I succeed academically? Did I make the right college choice? For the first question I rather you find out on your own. As for the second question, in addressing it, I can give you the best advice I could possibly give us. There is no such thing as a right college choice, that would imply perfection exists, and there is not such thing. With that in mind, you won?t be perfect either. You are going to find yourself making a lot of mistakes throughout college. My advice, take each mistake as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. After all, mistakes are a part of life; it?s from making them that we learn how to make things right. Lastly and above all, enjoy it!