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Harvard University

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

In the application process, cast a wide net, since it's harder to get into school than ever. Don't be afraid to apply to a few reaches (you might get lucky, like I did), as long as you have some safeties. Don't be too hasty to rely on an out-of-school counselor, especially one who charges a lot of money. Much of this process is a crapshoot, and no one can predict who wins. If they claim to be able to, they are probably lying. College is the only time in life totally dedicated to indulging one's mind and spirit. I advise going some place a little far from home, really making yourself vulnerable. I've found one of the best things about college is that I no longer feel pressure to do things I'm not totally passionate about. So, pick the extracurriculars in which you truly wish to participate. Speak up in class, study abroad, read books for fun (and for class). See plays and concerts. Develop a taste for beer and not hard alcohol. Be safe, make enigmatic friends, and take time to write down your experiences, so you won't forget them.

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Dream big and aim high! Every college has its charms, quirks, and areas where it really shines. I won't lie, some schools have more of these than others. If choosing which college is right for you is a problem, go for the one more people have heard of. If you hear the name on TV or in movies, there's probably a good reason. There is nothing wrong with attending a famous school, and not just for the professors or the alumni or the job market once you graduate. There's more to college than classes and books: Big events, like conventions or symposiums or exhibits, like big venues. Attending a big school is your chance to see them! The college application process is just a game of numbers. If your dream college rejects you, your second choice will accept you. So don't let statistics deter you: Even if a school has a low acceptance rate, it certainly won't accept you if you don't apply. So go for the gold! Apply to whatever school you want, regardless of how you think you'll do. You may be surprised just how good your odds really are!

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In high school, my biggest goal was to get straight A's and be accepted to Harvard. I worked really hard and it was definitely worth it. However, now that I'm at college, I realize that college is about getting an education, but not necessarily just the education in textbooks. The best memories I have of high school don't include the awards I've won, but the moments I spent with my friends and enjoying the funny, quirky moments in classes. So the advice I would give is this: don't worry so much about being perfect. Yes, work hard this last year, but if you don't enjoy the last few moments of high school, you can't ever get them back. Talk to people you never have before; get to know your teachers better; spend time with your friends. College is about being open to new experiences and finding who you are by learning from your peers. Try coming out of your comfort zone, for college is about shaking up the world you used to know. The change will be scary, but the next four years will be the most exhilarating ride of your life.

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During the first week when you are not sure who to hang out with, introduce yourself to everyone and you will end up finding someone. Trust me. During the nights when you don't have any plans because no one has invited you to do anything, curl up in bed and enjoy a movie. Nights like these will become rare, trust me. During the weekdays when you cannot seem to concentrate, take a break and a breather. You will get through these stressful weeks full of work at every hour, trust me. During the meals you can't find anyone to sit with, pull out a book and eat. Everyone goes through that phase, trust me. During these seemingly dire times that won't seem to end, do not fret because they will end. College holds a plethora of opportunity and you will find your niche to fit in. Although those sad times don't seem like eternity at first, you will find that they will be quickly forgotten. College will open many doors for you, you'll meet all sorts of people and go to all sorts of places. You will have the time of your life, trust me.

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More important than the price of college is the experience that one will receive. It makes most sense to invest in your future - even if a school is offering a scholarship, if that is not the school of your dreams, the money just isn't worth it. College is the most revolutionary four years of your life; more learning takes place outside the classroom than in it, and for this reason it is important to surround yourself with people who will shape you into the human being that you want to be for the rest of your life. Do not choose a college solely for the academics - choose a college for the people. The extracurriculars, the dorm experience, the cultural groups, these are the activities that are more important than anything else. Academics will be there at any institution, and to be honest, many things can be learned on the job instead of in a classroom. But the real learning is through the friends you will make and the people you will be around all the time. Do not fail to underestimate the importance of networking.

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The college you go to for four years (which is much shorter than it sounds) will be your home and family away from home. Because of that, you need to make sure that every school you apply to is somewhere you know you will be happy. Don't apply somewhere just because it will look good on your resume or because your parent(s) went there. Do some in depth research, visit schools, talk to students, spend a weekend if you can, attend a class, take a tour - in short, spend enough time to discern whether a school is a good fit for you. Because you must spend a good deal of time on each school you apply to, this means you shouldn't apply to a ton of schools. If you do your research well and get good, realistic advice from friends, parents and advisors, you will find and be accepted at schools that are a good fit for you. Once at college, make sure you get involved in extracurriculars. Life is pretty boring if you just go to class and do your work. You will meet your lifelong friends outside of class more often than not. Good luck!

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I would tell students to visit colleges, read up on them thoroughly and make sure that whatever school they choose has a range of options , both academically and socially, that they're interested in. Working at the admissions office, I see too many students choose Harvard because of its name yet know nothing about it. First of all, a lack of passion for the school won't help you get into college but second of all, it won't help you love college. College is the last barrier between childhood and the real world. Enjoy it! Take it as what it should be, the first baby steps towards leaving your parents and entering the world as your own person. You want to be able to find yourself at college, grow into the person whom you want to be and you'll never do that at a place you can't call home. To parents, don't pressure your kids to go to the school with the loftiest name. Your interest lies not in seeing them succesful, but seeing them happy. So after they get into college, hug them, and then let them go off on their own.

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I would try to convince my high school self that time goes by too fast when you are having fun. Of course, there will be plenty of stressful days, when papers and several midterms will be during the same week, or when all of my final exams end up on consecutive days. But I should look forward to meeting some really fascinating people, friends who will change my life, mentors who will open my mind. I will confide in my high school self that living with roommates will be one of the best things that will happen to me in college. It will give me the chance to experience what I have been missing by not having a sibling or cousin my age. I will tell my younger self to embrace all the challenges of college life, because when I get back to the dorm, there will be something uniquely amazing about having someone to talk and laugh with, whether in the middle of a long paper, on the way to breakfast, or late at night. Most of all, I will ask my younger self to open my heart and mind wide open for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

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My best advice, which applies to the entire college experience, is to keep everything in perspective and not to worry about the little things. For example, the availability of wi-fi in the dorms does not deserve a place on any college pro-con list. In fact, don't make a pro-con list at all. Instead, visit the schools you are considering, talk to the students, and try to imagine yourself as one of their peers. The same advice applies after you've chosen a school. Many people at college stress about each individual test; while it is important to do well, it is also important to enjoy life. Your college experience should shape you and the way you live your life, and if you simply crawl from exam to exam, scraping by on 5 hours of sleep a night, you will miss the most valuable lessons of your college years. Time spent with friends outside of class can actually be much more educational. So make sure you hit the books, but also make sure you save time for the friends you will keep for the rest of your life.

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You are about to embark on a journey, a journey down your own yellow-brick road. And in the words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, "there's no place like home." College is one of the most important times in any individual's life. College is the place where one makes life long friends. College is the place where one prepares themselves for the world that lies ahead. College is the end and the beginning: end to the old, and beginning to the new. Do you prefer a small school or a big school? Do you prefer cold weather or warm weather? Is your social life more important than academics? To discuss every factor that could affect one's decision in choosing a college is impossible. I could spend days delineating the factors that guided my decision, but that would be of little help or consequence. My advice is simple: find your home, and be yourself. If you follow that advice, I guarantee you will have the time of your life. College is about finding a place to call home, and building a family that will last a lifetime.

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