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Harvard University

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

When selecting a college, the number one priority should be to find a college that will provide the best college experience. While research, websites, and information packets can be useful, the most important tool for parents and students is to experience the different schools themselves. Parents and students should visit colleges, and students should explore both academic, extracurricular, and social opportunities available to them. Additionally, parents and students should seek current college students similar to the applying student and ask them about their experiences at the school. Asking the first people you come across is not enough - one must look deeper at varying individuals' first hand experiences at the school. Once a parent and a student select a school, they should do everything they can to find out about all available opportunities and resources that are available to them.

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Dear naive, anxious high school Paige, In college, there is so much pressure to know exactly what field you want to pursue after graduation. Many of your peers have wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor since they can remember. RELAX. It's normal to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you are only 18- enjoy the ride. Take classes you truly find enjoyable and are passionate about, and the career ideas will soon follow. Additionally, take advantage of the great area around Harvard, explore the incredible city that is Boston. you may only live in Boston for the four years you are in college, so seize every opportunity you get to go to a Red Sox game, visit the New England Aquarium, and chow down on some linguine in the North End. Boston has a lot to offer, as do the incredible classes and faculty at Harvard, so just enjoy the ride. Your wise, older self, Paige

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Just about every guide has a scheme for selecting the right college, choosing the right career, and finding a place for yourself in the world. That in mind, no one system stands apart from all the others as any better or seriously worse. Why is that? Because choosing a college is a holistic process, one that can't easily be broken down into its consituent parts. There are all manner of factors that go into it, but no one criterion trumps the rest. The best thing you can do is to gather as much information as possible about all your choices, visit them if can, and apply to the ones that feel right. Sometimes they'll choose you as much as you them. In the end, it'll probably come down to two or three strong possibilities. Trust your judgement, and cross your fingers. Finally, once you get to that perfect place, get to know some professors and don't slack so much. You'll be all set.

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The first time I entered college I was 18 and eager to leave home and find my independence. At that time, I did not realize the true importance of focusing on my studies. In short I quickly became a party animal and just as quickly flunked out of school. The second time I entered college I was a 25 year old single parent who was climbing up the corporate ladder. Once again I entered the academic world unprepared and unfocused. Fortunately I received good grades but I ended up dropping out because the constraints of working and raising a child were overwhelming. Now at 46, I am stepping onto the college campus again. This time I am more prepared that ever because of the skills I have acquired over the years. A successful college career requires a balanced approach which includes discipline, self motivation, and intellectual curiosity mixed with the desire to have fun.

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It has been a privilege to attend Harvard, primarily because of the intellectual discourse between students, which is unlike any I've experienced in my life. Thinking deeply about ideas isn't just a pasttime here--it's a social requirement. I have enjoyed interacting with my peers in both social and leadership settings; as president of Tuesday Magazine, the College's only general interest publication, I've learned how to manage and interact with people in ways both personally and professionally enriching. Volunteering with the Harvard College Democrats has introduced me to some of the most socially aware and active citizens I've ever met, and has allowed me to interact with the community in Boston and elsewhere. Still, the best part of attending Harvard is what it's famous for--its world-famous staff, who are uniformly engaging and happy to interact with students.

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If I could go back in time, and talk to myself as a senior about college life and about making this transition, I would tell myself to sign up for college as soon as possible. Sometimes you dont expect college schools to start registering at least three months before classes actually start, if you wait too long, that boat is going to set sail with or without you. Also I would let myself know that it is never too soon to start applying for scholarships, there are so many out there that your bound to get accepted by one. Even if the scholarship is only offering $50 dollars or even $10 dollars, it still counts because that money is not coming out of your own pocket. I made the mistake of waiting too long, but I will not make the mistake in pursuing what I want to excell in. If I could go back in time I would let myself know all I know now.

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Whatever your expectations are...drop them. If your expecations are high, you will only find things to be disappointed about. If your expectations are low, you will only feel self-deprication at being pessimistic. Whatever your expectations are, as long as you have them you will never be fully open to what it means to be at college. College is what YOU make it to be...it doesn't matter where you go or which college you pick- it is up to YOU to live the next four years with a purpose. If you do things for a reason, you will never have to second-guess why you did it in the first place...and while you may second-guess the reason, you will never second guess that it was worth doing. (Almost) everything is worth doing at least once. Push your boundaries, and live life on purpose. Do it. It's worth it in the end.

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Parents, make sure your child is the person making the decision about where to attend college. Even though you are extremely excited and think you know what is best, your son/daughter may have a very clear idea of what he/she wants without being able to articulate this to you. Students, make sure you do the right research. It is definitely important to feel comfortable on the campuses of schools you are considering. However, it also important that the schools have great programs that cater to your interests. If you are interested in business, take a look at the university websites to make sure they have good pre-business programs! Also, talk to kids on the campus and decide whether you could see yourself being friends with them! Only listen to what you want! Good luck!

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When it comes to finding the right college, students should make a concerted effort not to pay any attention to name. Fitting into a college environment is all about understanding yourself as a person - your skills, your interests, the things that make you happy, and your goals. Once you get a general sense of these things, one should make a list of the priorities you would look for in a college. Then the research on actual colleges may begin, and should be tailored to match one's attributes. A lot of attention should be devoted to visiting schools and speaking to students. For me, social life was a very key aspect of my college experience, and I think in any environment it is important to understand the dynamic's of a school's social situation.

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It's definitely important to visit the school beforehand, although you won't know everything about it just from one weekend. Try to get the most from your classes while you're taking them, and don't blow them off during the semester. Chances are, if you signed up for them, you were at least somewhat interested in the class topic and you'll wish that you had learned as much as possible after, if not for your grades, then just for your own personal fulfillment. That being said, don't stress out too much over the little things. Give your best to your studies but also take time for the things that you enjoy- both extracurricular activities, as well as spending time with your friends and getting to know the city or town that your college is in.

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