Learn time management skills while you are in high school. College life, unlike high school life, has a very loose structure, in the sense that you no longer have the same set schedule as you did in high school where you go to school at a certain hour and return home at a certain hour. Classes in college are often spread out over the course of the day, so you end up with blocks of spare time in between classes. If you cannot manage those blocks of time wisely, you will inevitably end up wasting the majority of your day. It?s important to learn to use every minute of your time as effectively as possible.
I would definitely have taken an easier courseload freshman fall and not participated in as many extracurriculars. At a school like Harvard especially, the courses can be extremely demanding and time consuming, and they require much more work and thought than even the most difficult advanced placement courses in high school do. I definitely would not underestimate the difficulty of classes, and would have dedicated much more time to getting this skillset hammered down. Once coursework management has been handled it is ok to proceed with plunging in the world of extracurriculars, employment, etc...
Try to separate the school itself from the name. Ask yourself instead, do I want to live in a city or more suburban setting? Do I want more guidance or do I enjoy the freedom to seek out those things which interest me? Am I good at juggling activities along with a considerable amount of school work? Am I excited to take advantage of the many resources available at this school? Do I feel comortable seeking help when I don't understand material or require guidance of some sort? If you like a fast-paced, high powered academic environment and are self- motivated then Harvard is the place for you.
Students definitely need to be able to find the right fit. I highly recommend visiting the campus and talking to students in order to see if the personality of the prospective student and the student body mesh. My college was not my first choice, but upon my pre-frosh visit, I realized it was the one that was right for me, and I have not regretted my decision. Another thing to remember about college is that the experience embodies the four most independent and diverse years of your life. Try to say yes to everything, and get out there on campus and try things.
The best advice I can give to anyone looking into colleges is that they find a place that will meet their financial as well as educational needs. Big name schools are great, but they only get you so far. It is much better to find a school whose administration is willing to work with you and make it possible to avoid being in insumountable debt than to go to a school that is very well-known and grants no financial aid. If you do well in the college you choose to attend, you can go on to a bigger named graduate school which is what most people look at anyway.
Choose a college that has the atmosphere you like, preferably close to family or friends, and has all the concentration areas you are interested in. If your college has a distance option, go for it. Distance allows you to be flexible, and have more access to your professors. It is unwise to select colleges solely for their social scene. You are there for classes- don't throw away the opportunity! Develop a strong friend network, join a gym, or other activity to keep the stress down so your grades don't suffer. Study, be safe, and have fun, and graduate!
It's important to understand that there is a big world out there outside of your high school and even outside the college you will attend. There will be things that feel incredibly important -- some days it will feel like everything is crashing down around you, and other days will feel like you're on top of the world -- but always keep in mind that life goes on after high school and after college. Work hard (and for goodness sake, try to do all the reading!), but take care of yourself and your friends, because those things will be the most important.
In college, the depth and rigor of courseload is far beyond anything experienced in high school. Pick two subjects/classes, at least, during your senior year of high school and go far beyond anything that is taught in class. Buy a different textbook for that class and challenge yourself to get through it and do the problems after each chapter. You will be extremely prepared to develop a schedule and plan of attack for your course material once you actually reach college if you do this--putting you at a big advantage academically and socially!
I would tell myself not to worry so much, that I can do the work, and that I belong at the university I attend. I would say, "Be confident, work hard, and enjoy college, because it only lasts a short time, and you can NEVER go back." Furthermore, I would say to form and build relationships while at school, while maintaining the ones from home. Lastly, I would tell myself, "School is a place that you will learn about a variety of topics, but more so a place to learn about yourself. Have a good time, get your work done, and live it up!"
Don't worry about a school's rankings or its reputation. Look for a campus where you feel at home. Look for a school where people are eager to show you around. Look for a space that you think is beautiful. Don't just follow along on a guided tour; ask questions to students & see how receptive they are. Think about whether they seem happy with their experiences & proud of their school. Pick a place where you can be happy - don't just choose a school because it's 'the best' or because your friend is going there.