Finding the right college is often a compromise between the college that you just know is right and the one that is the most affordable. Although it is difficult to make this decision, I believe that there is no wrong college as long as you are motivated. Getting the most out of your education is very important, and it is important to become an advocate for yourself no matter where you go. Don't always assume that you know every opportunity available to you. Branch out and ask for advice from friends, professors, and career services. You may be surprised at what summer jobs and internships these people can help you find! These four years may be the last time you can do something truly different over the summer, so find something fun and interesting. Although education is the most important part of college, it is also when you will meet some of the friends you will have for the rest of your life. Work hard, but have fun too. And don't forget - the degree is only what you get at the end. The real point of college is your experience.
Vist schools before you even apply. While you can learn a lot about the school from information packets, from other people, and even just on line, nothing compairs to going and literally getting the feel of the campus. Also, don't be too quick to rule places out. I never thought I would go to a school out of state and I am now on the other side of the country. Once you are in a school get to know your roommate. This is the person you will be spending a great deal of time with over the first year and if you are willing to give them a chance you just might find a new best friend, at least I did. And I know everyone says this but it is true, GET INVOLVED!! There is always something to do on a college campus so go meet new people and try new things, it will make the adjustment to living on your own much easier if you have something fun to do. Finally take advatage of every opportunity you are given. While it may not always be easy go abroad, do the internship, learn everything you can, and have fun.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior, I'd say, "Lauren, quit being so nervous." I realize it takes some time for everyone to get comfortable in their new surroundings, but there is a marked difference between that first year feeling of "I'm new and everyone knows it" and that college senior feeling of "I own this place, I'll do as I please, and I don't really care too much about what other people think." Guess what, high school senior me, no one really knows what year you are in college (unless you always wear your High School Senior Class t-shirt). I'd tell myself to be myself, not be afraid to laugh at the professors' jokes, and not to worry so much. Be one of the freshmen everyone thinks is a senior because you're so comfortable with yourself and who you are. Also, allow yourself to grow and change, because honestly I think that's one of the most important parts of college - growing up and setting the stage for who you're going to be when you get out.
The best advice I would give to a parent or student about finding the right college would be to simply visit it. Go to the college you have in mind and talk to some of the sudents there and absorbe the atmosphere. Ask yourself are these the kind of people you would want to make friends witha and will this place be a comfortable and encouraging environment to be in to study. Some colleges also offer interested students to stay over for a night with a volunteer student from the school so they can experiance first hand what it will be like to dorm there. Dont be afraid to say "This is not what I thought this college will be like" if you feel like the school is not what fits you than definitely look else where and keep your options open. Simply, puyt in the effort to get to know as much about the school as you can and always explore your options even when you think you have found the perfect school, becasue you might just find another one that is much better and suitable for you.
As a recent graduate I would say that when picking a college, you should choose a place that you feel comfortable at, in your room, at the library, in class, with other students and with faculty and staff. You should also choose a place that will challenge you; to learn new and different skills (Mandala Painting, Linear Algebra, Men's Studies, Music, Philosphy, etc). A college with community outreach and public service programs, as well as a strong study abroad program also present new and unique experiences for learning about yourself and the world we live in. It is important to choose a school that you can experience everything that you want, as well as things that you never knew you had interest in like tutoring kids in reading, or speaking a new langauge. The best thing you can do is go to a college that offers a wide variety of choice, because ultimately exposure to different ideas, people, places and opportunities are what makes the learning in college worthwhile.
My advice is not to choose a school solely based on a major they offer. Select a college with many options, perhaps even a liberal arts school. You will learn more outside of your field of interest and gain a well-rounded education while also having other programs available if you change your mind. Visit the schools you are interested in before deciding where to attend. Often several colleges appear the same until you step onto the campus and see how it fits you specifically. Talk to current students on campus to get opinions about aspects of college life that an organized campus tour might not provide. Make a chart of what you are looking for in a college and map each school on the chart so you can compare and contrast their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, choose a school that you feel is the right fit for you and make the most of your time once you arrive by getting involved and truly becoming an active part of the campus community.
I would tell myself to be more open to change and allow myself to get more involved in campus activities. Meet as many people as I can and know that I will not be best friends with everyone. I would tell myself to get to know the professors very well. At Hobart and William Smith College the professors really care about you as a student and they want to see you succeed. Begin to develop relationships with them early and take advantage of their office hours. In college you will figure out who you are as a person. Many challenges will come your way, do not back down from them, they will most likely become the best things you have ever done. Let go of high school quickly, but keep the memories always and never let go of your best friends. If you keep your mind open and never be afraid to try something new, college will be the best time of your life and it will be an experience you will never forget.
It sounds cliche, but really the best thing to do once you get on campus is to go broad and sign up and do as many things as possible. After a while you'll be able to see what you want to continue with and what doesn't fit you but at least you'll ahve friends from all of it. Also, find time to balance schoolwork and social life. College is about an education but it is more than that- you learn so much more outside of the classroom than you would think. Finding the right school is also stressful. For some, they feel it as soon as they walk on the campus. For others like myself they didn't ever get that feeling and it was a choice. Basically I offer this: go with your gut. Don't let money play too large a role in the decision (although it is a huge factor, you usually have about 20 years to pay down student loans). Go with your gut and know that you can always transfer if it just doesn't fit right.
The advice I would give myself about transitioning to college would be "no matter what, do not procrastinate." It is so easy for students to get carried away with time for important class assignments, and there is nothing more stressful than running out of time to complete an assignment. I personally loose track of time for assignments that may make or break my final grade. Procrastinating is a serious problem that many students face, and it is hard to break the cycle once it is started. I wish I would have taught myself time management, and I would have learned how to exercise the need to prioritize. I think that having a planned schedule for papers, and readings would help me defeat my issue with procrastination. If I could go back in time, as a high school senior, I would purchase a planner for myself. I would use the planner religiously to ensure that I kept track of everything required of me.
Dear Alexia Sereti of May 2014, Congratulations on choosing a Hobart and William Smith Colleges! I know... you're currently terrified that you chose the wrong school. You're worried that you won't fit in, that you aren't academically prepared enough to thrive in a college setting, and that the student loans you're bound to rack up by 2018 won't be worth the experience that HWS can offer. It’s normal to be nervous, but I’ll tell you why you don’t need to be. The key to having an amazing college experience, wherever you go, is being open to the unfamiliar. Your goal during these four years should be to learn and grow, not to prove yourself. Approach every opportunity you are presented with as a chance to learn something new about the world and about yourself. If you go into college this coming Fall with an open mind, there is no way you will regret your decision. - Alexia Sereti of December 2014