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Illinois Wesleyan University

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

If I could go back in time and talk with myself about college life and the transition between living at home and moving away to school, I would reassure myself that college would work out wonderfully if I worked hard to keep everything in moderation. My best advice would be to get involved in campus life and get to know professors right away because they are much more important than local parties. Going out and socializing is a critical aspect of college, but in retrospect what I treasure most were the classes I attended. My memories of Illinois Wesleyan are marked by the challenging pursuit to further my understanding of the humanities and the arts. I learned to be a critical thinker and examine all provided information before making a decision. Before entering college, I was worried about not feeling enough like an adult. I was pleasantly surprised by my personal and intellectual growth over my four years at Illinois Wesleyan. My fears about being inadequate and unadult were conquered one at a time as I matured, faced adult decisions, and developed a strong work ethic. College is a personal adventure and a privilege one should not take for granted!

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When looking for the right college I would make a list of all the different aspects of a college (size, location, areas of studies, religious affiliations, type of school, cost, etc.) and then decide what your preferences are for each and which are most important to you (co-ed or same-sex!) and begin a school search from there. I would also utilize a third-party source, like the website careercruising.com, where you can look at a profile of nearly every school in the country and get basic facts and figures. Campus visits are extremely helpful for getting a feel for a school. Coming to visit during a regular school day is the most beneficial time for doing this. Getting involved with as many activities as possible your first year will help maximize your college experience. It is really important to join organizations and activities that might not be something you are already really interested in. College is a great time to explore new interests, endeavors, and yourself. It's also one of the only times when you will have free or nearly free access to sporting events, movies, concerts, plays, musicals, and other amazing shows, so take advantage!

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I strongly suggest that students and parents visit many colleges together during the student's Junior year in high school. Take many notes and pictures! Put them together in a scrapbook with a paragraph about your initial reactions. At the beginning of Senior year, pull them back out, and pick the five top schools you want to re-visit. Don't visit them all in one weekend (that's sensory overload). Again, write down what you liked, your tour guide's name, and why that school would be a good/bad fit for you. That way, when you get home you have a list of specific things (and pictures) to help you choose your school. Further, you can include in your admissions essay specific references to the campus and people with which you spoke. Colleges love detailed admissions essays! When you're accepted, get to know your roommate as much as possible as soon as possible, so it's less awkward the first week. Finally, arrange a time to call parents every week or every couple of days. Additionally, plan your visits home. Don't just go whenever you feel like it. Both help ease student homesickness and parent heartache.

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Many students tend to worry about the right school to choose for undergraduate studies; the reality of the situation is, however, that no matter where you end up going (barring a terrible roommate or homesickeness), college will be fun! Living on your own, being independent, oppening yourself up to new cultural and social experiences are situations you will find yourself in at nearly any school you choose to attend. The most important choice comes down to where you will be most comfortable making those new decisions, finding those new friends, and finding out who you are as a person living on your own. Someone once told me, "you'll just know it when you step on that campus, that you could spend the rest of your life there." Now, I don't know about the rest of my life, but when I stepped on the campus that I ended up attending, those words rang true, and I felt very comfortable there with the people and the prevalent attitude on campus. The best advice I could give is to make the visits, get a feel for the school, and don't worry about having fun, because it will still happen!

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Listen to your heart. You'll probably know the moment you step on campus, or the moment you start reading something unexpected about your school. It's not a feeling you'll be able to describe. Don't worry too much about money or what "ranking" the school has - most schools give scholarships, and it's okay if a school is right for you even if it's not "perfect" in the books. Make friends! Don't lock yourself in your dorm room to study all night. After you graduate, you won't remember that test you aced - you'll remember staying up until four watching shooting stars on the quad with your friends. Don't be afraid to talk with your professors outside of (or after) class. Most professors, during office hours, sit around hoping a student comes in to talk with them. If you have questions, ask them! Your professors care about their subject a LOT, and desperately want you to care about it too. That's why they're professors. Start writing your papers before three AM the day they're due. ...I don't expect you to listen to that one. But try. :-)

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Do what feels right. Visit the schools you are intersted in and talk not only to the administrators, but the professors and actual students, as scary as that sounds. They will tell you real information most of the time, not just what the admassions counslor wants you to know. Also, ask about the social aspects as well as academic. See if the school you want to go to is greek dominated or independent, or if there is a good mix. find otu what dorms are teh best for meeting people and where are the good parties are so you will know whats up when you get there. Also, realize that it isn't liek high school. There is noone lookinf aver your schoulder making sure youare getting your work done and going to class, that all on you. take advantage of it but don't abuse it., but remember they say teh first semester freshmen year doesn't count., but try to make it worth while. And get to know one of your professors or advisors so that when you have a question you can ask then without the awkwardness that results form a first encounter. relax and have fun!

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A trip back in time to talk to my senior-self, would be an opportunity I would never pass up! If I could talk to the second-semester- senior Maddie, I would tell her not to get used to the senioritis plague and slack-off attitude because college is a whole new ball game! I'd want to warn myself of the hours and hours of stuyding I would be doing and start mentally preparing myself as early as possible. Having already experienced one semester of college, I would tell myself "good job" on having an open attitude towards meeting many new people and getting involved in lots of things I would have never dreamed of! I would give myself a pat on the back for nurturing this openness senior year when I made many new friends, a little late in the game, but it was all still worth it. Now that I have an idea of what college is about I know that there are a few things I could have changed in myself senior year to prepare myself for now, but I am also pleasantly surprised at some of the success I have encountered thanks to senior-me.

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If I could somehow go back in time and advise myself as a high school senior, the most important advice I would give myself is to enhance my study habits. In high school. it is not uncommon that many students slack off when it comes to studying. Many students "cram" or simply fail to study at all. However, this type of habit will surely hurt you in college, especially your first year. College level work is very time consuming and rigorous. It is wise to study a little material from each of your classes everyday while in your last year of high school so that you can prepare yourself for college level work. In college, there is a lot more reading and outside homework that has to be completed in order to excel in your classes. If you read a little or study a little material each day while still in high school, you will not have to worry about being frustrated when your first forty page reading assignment or college level test is announced. Practicing healthy study habits in high school is the best way to excel in college.

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To parents and students, it is important to remember that there is more than one "right" college out there for each person. If you have done your research, visited the schools, and narrowed it down to 2 or 3 schools, chances are, you will be very happy at whichever one you pick. You will hear a lot of people tell you that college is really great, and some of the best years of your life. That is certainly true, but you have to make the effort to make college the best years of your life. Get to know people early on! If your school does not have an orenitation for incoming students, put yourself out there and walk around your dorm meeting people. Talk to the people that sit beside you in class. One of my biggest regrets is being too shy during my first couple of weeks or freshmen year. Meet people, find an activity you love to do, and let loose a little; it is ok to be a little crazy. Finally, go to class! It is so much easier to keep up with the material if you just get out of bed, and make an appearance.

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To parents: regardless of what you thing, or where you went to college, or what you want for your children, college is for them. The worst thing a parent can do is say "when I was at school I studied this, and you should too". Giving advice in this way isn't seen by your children as you giving them advice. It's actually interpreted as our parents telling us what to do, and where to go, and we resent it. Encourage your students to choose based on what they are interested in. The final choice in school and program of study has to be your child's decision for them to make the most out of the college experience. To Students: make the most out of every opportunity. Even if you feel like going Greek might not be right for you, give it a shot and chances are you'll meet a lot of people--in Greek Life--that felt the same way. Don't ever stop giving the most you can give and remember college isn't about getting all a's. It's about finding and sharing life-long experiences with life-long friends.

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