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Lehigh University

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

There?s a lot of advice I could give prospective freshman and their parents. The most important would have to be, RELAX. The choice of college is not one that is binding nor is it this stressful process we feel we must make it out to be. Colleges are businesses; they want bright students to bring them wealth and fame. It is what they hold inside that matters. The truth is that wherever you go, you will be fine if you take good care of yourself and work to your potential. That said, you should aspire to find a community that could push you past your potential. It is where you go that will determine how you discover yourself; the kind of person you are or the kind of person you would like to be. College is a journey of self-enlightenment influenced by your peers, the faculty, the surrounding community, and the experiences you create together. There is no right college, it is what you make out of the resources you are provided with. Granted, you should make sure the resources you require for your intended goal are offered, but other than that, the rest is up to you.

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I always was and always will be an extremely hard worker. By the time I graduated high school, I already had thirty-seven college credits. Lehigh University accepted me for the spring semester, so I would have had to take the fall semester off or enrolled at another school. Because from an academic standing Lehigh was well above my other choices (Richmond and Wisconsin), I chose to take an internship for a semester and then attend Lehigh in the Spring. That was a mistake. Knowing what I know now, I would highly encourage students to only start college in the Fall. Not only was everyone's click of friends already created by the time I joined campus, but I had missed rush, which at a large Greek school like Lehigh is equal to social suicide. That being said, I do not know if I could said I would have prefered being at another school because although getting set in took far longer because I started in the middle of the school year, my later years were some of the best times of my life. Lehigh does balance academic success and a pretty epic social scene quite nicely.

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Hands down, the most important advice I would give my past self is to be positive, be open, and don't make assumptions about people and situations until you have adequately experienced them. Though I feel like somewhat of a flounderer as a double major in the liberal arts at Lehigh, where most students are math, science, and research oriented, if I could do it again, I would make the same decision of matriculation. While I've had to fight for respect among my peers, that effort has made me a different person. I still find some classes unsatisfying in the areas of thought provoking discussion; however, I've taken them as challenges. Initially I was disappointed, but since I have recently decided to take my own advice, (be positive and open) I am not only learning the material but i'm also learning how to take in subject matter differently, as well as how I adapt and perservere in new and different situations. The only thing I would advice my younger self to do differently is to be open to the change initially, and allow the evolution of the self to take place.

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The most important thing I would say to my high school self is learn to develop good study habits. In high school, the level of academic difficulty is not nearly as high as it is in college, especially since I came from a high schoool that was not that academically rigourous. It was easy to get high grades without studying too much and thats why I struggled to adjust to the academics in my first semester. Another piece of advice I would give is to definitely try and meet as many people as I can within my first semester. It becomes harder after that because people form their own groups and you have to make more of an effor later on. Freshman year, everyone is on the same boat as you and noone knows anybody. Remember that you can completely change how you want yourself to be preceived by others because nobody knows you. If you were known to be shy and conserved in high school, you can completely turn that around in college. Lastly, learn to keep a good balance between acadamics and your social life. You are given a lot of new freedom so learn to be responsible.

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College has been the defining experience of my life so far. I grew up in small town East Stroudsburg PA. The town's location an hour from New York City and less than half an hour from northern New Jersey lead to a sharp rise in population during the early part of this decade. Most of my childhood through high school years were marked by isolation, and generally not knowing who I was. Trying out for sports teams and enjoying extracurriculars was difficult because my family didn’t have a car. Entering college I still had no idea who I was or what I enjoyed. I had immense growing pains as I went from involvement in Lehigh's Black Student Union to membership and recently Vice President of Philanthropy in my sorority. Striking out on my own to find my true identity is the story of my college experience. Learning and growing into myself has been more valuable than any class offered at Lehigh. I am ready to take on anything that life after college has to throw at me because I know who I am and what I want out of life. Nothing could be more important than that.

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Consider yourselves a team. Having parents and students work together in the search process is ideal because the more input you get the better. However, besides financials, the choice should be put in the hands of the student, after all, they're the one whose going to attend school there. Next, keep your options open. There are lots of schools out there, and you will probably have difficulty at first, but visit as many schools as possible because it's the best way to find out if you could see yourself there. I knew I wanted to go to Lehigh the moment I arrived on campus and not a second before. To make the most of your college experience, take your time; you probably won't know what you want to study right away. Try a variety of courses and activites and narrow from there. Find something that makes you happy, whether you're good at it or not; the worst thing you can do is do something just because you're good at it because you'll end up hating it if it doesnt make you happy. When you find something that makes you happy, you'll be successful.

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If I were to go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior about transitioning to college, I would tell myself to have more fun and to relax. During my first semester of college, I was so worried about doing well in my classes, that I didn't really join any clubs or organizations on campus because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough time to do everything. Instead, I spent all my time doing homework and studying because I was afraid of a bad first semester GPA haunting me later in my college career. Unfortunately, when I returned back to my hometown for winter break and met up with my high school friends, I didn't really have any "crazy college stories" with which to regale them, while they had plenty. I felt like I missed out on a lot of fun in my first semester compared to my friends. I've realized now that I was very intimidated by the transition to college because it was just so different from high school -- new setting, experiences, responsibilities, people. If I could do it all over, I would seize more opportunities for fun!

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College is such an eye-opening experience. It has been extremely valuable to me because it was an environment where I could thrive with the passions and talents I had. In high school, you are expected to be well rounded in all academics. Some talents and passions shine through these years, but none are awarded as they are in college. Throughout my years as an undergraduate, I was able to share interests in the sciences with my peers and professors. I took classes in subjects I was genuinely excited about. I learned from the best people in the field of bioengineering; men and women of various ages with doctorates and projects that improved the lives of others. It was inspiring to see these people at work. Also, I was able to practice my joy of singing with a choral conductor who is world- renowned. I had the ability to sing with students who also shared the talent, and many friendships were made that I will continue to cherish. Overall, college has opened up the opportunities for me to figure out what I love to do, and to pursue it as a career.

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After one horrible exam, I went to my professor's office. This professor, whom I admired greatly, said something that almost made me cry. “You’re a freshman. You shouldn’t even be in my class.” “But I love Organic Chemistry!” “Yeah, well you would have loved it next year.” I talked to a student who'd had him before. “Was he saying he didn’t want me in his class?” She didn’t think so. Except for that exam, I was doing well. He probably meant I was already advanced for my level so I shouldn’t despair setbacks. What this incident showed me is how unexpectedly vulnerable my self-confidence became at college. Away from home and my secure friend group, I was challenged in ways I’d never imagined. When I didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped, I looked to people around me for indication whether this was normal or I was a failure. Suddenly I trusted their judgment more than my own. My advice to my high school self is this: Stay positive. Prove doubters wrong. Only you know what you’re truly capable of. Now is the time to let it shine.

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Academics should be one of the most important factors in determining what college is right for you, but by no means should it be the only factor. Students and parents should take into account the kind of experience the student wants to have. Location (city/suburbs), size (large/small), distance (close/far from home), types of clubs and organizations offered, dining options, and most importantly, what kind of students attend the school. Make sure to take a tour of the school before your apply because there's a feeling you get by stepping on a college campus that you can't get from visiting the school online or by reading about it in a college magazine. Talk to students who attend the school to see if you could see yourself fitting in. Make the most out of your college experience by trying new things and getting involved. Use this time to discover who you are and who you want to become. Join a club you never would have in high school and try something that scares you. Now is the chance to grow as an individual and to hold nothing back.

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