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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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

The first thing parents and students need to do before applications and campus visits is to relax. There is too much stress involved in the college admissions process that doesn't help students make the best decisions for themselves. Students should consider that they'll be doing a lot of growing up during their four years at this university and all aspects of their lives will be affected: skills, health, love, friendships, dreams, etc. The university they choose must hit as many aspects of the human experience as possible, not just technical skills or not just sports. One of the most important programs a university can have in my opinion is good study or work abroad programs. Living abroad has really changed my life in ways my university couldn't but enabled me to have that essential growing experience. The number two thing all parents need to do is to support their children from day one to graduation and beyond as more college students are heading back home after getting a BS these days. Emotional support is key to students' success and will make a student's college experience fulfilled in ways that all the excitement and challenge may not.

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Dear Me, I know you. You almost never fully trust anyone else, and are therefore rarely dissappointed when people let you down. Infact, the only person you ever put faith in is yourself. You've told yourself that it's just self preservation, and that building yourself up for others just so you can shatter and break every single time is impracticle. In college, you will find situations in which everything is all on you, and you will fail. Miserable, crushing failure. These will be the worst, since you are the last person you have fully trusted. Without a doubt, this will happen. So, you can't live your life not trusting yourself. Plain and simple. Similarly, you are not fully living you life if you never put faith in anyone else. You are cheating yourself of making connections that could prove to be the best relationship you've ever experienced.. So put faith in others. Get excited about people. Always tell others how much you value their friendship. Sometimes, these sentiments will not be returned, but that's what makes life so beautiful. It's a spectrum of both vibrant and dull. Enjoy every bit of it. Love, Me

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I didn?t find the right college. I visited twelve. At each of them, I shrugged, saying, ?Sure, I could go here.? I applied to nineteen. I managed to weed out the majority, but on Decision Day, I sat by the mailbox, holding two unmarked response cards. I chose challenge. I chose the school that would kill me, where I would struggle to be average, the school that had the fewest people like me. The fact that I chose MIT for its difficulty and pain was the single indication that I was a good match for it. I didn?t stop there. I am a MechE major who hates building things. First semester freshman year, I lived on a floor inhabited by conservative Muslim guys. The only official MIT exchange program is in England; I'm studying abroad in Paris. College is like marriage. You could be happy with several people, but you choose one, or he chooses you. Then you make dozens of decisions that affect your relationship. Choosing MIT was important, but subsequent decisions made my college experience. Close your eyes and pick a school. When you get there, take a risk. Learn something. Make mistakes. Bon courage!

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I would have advised my high school self to explore a wider variety of subjects before entering college. I changed my major during my first semester of college from biology to electrical engineering and computer science because I attended a free, extracurricular lecture about solar electric vehicles on a whim. That got me interested in EECS; then taking the first EECS class got me hooked. Now, I only wish I had realized my true passion earlier and programmed more in high school, which would have given me an edge once I entered college. However, regardless of having previous experience, I know I love the subject. This leads me to my second piece of advice to myself: don't be afraid to make big changes in your life. I was definitely apprehensive about leaving behind biology, a subject I was familiar with, to basically start in a new subject from scratch; and the first EECS class I took was definitely rough; but I'm on my feet now and so thankful I made the plunge. In the future, I may work in bioeletrical engineering, which would combine both my interests. Paths in life sometimes split, and sometimes converge.

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The four years that you are in college are the most unique years of your life. Never again will you be able to have the opportunity to do essentially whatever you want, whenever you want, and not be held back by the responsibilities that come with living in the real world. The friendships that you forge and memories that you form during your college years are things that you will never forget. Choosing the right college is an important decision, one that shapes the rest of your life. When looking at colleges, the main factors that you should take into consideration, besides the curriculum, are the people and the surrounding environment. To me, the diversity of the people is what makes MIT so amazing. I have met people from every continent, and each offers a unique point of view, giving me completely different perspectives to think from. MIT is in Boston. For me, this is a good thing because it offers a way to escape from the academic environment. I would suggest thinking about what you like to do outside of school, and use that to decide if the surroundings of your prospective school are attractive or not.

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Parents should be aware that every student is different and that there is a "right" school for everyone. However, the perfect school for one child may not be the best place for another. Just because a school is ranked highly does not mean it will be the right atmosphere for every competitive student. The student should pick his or her college based on personal values and priorities, and make sure that this school is somewhere that the student can picture him or herself for the next few years. The most important aspect of picking where to go to college is that the setting, level of competition, and student body are motivating to the individual. During college, it is sometimes very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is infinitely helpful when the school is overall motivating and encouraging. It is also more satisfying to make the college choice for yourself, rather than to go along with the school that someone else thinks will be best. Most of all, try to have fun in college: explore new interests and meet many diverse people. This is an opportunity to discover who you are.

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It's 3 AM on my dormitory hall and hang-out time has just gotten more interesting. A few people are filing into the lounge, taking a break from work, but that's enough to veer conversation to new topics. A couple of minutes later, an email advertising birthday cake for a neighbor is sent out. In high school, the socializing that was thought of as "cool" and was possible in my limited free time had seemed contrived and tiresome. Living 24/7 in college is a whole other beast. Things are different when you are responsible for your time, when there are similar people all around. You need a balance: disciplined in order to get everything done, but flexible in order to not miss anything you'll regret. I wish that my high school self had anticipated more than just classes and professors; I would advise myself to think about time outside of classes, including the downtime I spend living amongst other students. That's the stuff that slips an excited student's mind. While college life is always a surprise, I would've wanted to be readier to deal with the surprises in time management thrown my way.

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College is all about the people. During the college application process, definitely take the time to go and visit the campus and meet the people there, students and faculty. Get an idea of what a normal day at that college would be like. Either ask a few students or if available do an overnight program, see the campus , attend some classes, etc. Try to do this before you apply but definitely before you choose. Once at college, the people around you are really going to definite your experience. Make sure to make a close friend, someone you really connect with, this doesn't have to happen right away or even in your first year, but make an effort to find that friend. As far as classes go, talk to people, especially upperclassmen, and find out what professors are good/bad, a professor can really make or break any class. Make an effort to get to know your professor and vice versa, this connection can become very helpful and professors tend to be pretty interesting. Try to stay focused and on top of your academics, but remember college is more than just a bunch of classes. It's about the people.

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There is definitely a "right" fit for everyone when it comes to what college one chooses. Although it is certainly beneficial to listen to the advice and opinions of one's friends and family when deciding on a college, one should remember that it is his decision to make-- trust your gut instinct! Once at college, the best way to make the most of the college experience is to experience as many things as possible-- even activities that are totally unfamiliar. Not only might one discover a new passion, but the different types of people one will meet along the way is one of the best experiences one can have. Also, it's important to have fun! Especially at the top colleges, it's easy to get caught up in work and grade point averages; however, when it comes down to it, employers are more interested in someone that is well-rounded and interesting than someone with a perfect GPA (at the same time, however, don't totally slack off!). Finding the perfect balance between learning as much as one can in school, building friendships, and making memories is the key to happiness in college.

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Having gone through two years of college, I often find myself thinking about how I would do things differently were I to get a chance to relive those years. If I could talk to myself as a high school senior, I would first tell myself to use as much of my time as possible to utilize the opportunities available to me in college. During my two years I have taken advantage of many opportunities I only have here, such as a program to prepare for and obtain a summer internship and a program to visit South Africa. But I have also missed out on other opportunities, such as to be more involved in clubs, try out for varsity sports, talk more with my professors, etc. I would therefore tell myself to always be on the lookout for such opportunities, because oftentimes they only come around once. The other piece of advise would be to prepare more for the transition to college. My first semester was difficult, as I had previously not needed to study much in high school and thus struggled with my coursework. I would tell myself to learn different techniques for studying and to be prepared for it.

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