My college experience so far has been educational and character/identity building. I have discovered some of my passions, in the field of psychology, criminal justice, people with special needs, singing, being apart of a tight knit community. I have also grown as an individual. I have faced challenges and come out on the other side stronger, more defined, and self aware. I've learned how to live in community with people who are both alike and dislike and learned to embrace diversity. My college experience is valuable in that I have learned how to be a life-long student, learning from every experience. I have developed in my knowledge of several fields and become more confident in my ability to achieve my goals. In order to work towards a goal you have to be passionate about that goal and I have developed both the passion and the know-how to reach it.
There is no need to worry because all incoming students are in the same boat, clueless regarding what is going on and what to expect. Further, when you transition into college life, you are not alone because vulnerability builds relations and creates community. It is important to be humble, open up and not be so guarded. Ask questions; do not try to figure everything out on your own. Embrace each opportunity that knocks at your door, enjoy these four years to the fullest because college is a once in a lifetime experience. Nurture relationships with professors and friends. Above all, fully appreciate this blessing and work diligently because not all individuals can attend college. A higher education is a privilege and with every privilege comes a responsibility. Take ownership for your decisions and make a positive difference in our world.
In the pursuit of the best school, make every possible effort to visit. My ultimate decision, even with all of the logistics in my mind, was based on how I felt when I was on campus. When I walked around the Messiah Campus, I immediately felt as if I belonged. As a college student, one should try to be as involved as possible- don't overbook your schedule with endless meetings and clubs, though. "Involved" as I define it means to invest oneself in things that will encourage personal, spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical growth. This could mean community service, joining a Bible study, playing rec sports, going to on-campus lectures, or just hanging out with a different group of people from time to time. The main thing: do not have any regrets. Learn and live as much as possible from and with those around you!
Forest Gump once said that "Life is like a box of chocolates." I believe this is true. You cannot know what kind of chocolate is in the box unless you open it up and try them all. And yes, you will get chocolates that you don't like and ones that dry your mouth out, but you will learn for next time which ones to avoid. There will also be those chocolates that are so good, you wished that they filled the whole box. College is like life (and chocolate). You never really know what you are going to get. You may chose colleges or activities that are like the bitter chocolates. They may leave a bad taste in your mouth and make you not want to try another one. Keep trying though! College is full of the good chocolate times and bad. It is only through trial and error that you get full of wonderful memories...oh, and chocolate.
When searching for the right college it is very important to visit the campus and ask many questions while visiting. Know what kinds of things you want in a school and don't settle for less. Once you have picked a school, to make the best of your experience, get involved on campus. Join clubs, sports teams, musical groups, etc and participate in what you feel comfortable doing. Make lots of friends and enjoy your social time. However, be sure to focus on your studies as well. If it's all play and no work you won't be at the school for very long. As a freshman, try not to go home every weekend. Stay on campus and hang out with friends. Going home often will only make your adjustment to college life harder. Enjoy this time in your life where you have freedom but don't have all the responsibilities of being an adult yet.
I advise students and parents to first visit several different colleges that they might be interested in. It is best to visit both small and large campuses in both urban and rural areas to get a feel of what they want in a school. Once the student has narrowed his or her choices down to 2-3 schools, he or she should schedule an overnight visit at the school if possible to see what the school is really like. Also, if a student chooses a college, and discovers he or she does not like it as much as they thought, they should not be afraid to consider transferring to a different school. I spent my first year at the wrong college, and the decision to transfer was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It may seem like a daunting process, but it is so worth it to end up in a place that is right for you.
Reflecting on the past four years as a student at Messiah College, if given the opportunity to go back in time and provide a highschool senior version of myself with advice, I would encourage myself to find the courage to set aside any preconceived prejudices; to celebrate one another?s differences and to refuse to clutch to the familiar. As a member of the Messiah Community, I have discovered that an individual?s past shapes his/her present, and that often, the most influential individuals in life are those with immeasurably different backgrounds, religious traditions, and life perspectives. I believe that only through embracing the unfamiliar and acknowledging each individual as an individual with a purpose and a calling, can our generation bring forth the change our world so desperately needs.
Be sure to spend more than a day on the campus, trying out classes and getting an idea of the actual atmosphere. Visit on a day that's NOT a campus visit day. It's not that people are fake on these days, but they tend to heighten the intensity of activity and even friendliness. Come on a day you're not expected to :), and stay for a few days, maybe even a week. Also, if you decide to go to a college, pressure the school for financial aid. Don't let them get away with saying funds are insufficient; there's always extra aid laying around, and you have a right to it. Fight for your money, and don't live beyond your means; if you can't afford a school, don't try to force yourself to be able to afford it. Just because it costs more doesn't make it better!
I would absolutely make sure that I visit all the schools I was applying too. One of the schools I was applying too was +1000 miles away and I couldn't afford to visit the school. I was rather busy my senior year, so I never took the time to visit the other schools on my list with the rational that there was no point in visiting because I would have nothing to compare it to for the other school. It turned out that the atmosphere was really not to my liking. I went back and visited the other schools I had applied to and loved them but was not able to get in the program I wanted as a transfer. I am now at a third school that I never planned on attenging. While I enjoy it here I often regret not visiting those other schools as I may be there right now.
Remember that college isn't about the degree or graduation, rather college should be considered a gradual experience that prepares you for life and gives you the moments that force you to escape your various comfort zones. Choose a school that follows an ethic and whose professors live lives as admirable as you would like you or your son/daughter to live. These four (or more) years prepare you for real life and provide you with an opportunity to be both generous with love for your community and selfish with the knowledge that you attain both in and out of the classroom. When you have matured enough to understand how that wisdom can benefit others you can freely apportion out your refined talents without expectations of gratitude or repayment.