My biggest piece of advice would be to really research the program you are going into. Don't just pick a school because you like their football team or even just the feel of the campus. Find the cheapest school that is going to challenge you and that also has a reputation that will land you a job. In high school its hard to see the consequences of your college choice, but they are very real. It is importnat to think as an adult when making this choice. In addition, I'd recommend getting involved in the community you are based in. I volunteer in inner city Harrisburg and it is the most rewarding experience I've had in college and is great networking. Try to get off campus into the real world as much as possible. I promise you will not regret it.
To Students: Reach for your dreams, and don't let anyone tell you what you can't do. Apply for every school that interests you. It's better to try and to not get in than to always wonder "what if I had applied?". Study hard, but don't be afraid to make friends and have a social life. Pick a major you love, and stick with it even when it gets tough. Forge relationships with your professors, they will be your most important friends and mentors. Don't fall in with the wrong crowd, remember, you're an adult now and need to act like one. And stay in touch with your parents, because when the going gets tough they will be the ones to back you up. Most importantly, enjoy the experience, you only get this chance once.
I would advise parents and students to start the college search early and to make sure to visit the college before making a final decision. Parents, be sure to listen to what your child is interested in so that they end up at the school where they want to be. Distance is also a crucial issue when it comes to choosing a school. I would advise students to go far enough away so that there is a feeling of independence yet close enough for the comfort of security. To make the most of your college experience make sure you put yourself out there and meet new people. Classes are important and so is making friends and building relationships that last a lifetime. Work hard but have fun at the same time.
I would simply say to my younger self: do not compromise what you want for anyone else. I decided where I went to school simply because the school "looked good" to my friends, church members, high school teachers. I also knew it would please both of my parents. But because I made my college decision to make others happy, I ended up going to a school where I just coped and my heart wasn't fully in it. I knew that Messiah College was my school the moment I stepped on campus, and I never should have doubted my instinct. Just because others may not initially be impressed by my school's name, they will be impressed when I am able to tell them how much I enjoyed my education and how much I learned.
To my High School Senior self I'd tell; SAVE MONEY, SAVE MONEY, SAVE MONEY!! Stop going on Ebay and buying those random headbands and accessories that you barely use anyways and SAVE! College is expensive, even those $10 you can save will be helpful for something else. Arrange your sleep schedule, having to rely on your roommate to wake you up the first couple months is terrible, so arrange it now or over the summer but DO IT! Also, go to yard sales, you never know, they might have that mini fridge or keurig you're going to need for college for a bargain at what you would get at Walmart or Target. The main idea is SAVE MONEY! As much as you can because college is expensive!
I would tell myself to enjoy every minute of college. Don't get hung up on high school and the memories you made during that time. There are new memories to be made, new people to meet, new friends to make. Don't go home so often during freshmen year. Instead, step out of your comfort zone and meet new people. Embrace the new experiences and don't be afraid to take chances. This only happens once in your life so go for it. If you receive a bad grade on a paper put it behind you and move forward. There are many more opportunities to excel in academics. It is not the end of the world if you get a C. Just keep going. Most importantly, enjoy it and live life with no regrets.
As a parent you need to encourage your kids in their junior year to atleast browse through colleges. As a student you need to make it a priority to have a list and be proactive in your search for colleges. I made the mistake of looking too late and running out of options and time. As a student you definitely need to visit the campus to get a good feel of it, you will get a gut feeling if it feels like home or you feel really insecure. I think to make the most of your college experience you need to step out of your comfort zone your first semester especially to make friends because most likely they will be the ones you stick with for the next three years.
Look for the college that just feels right to the student. It seems like a hard decision, but once you find the right one you will know. Also doing overnight stays with students at the school will give you a good feel for what there is to do on campus and how the classes are run. As far as making the most of your college experience, you need to be willing to step out and meet people your first year. Everyone there is in the same position of not knowing anyone else. Everyone is uncomfortable and you should use that to your advantage to meet people. Get involved in clubs and activities. You can meet people with similar interests and have fun at the same time.
Visit the school and try to stay over night. Maybe sit in a class. You need to get a feel for the college because you will not be able to do that just looking online. Talk to people when you visit because you will usually be able to tell what their real feelings about the school is. You can usually get a feel from the campus if it is the type of place you would like to live most of the year at for around four years of your life. When you are at school, join clubs and teams. Get involved. Get a job on campus because there will be plenty of things that you will want to do with your friends and you are going to want some money saved for when you graduate.
I learned pretty quiclkly that there are lots of ways to experience your college career. My best advise is to try them all. Dont be afraid to seek out new opportunites. This can be through clubs, coffee houses, professor chats or study groups. Being a part of the campus truly enhances the whole college experience. The cost is daunting and you must be extremely diligent to keep searching out scholarship opportunites. It is always a real possiblity that I may have to return home as the financial climate changes for our family. Each day is a blessing and acknowleging and accepting that fact makes all the learning opportunities more intense.