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Minnesota State University Moorhead

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

The three factors that I believe to be absolutely pivotal for a prospective student to consider when selecting a college or university are course selection, campus size, and student environment. Course selection is particularly important if a student has already decided on a major. If, for example, a student wishes to pursue writing, it is important for his or her selected university to have a strong English and Communications program. Having related and more specific programs, such as journalism and creative writing, would also be an important factor to consider. Campus size relates to how involved a student wishes to be on campus. A smaller campus is more intimate and tends to allow a student to participate in more activities simultaneously. A large university, however, will usually have more activities offered and enable a student to specialize in a particular area. Finally, a welcoming student environment is very important. A diverse student body, smaller class sizes, and specialized groups related to an academic major are conducive to a learning environment. A student who feels comfortable among his or her classmates will be more willing to participate in academic discussion and social activities - providing opportunity for intellectual and emotional development.

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My college experience has been the foundation for personal and professional growth. It began when I was 18 years old and has continued for 30 years in the field of nursing and now education. Coursework in nursing gave me the background knowledge and skills to care for the person in body, mind and spirit. Seventeen years later, the change to K-12 educational studies led me to further understand the process of effectively facilitating children's learning. Studies in both fields complimented one another and led to a greater understanding of the role multiple disciplines have in the education of children and the support of their families. Persons in areas of health, education, social services, counseling and educational leadership collaborate to create the support for children, families, and one another's professional growth. My continued college experiences have been supported by colleagues, the children and families I work with, as well as my own family. It has been a self-fulfilling experience that has been self-directed and transformational. My continued studies will enable me to assist other adults in fulfilling their interests and purpose through education, ultimately using my philosophy in education to reach more elementary students and families.

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There are a few things that I would say to my highschool self. First of all, take advantage of the dual-credit opportunities available at your local community college. Get some of the general requirements out of the way during your Junior and Senior years of highschool so that you will have more opportunities to get involved on campus when you start college. It saves time, energy, and money. Secondly, make a list of what is most important to you in a university. Some ideas might include: location and distance from home, size of campus and how spread apart it is, academic programs, student organizations, etc. Next, take as many campus tours as you can. Travel to each school you are thinking about applying to. This may not seem very important, but it is! You just can't get what you need in order to choose without seeing it for yourself. Once you start college, get involved!!!! Participate in dorm activities. Check out student organizations and academic clubs. This is where you will meet people who share similar interests and beliefs. This has seriously made the most important contribution to my university experience.

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Above all else, be honest with yourself throughout the entire process. Be honest, not only in deciding on what major you choose, but what school you go to. See what colleges work best for you personally, regardless of cost, prestige, or location. Certainly keep in mind what is said about what your college has to offer in your particular field(s) of interest, but when it boils down to it, choose which one feels most right for you. I've seen far too many people be forced into expensive, private schools who really wanted the down-to-earth, friendly environment my college provides. I've also seen many people choose majors unfit for them, simply because they thought that's what others expect of them. No lifestyle, no job, no major is fit for everyone, so there's no reason to assume that a college must be defined through its prestige alone. Do everything you can beforehand to get to know each college intimately, and watch how responsive each college is to providing you with ways to do that, whether through tours, interviews with departments, etc. Through this process, you can learn what's best for *you.*

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If I could go back in time and give advice to myself as a highschool senior, there are three things I would say. First, don't be afraid to make friends and meet new people. Friends can be extraordinary resources and loads of help when you need it most. There are times at college when you'll never feel more alone... leaving your old high school friends behind, your family, and your pets. It can be rough on even the toughest of souls. Having friends to cheer you up and make you laugh along the way is extremely valuable. Second, take time for yourself. Take time away from the studying, reading, researching, and late nights. Yes, grades are important, but not as important as your physical and mental health. Most people take their health for granted - including me, but not anymore. After being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis the summer of my freshman year at the ripe old age of 19, I learned to take advantage of the few days I felt healthy and pain free. A grade is something you forget about in a week, but your body is irreplaceable. Take care of it. Lastly, just go and experience life.

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I would tell myself that I am just as deserving of a college ecucation as anyone else. While we may have some people in our lives who say that we can't do it and family unwilling or unable to help us, there are still options out there. People on campus are more helpful than one might think. They key to success is realizing any college experience is what you make it. Use the resources campus offers and don't be afraid to ask for answers to your questions. After all, that is the campus staff's job. You don't have to figure out every little thing for yourself, but take the initiative to know what questions you need or want to ask. Also, look into the surrounding environment of your campus for related costs such as seasonal expenses, public transportation, utility costs, and housing. Also get to know your school's community so you can not only utilize its services, but so you can also contribute through volunteer opportunities that are offered. You'll find you usually get back way more than you give, so take it as a personal challenge to see how you can improve yourself.

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There are many choices that one has to make on a daily basis; you have to decide what to wear, what to eat, how to spend your money, and when to go to bed. But one of the biggest questions that you have to ask yourself at 18 is to continue on with a higher education or not. College was a great experience for me because I meet very influential people, learned many valuable lessons, and learned how to educate students to be healthy and fit. Through my college career, I worked with many young professionals and professors who had the same love for physical activity and health as I did. I was able to learn from all the influential people around me and take life lessons with me for the rest of my life. With my valuable lessons and great education, I was able to get a job teaching physical education right out of college. I am currently teaching middle school physical and health education. I have a great job where I get to interact with influential adolescents and help instill lifelong values and skills that students can use now and for the rest of their life.

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I would like to give parents and students the following advice about finding the right college and making the most of the college experience: Research the school and the program(s) that your are interested in and find out someone from your area that is going or had gone to the school to find out what they liked and disliked about the school. I would also suggest that they spend time at the school and areas around the school to know ahead of time what there is to do and see and explore. I would also advise them to look at the housing options, weather issues, and think long and hard about the how the time at college will be spent. I would also advise them to consider as many of the possible issues they may have , for example, car problems, money problems, etc., and how they would or could be solved. Also, it would be great to find other students from their hometown to bond with until they are able to make friends at school. The final advise I would give someone that would like to make the most of their college experience is to be involved in everything.

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I would advise my high school senior self not to make best friends or join a group or people too quickly when I arrive at college. It is better to be friendly to everyone and see which friendships develop. Spend equal amounts of effort on the different friendships, instead of focusing on one or two people. As you get to know people better, you may discover that they are not as compatible with you as you had originally thought, and that other people, who you dismissed earlier on, would make really good friends. It is more difficult to build a friendship with a person you have known only casually for a long while, than it is in the beginning when everyone is new and looking to build friendships. Also, write down the dining hall meal times and schedule a time in your day to eat, so that you make sure you get to eat before the dining hall closes. A few days of a rumbling stomach is not fun. Also, make your planning diary your new best friend; it's going to save your life in college. There are too many assignments and meetings to remember on your own.

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Carpe Diem, seize the day! I woudl tell myself to live life to the fullest it seriously is a beautiful and short jouney that needs to be cherished and college is a huge life enrichment. I have done the most growing in myself over the past 3 years and I am a better individual with the growth I have done. That has all been with the experiences I have gone though, leadership positions, advisers, professors, bosses, co-workers on campus, and a great major and friends within the major. I would tell myself to make mistakes and keep making them that is how we know we are alive and working towards something, without falling we wouln't know how to get back up on our feet. Each and every circumstance in life teaches us something and we take wisdom from it. I woudl tell myself to live with passion deep meaning and love as many things as possible and don't be afraid of hurt, pain and rejection if people don't like you for who you are then that is a clear indication you don't need to surround yourself with them. Find happiness in the simple things.

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