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Montana State University-Billings

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

"Slow down." Two simple words uttered with heartfelt sincerity from the mouth of a twenty year old college student to an anxious high school senior. My years in high school were devoid of alcohol, drugs, promiscuitity, and questionable activities. However, I also became a single-minded machine focused on academic goals who casually ignored the passing time. Family and friends became an unnecessary distraction in my pursuit of academic excellence. College was a barely tangible dream tinged with uncertainty as I pursued countless scholarships in a desperate attempt to become the first member of my immediate family to pursue a collegiate career. Worthy dreams clouded every waking moment, but in my pursuit of college I desperately awaited graduation day and ignored the present time. Looking my high school self in the eye, I would grasp 'her' shoulders and tell 'her' that time is a fleeting friend. Lost time can never be regained and graduating from high school means moving away from beloved family. I would plead with myself to set down the books and spend quality time with those I love. Textbooks wait without changing for your return. Loved ones drift away and their time must be cherished.

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My advice to potential students and parents would be to get a an idea for what you want to get our of your college education. A lot of times students get too wrapped up in the college life such as sororities/fraternities, sporting events, partying, and other extra curricular activies that their academic life suffers. It's so important to have fun and make memories, but you're ultimate goal for being there should be degree oriented. I think students often forget to make this their number one priority and they end up wasting time and money in order to finally obtain their degree. It's also important to figure out what sort of field you are interested in. Schools often have a focus field that they are known for and it's important that the school lines up with the students interests. This way you will meet students with similar interests and the school will hopefully be able to provide you with a strong education. I think it's also important to consider the class size. In my school the student/professor ratio was 1 to 20. This provided an ultimate learning enviroment where everyone could share! THank you!

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I entered college with the expectations that I could skip class whenever I wanted to and that homework would be fairly nonexistent. I learned that I will have homework every night. At first I felt I did not need to read and thought I would get by on just the lectures. I found out that many teachers included material that was outside their lecture in the quizzes and started doing my reading homework. Thankfully I was quick to realize that my preconceived notion of homework was wrong. I am finding that my quiz grades are reflecting this. As for not attending class, I never really had a choice. The majority of my teachers made attending class a must, even docking from overall grades for those students that missed classes. I am glad that my teachers did this because now I would never even consider skipping a class. I thought that college would be less structured than high school in class attendance and homework. I found out that this is quite the opposite. Where it was okay to miss a few classes and forget to turn in a few assignments in high school, this is highly unacceptable in college.

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Throughout my first year of college, I spent minimal time actually reading the material and using textbooks and other resources. This is also how I went all the way through high school. I graduated high school with good grades and my first year of college I ended with good grades as well. However, throughout my second year of college, I started using more rescources and spending more time in my textbooks and other materials. I put in much more time and effort toward my studies. I still ended with good grades, but found a distinct difference in my level of stress, confidence, and overall learning experience. I noticed that I was confident in my knowledge and I didn't have to spend study time cramming for tests because I was actually soaking in the information. My advice would be to take the time and study and read the material given to me. This advice had been given to me for years and years, but since I was always still able to get good grades, I never really took it to heart. Once I experienced the difference for myself I realized how much easier school could have been in the past.

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Before physically moving out to campus and "going" to college, I hadn't thought of higher education as anything more than what my parents wanted me to do. I declared myself in my second year with dual degrees in Film & English, respectively. Looking back, I didn't need to have two majors, especially both of them being in the Arts. But I figured, might as well get the most out of this college thing. Retrospectively, it's a bit funny to think that I thought the value was in the amount of classes. Financially speaking that was the case, but as far as life skills, relationships, problem solving, career identity and all the little things you only learn after being moderately unprepared and facing the issue with nothing but a positive attitude, college was so much more than English 388. I'm not currently enrolled. I dropped out, got a job, and helped my parents financially when they couldn't keep their lights on. The real lesson came when I realized how a diploma really is valuable. Which is why I'm trying to find enough money to finish school in the fall. To me, college equals a positive future.

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Students: Pick a college with the best program in your discipline. I chose a school based on other factors and I regret choosing the school I did. This includes speaking with faculty, students, and individuals in your field to help you understand what to look for in a school. Don't attend a school just because it looks good or the tour was "awesome". Ask questions. Don't let freshman advisors register you for a class if it contradicts what university literature informs you. If you are high profile student-athlete, spend lots of time with the team before you sign a letter of intent because they will be your family for four years. It is important to work well with that group of people. Get to know the coach, ask questions about the community and the athletic department's relationship with the community, the coach's philosophies a rules, seek out his or her coaching record and how long they were at each school. Parents: If your child doesn't want to go to a school, don't make them or guilt them into going. Your child will only resent you. You should guide them, but never push.

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High school, in a few short words, was fun, fast, and a time for friendships. For me, high school was generally pretty easy; going to class, doing the homework, and passing the tests. All of this with little or no time studying at home. For high school this was apparently just fine, as i graduated with a 3.5 GPA. But if I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior, I would have many tips and demands to give myself. First, I would tell myself how crutially important studying will be to my college success. I would explain how learning to study while taking simple high school courses would make studying in college more natural. Second, I would explain to myself how friendships in high school are important just like any friendships, but new friends will be made in college. These friendships will last the rest of your life. I would tell myself that it is ok to let go of some old friendships in order to make more meaningful new friendships work. The key to success in college is confidence, dicipline, and exploration. If you have these, life will be great!

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If I had the opportunity to talk to myself as a high school senior, I would immediately give myself this sage advice: procrastination will not work in college like it did in high school. The day to day work may be less common, but the daunting large assignments and projects will stack up if not handled in an efficient manner. A day planner, as well as a well thought out work schedule is essential to success in college. As long as one stays on track with the classwork, success is not a strenuous task, but if one falls behind it can become next to impossible. Second, I would advise myself to make friendships with my classmates, as they can be a more accessible resource than the professor if you need help with the class material. This also provides you with a potential study partner, and invaluable element to the college experience. Third, I would tell myself to become well acquainted with my professors, as a good relationship with them makes them more approachable, and allows them to better understand you and the unique problems you may have over the course of the class.

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Expect the unexpected, dream big, roll with the punches. Tried and true cliches that come all too easily to mind, mostly because they're true. They're true because the pattern of life doesn't differ that much from one individual to another. We share more of the same experiences than not. Life will hit us with the unexpected, we will dream big and have those dreams pummeled down by the mighty punch that is circumstance. Life wares on what was; grinding us down to a lack luster sheen of uniformity. How do we lose our initial spark of luminosity? We forget. We forget why our dreams are important. We forget what motivates us. We forget that we are individual, unique, special. I would say to my high school self, "Don't forget." Remember your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you are capable of and don't falter from that truth. Allow yourself to fail in pursuit of your dreams. Remember your successes and failures and respect how they have crafted who you are. Shine as brightly as that first time you realized you could, and remember that you always can.

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How much would you pay for a Slinky and a t-shirt? The freedom that comes with attending university away from the protection your parents offer comes at a price you will not consider. You must take time to think about decisions before acting upon them. Yes, there will be parties, drinking, and drugs, but you have learned enough about the dangers these will present throughout your high school career to turn them away. You were not taught, however, that buying now and paying later will be a decision you will regret for many years. As you walk through the student union building, be prepared to be tempted by credit card companies offering pre-approved credit cards with a bonus prize of a t-shirt sporting their logo or a classic Slinky. You will take the bait. The false sense of financial freedom these cards come with will become a drowning debt it takes you years to repay. My advice to you, dear Self, is to avoid these credit cards at all cost and take a personal finance course. A Slinky and a t-shirt are definitely not worth the amount you end up paying.

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