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North Carolina State University at Raleigh

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

My journey from high scool dropout to Student of the Year early high school graduate and concurrent community college (starting at 16) student to Honor's Student of the Year (among many other awards) Mount San Jacinto College graduate to UC Berkeley undergraduate has been a fascinating education unto itself. In my short time as a college student I have found my path in life, found what it is I can devote my life to. If all goes well, within five semesters at most I will have a B.S. in Society & Environment and a B.A. in Political Economy which will lead me to a PhD. in Environmental Science, Policy & Management. All of this will (hopefully) lead me to the United Nations, using my education and experiences to help solve the greatest crises man has ever faced. In short, my experiences have shown me what is most precious to me, and exactly what it is that I can do about them. I have seen global poverty, inequality and environmental degradation of an epic spacle. Not only has my education allowed me the capacity of such vision, it has also equped me with the tools to solve all these crises.

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There are several pieces of advice I would give to my high school self. First, take your senior year seriously. Have fun, but be smart. Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals. They want to see someone who looks good on paper, GPA-wise. At the same time, they want someone who has ties to the community, who volunteers, who plays sports, and who is involved in clubs. So, volunteer at the animal shelter, or build a home for Habitat for Humanity, coach the community pee-wee cheerleading team, and study a little longer each day. Additionally, I would advise myself to enjoy the transition more. I would say, "Self, take the time each day to relish the fact that you've made it this far. You will be the first person in your family to graduate high school. You will dedicate your next four years to education and shape your adult-self at the same time. Congratulations, you are becoming the person you always knew you would be. Make the best of it. Breathe. Take time each day to reflect on days past and imagine future days. This is what you've been waiting for. Go get 'em!"

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If I had the opportunity to give advice to parents and/or students about the importance of finding the right college and making the most of their college experience I would tell them to follow their heart. Many students tend to follow their parents' ambitions and do not trust where their hearts want them to go. I would tell the students to listen within and to go where they will be happy. If the student is happy, they are more likely to succeed because they are in the place where they wanted to be, not where their parents wanted them to be. The student will have more pride in what they accomplish and them choosing the right college that meets their needs also aids in the process of getting the most out of their college experience. Not only should the student focus on their academics, but they should also strive to meet new people with similar interests as well as those different from them to help mold the student into becoming a well-rounded individual. Academics is great, but you also need to try to be social and outgoing so that when you graduate, you will know who you are .

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Dude, if you only knew what I know now! The most important academic thing to do in high school is learn how to study. Sure you have been getting by with just completing assigned work, listening to the teacher and quickly reviewing before a test. But to achieve success in college you are going to have to read the course material, and I mean ALL the material! The class lesson in high school generally includes all you need to learn, and sometimes some other boring stuff too. The lecture in college is just the starting point for what you need to know for the tests. In college the only way to really learn the course material is to read before attending the lecture and then review notes and/or reread the text after the lecture. Although you have been successful in high school, it wouldn't hurt to read and review the material more. If you do, you will be better prepared for college - where it is absolutely necessary to study beyond attending the classes. Most importantly, if you develop good study habits now it will be one less thing to worry about as you adjust to life in college.

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Haven't we all pondered about such a possibility at least once in our lifetime ? A chance like that would be truly life-altering. Well, the first thing I would tell my past self would be "congrads dude....you got into college!" as getting into college is a concern for applicants. I think the best advice I could give myself would be to remain broadminded and alert and just think for a few seconds with your brain rather than the stuff between your legs before making decisions ! That would save you a lot of trouble. I remember thinking about college academics as my invisible adversary waiting for me just around the corner. So, I would advice myself not to get too worked up about college education and campus life. Just be disciplined and befriend the concept of time management. That way you can find time for everything you want to do in your life. However, priorities come first; remember there will always be time for leisure and ladies later on. Nevertheless, don't you EVER FORGET that these four years are going to be the BEST TIME of your life. So play hard and work smart !

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For Parents: Allow your children (if they know someone that already attends the school they are interested in) to visit for the weekend. This helps them get a feel for what student life is really like and they will be able to better decide if they will fit in and make friends easily at that school. The tours are great sources of information for parents, not so much for the students. During their freshman year, LET THEM CALL YOU. They will, but it is such a new experience, sometimes they get sidetracked. If you feel the need to talk to them daily, send emails...its a nice reminder that you are there for support and that you love them. For Students: GET OUT OF THE DORM. Take afew of your easy electives first semester, don't overdo it trying to fit in all of your hard core classes. This allows time for joining your dorm intramural team or rushing a fraternity or sorority. The first few weeks are the hardest, but remember...all of the freshmen are in the same boat, be outgoing and you will make tons of lifelong friends. USE YOUR ADVISOR!!!! They make great advocates.

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College is about finding yourself and working hard to live up to your own expectations. College is a place that prepares you for the world like high school never could. I know that I have grown so much this past year and feel much better making big decisions without my parents than I did before. A word for parents: This is a time for your child to use what you've taught them without you hovering over them. College is where the character you helped to build all those years before they turned eighteen are put to the test. It's a place where students will either sink or swim and unfortunately, I've seen quite a few friends sink; however, more of my friends have chosen to make their college experience a buoyant one. My Bible Study leader, a year older than me, just spent the summer doing a journalism internship in Romania and we couldn't be more excited for her! That's what college is about too: finding people who will tell you when you've done something dumb, and people who will tell you when you've truly accomplished something. College is about finding true friends!

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“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel," Maya Angelou once said. As a recent graduate looking back over my four years of college I find that the classroom lectures, the activity meeting agendas, the football game cheers, and the dining hall conversations have already started to blur together in my memory in a whirlwind of color and laughter and light. However, perfectly distinct are the faces of the people who defined my college experience and the feelings that they inspired in me: my mentor who made me feel talented and capable of changing this world; my biology professor who made me feel humbled and awestruck by the world I want to change; my best friend who made me feel alive and hopeful; my first love who made me feel confident and unique. These people made my college experience invaluable, and while I won't always remember all the words of encouragement, advice, and inside jokes exchanged between us, I will never forget the parts of myself that they helped me unearth.

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Returning to high school as a senior would give me another year to prepare and take life more serious. I had great advisors, teachers and wonderful support at home. Everything seemed so difficult at the time, but I worked hard to keep my grades up. I would have done research on college life and how hard it is to transition and remain successful. I was always felt important and successful until I had my first class in an auditorium will 300 plus students. This gave me a sense of being invisible and less important. I also based my thoughts of college from some of my college friends experiences. They made it sound like a wonderful playland. I have yet to find the playground , and I feel fortunate. I would have made myself more responsible and held myself accountable for more than my school work. I feel this would have made my tansition a little easier. It took me almost an entire semester to feel the confidence I needed to continue. In high school I made good decision with guidance from so many peers, but now I have make them on my own to become successful. I will survive!

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It is very important to think about and openly discuss everything that you want as a student in a college or university. Decide if you want a small or large school, the best location for you, and the right academic programs for you. The overall reputation, to a certain degree, should be lower down the list. I would much rather go to a school in the right location with the right size than to a school that doesn't fit me well just because it has a better reputation. Once in school, look into the future at the classes that will need to be taken, and what types of jobs are available for your major. This will give you a good idea if this really is the right major for you, or if you might be better suited for a different major. During your freshman year, get to know you advisor, and as many fellow students as possible. Get involved early with school activities, such as Student Goverment, Club/Intramural sports, and fraternaties/sororitites, as well as major specific clubs. It is important to get involved early and often to make the most of your college experience.

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