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Oklahoma City University

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

When choosing which college or university to attend, one must take into consideration the following criteria: degree options, financial commitment, prestige, and campus life. The best way to further explain these criteria is through my personal experience. In 2005, my mother and I conducted a nation-wide search of college dance programs. At first I wanted to double major in Dance and Business, but then I discovered my dream degree: Oklahoma City University?s Bachelor of Science degree in Dance Management. Next we decided if OCU was a reasonable financial option. OCU was pricier than we'd hoped, but never underestimate the power of high SAT/ACT scores, scholarships, and Student Loan programs. Once discovered, OCU appeared everywhere! OCU?s dance and arts management graduates are known worldwide for their technique and professionalism. I had to become a part of it. After visiting OCU I was hooked. I loved the small class sizes, friendly atmosphere, and numerous student organizations. Campus life was exactly what I wanted: fun without being a distraction from my main purpose, my education. Therefore these criteria can help one choose the college that best suits oneself, resulting in the perfect match and ultimate college experience.

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If I could give potential incoming college students/parents advice, I would say carefully choose the schools they apply to, and invest in college visits. It is obviously a big decision, and there are factors about a college that a student may not consider until arrive. Of course the field of study is the most important, but smaller factors like the dorms, cafeteria, and general atmosphere of the campus can seriously effect the experience. Once students arrive at college, I would tell them to seize every opportunity. There are opportunities to network once you enter college, even as a freshman, and they are just as important as schoolwork and exams. To me, school isn't all about the grades, it is about discovering what direction you want your life to take. If you don't seize opportunities outside the classroom, you could miss out on something that could change your life and what you want to do with it. Be open to new experiences and don't be exclusive. Staying in a bubble with people of your same major and interests might be easy and comfortable, but you can learn about the world and yourself if you break that bubble.

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I would tell the student to definitely visit their potential college campus/es. This way they are familiar with the possible surroundings that they would be around. They should also talk to current students and find out what they don't tell you in the brochures, such as what campus life is really. They should also find out if the college offers things that they are interested in and has opportunities for them to get involved on campus. Once enrolled, join a group or organization for greek frat/sorority and make friends in your major. Getting involved on campus allows you to make friends, both in the classroom and off campus. They can advise you in which professor to take and which to avoid, give you notes and make good study buddies. Most of all though, future students definitely need to prioritize. They need to rank their school work, family, friends, work, sports, church and other categories in importance to them and not let something that is lesser on their list interfere with something that means more to them. Most of all, live it up. Make the most of what they can. College is only once in a lifetime, enjoy.

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When choosing the right college for you it is important to know the size of the school you are comfortable with and how far away from home you want to be. These two things can help students and parents make a general decision on what kind of school is best and in what location. Some other things that are important to consider when choosing a college are the area around the campus ( if there are restaurants, grocery stores, and entertainment close by), the availability and cost of on-campus housing, and the kind of interaction between people on campus. The best advice I can give is to visit a college more than once before making a decision. This allows you to interact with students on campus and decide if they are the people you would want to be around every day. When it comes to making the most of the college experience my advice is to join as many student organizations as possible. This is the best way to make friends who share your interests, and good friends are the key to a fun and well-balanced college experience. Always Choose friends who are supportive of your goals and ambitions.

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Throughout my first year at Oklahoma City University, I discovered how valuable prioritizing and time management is. During high school, being Student Class President while maintaining my 3.2 GPA and All-State cheerleading, was easy. Despite of what many respected individuals told me, I continued to assume college would merely be a tad bit harder than high school due to lengthier papers and the lack of daily reminders from my professors and parents. If I could, I would show myself how in the midst of my second semester, 8 organizations, 3 shows, and 2 roommates later, I was nearly burnt out. I had failed to make wise decisions when it came down to preparing properly. Although, I finished my first year with a 3.96 GPA, I had trouble deciding to say “No.” when I had too much on my plate, or choosing to get a well-needed 8 hour night of sleep. When I look back, I see an eager girl who didn’t want to miss anything. With maturity, I have realized missing some “things” is a good thing. College can get overwhelming quickly if you don’t know how to prioritize and manage your time wisely.

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If I could relive highschool, I would have gotten a head start on filling out scholarships and my FAFSA. I realize now that I could have paid almost nothing for my schooling if I had not procrastinated so much. I wished i'd had more patience in high school to deal with all the paper work and stress college brings about. Putting off filling out simple papers, checking emails, turning in transcripts, and talking with advisors led me to where I am now, just looking for more scholarships to pay for my schooling. Although, I was lost in the college process as a high school senior, I should have given more effort to figure things out. Since I have been in college, I work things out as soon as I notice them so I won't procrastinate and/or forget about them. If I could go back, I'd tell myself to get a head start on everything dealing with the college process including: scholarships, FAFSA, transcripts, test scores, online forms, housing, applications, etc.. I'd apply for all the money I could recieve, so I wouldn't be stressed as a first time freshman.

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My advice is this: Be open to new experiences. More than anything, be open. College is about making a fresh start and new memories. In order to do so, you must be adventurous. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone during the transition. That is the best way to develop friendships and grow as a person. In high school, you became set in your ways: you talked to the same people, went to the same classes every day, and then went home. Don't fall into the same pattern now. Open yourself. There is a whole world before you; you must open your heart and let a little of that adventure seep into you. Feel the beauty of the newness. Embrace it. Breathe it in deep and hold it close to your heart. Follow dad's motto -- grab life by the shoulders and give it a good shake! The transition is difficult. Sometimes you will feel like Dorothy, like a tornado swept you up and dumped you in a strange world. But hold on to the strength inside of you. Smile brilliantly, and you'll draw people to you. Have faith in yourself. Adventure is good.

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"To thine own self be true." This is one of the most important pieces of advice that Polonius offers to his son Laertes in "Hamlet", and to me, is the most crucial for anyone. Knowing who you are will determine your entire college experience, and if you do not possess that knowledge, you can become easily lost and without an identity or friends. Being true to who you are allows you to be comfortable and at ease with the decisions you make for yourself. It also shows others that no matter what happens, your actions and thoughts will be honest. By being true to who you really are, you find others who are like you and form deep, lasting relationships with them. Also, it removes any influence that peer pressure may have, for one who is true to themselves is never swayed by a crowd or easily defeated. Going into college with the knowledge of who you are, and staying truthful to yourself are two concepts no student should leave home without, for those that do are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to handle and conduct themselves in a collegiate atmosphere.

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When looking at colleges to attend, do not hesitate visiting the campuses. A campus tour will not only allow you to interact on the campus, but also give you an opportunity to feel what it would be like to be a student attending that college. Usually a campus tour is given by a student, therefore, a friend is automatically made. I gave tours at Oklahoma City University as one of my on-campus jobs, and I am friends with the students I toured. The second point of advice is to look at the security of the campus. Oklahoma City University is well protected by our Campus Police. The officers are very approachable and easy to talk to. I feel very safe on my campus and even have the police number saved in my cell phone just in case I need a ride to my car at night. The third point of advice is to check out jobs and organizations on campus. It is always important to be involved with peers. College is the place where friends-for-life are made. Being part of an organization and/or having an enjoyable on-campus job is very important.

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The advice I would give myself as a high school senior would not be the conventional "work hard" or "get ready for challenges" type of discussion. I was prepared for the music rehearsals and late studying at Oklahoma City University because I had a taste of it in high school and have an older sister. No, I would warn my former self that I would encounter a surprising number of students on a daily basis that, to put it frankly, do not care. As I enter my senior year at OCU as a student that indeed does care about the things I do and the way that I treat people, I realize that the fight to stave off the predominantly negative attitudes and uninitiated behavior of some people will prove to be a sincere effort for the rest of my life. There are other people that also try to do their best to put effort and energy into their pursuits. Yet, negativity always seems to have the stronger pull. Through experience, I now have a trick to combat that negativity: be like a duck, paddling furiously underwater, while floating gracefully up above.

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