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Ramapo College of New Jersey

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

Finding the right college is an exciting time for students. At the sane time, however, some may be more excited about leaving the nest rather than analyzing how colleges will help them achieve professional success. While parents can't force their kids to attend a specific school, they can guide them in the right direction. First, establish whether you want to live home or go away; if you are going away, think about how often you want to come home so the distance correlates with what you want. Next, think of the personal and educational benefits of attending a big or small college. Bigger colleges offer more social activities and you graduate holding a well-known school name; smaller schools offer a more intimate learning environment. Equally important is identifying some of the majors that interest you and making sure your potential college has a reputable program in that department. Lastly, figure out your personal interests and needs. If you prefer city life over a rural area, try to find a school that fits your other criteria in the city. If you have a disability, make sure the campus is accessible and provides services to help you succeed.

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I have gained a truly expanded sense of self. Ramapo has spectacular literature professors who truly challenge you to attack, dissect, digest, and love literature, and the historical and psychological factors that compose the complex beast that is the human psyche. Through in class and real-life experiences, I have learned how to embrace simplicity, find the beauty in humans, let go of grudges, and how to breathe without burden. I have learned the cultural wealth and beauty of the city, and the absolute freedom found in the untainted depths of forests, where there is only the quiet hum of nature and my active mind. Ramapo has provided me with something I will value far more than any degree. Ramapo has given me the amazing opportunity to learn what it means to have compassionate, loving relationships. It has taught me how to find passion and inspiration in the smallest things. It has taught me how to do something I believed unachievable: here, I learned how to love myself, all of my beauty and all of my flaws. Without that, no degree could make me a happy, thriving person. That is the most valuable gift I could ever receive.

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Back in highschool, as a seventeen year old single mother, and recovering addict, graduating highschool seemed like an unattainable goal for myself. With enough motivation and inspiration from teachers and counselors I was able to graduate highschool on time with hopes of also attending college. Two weeks after I had graduated from highschool, I began to attend summer term, 12 credit hour classes at Mt. Hood Community College. I was able to keep a 4.0 GPA with my first term, but was not able to be as successful the following term. Since having started at MHCC I have found myself more open-minded and passionate in learning about everything and anything. I feel like optimism as well as a willingness to learn is key to success in making the world a better place. Im glad I decided to start out at a community college because I am able to meet a diverse group of people in age and ethnicity, and through these people were able to gain knowledge, wisdom, but also share their experiences of why they had decided to attend college. Attending college has so far been one of the best life changing choices I have ever made.

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I never took school seriously, but I did enjoy my time. I am not sure if it was ignorance or a lack of preparation, but my academic and social performances were very lackluster. During the spring of my junior year, I experienced an epiphany after overhearing a friend describe some accomplishment. I immediately felt inferior and insecure. I was the same age, was enrolled in similar classes, yet did not experience any sort of success. From that point on, I though long term. My immediate academic actions have long lasting effects. It doesn't matter how long you take, as you as you make an honest effort and not be afraid to ask for help. My story is different and is unique in that I may not have experienced any life challenging obstacles or major adversity; however I represent the group of people that fly under the radar and show we can be something. I would say this to past self, as well as to current students through my work as an admissions recruiter. People have taken me under their “wing” during my time at Raritan Valley community and at Ramapo College and have allowed me to develop my potential.

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When giving advice to families about colIege, I think I would divide the conversation into three sections. I would first talk directly to the parents. I would explain that college is going to be one the most difficult times in their child's life and they must be supportive. I would explain that, although they have their ideas on the "perfect" college, their child's opinion is the most important. If a student does not like the school, there is no incentive on doing well. I would then sit down with the prospective college student and discuss the reasons why they are choosing certain colleges and not others. I would explain that yes, it is important to have fun, but it is just as important to get a good education. I would tell the student to get involved in as many activities as possible and enjoy the experience because it is going to go quickly. Lastly I would speak with the entire family and discuss major issues such as money. I would explain that it is important to take advantage of scholarships and finacial aid because loans can become very expensive by the time graduation comes around.

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When parents sit down with their children to discuss colleges, they should create a list of what exactly they are looking for in a school. What is important to both the student and his or her parents? Parents need to be realistic here... Obviously, most are terrified of the thought of their children going to college and, in many cases, living away from home. If a school is known to be a "party school", parents shouldn't automatically eliminate it from possible choices. This is a chance for parents to show that they trust their children to make good decisions, as well as an opportunity for students to prove they are ready for "the real world". Do some research and select the college that best matches the needs/preferences on the list. While at college, it's a good idea to be friendly, positive, and helpful. Remember, everyone is new to this. There are many ways that students can relate, so take the time to get to know others, and tell them about yourself. Very important: If you are in a relationship, do NOT let it prevent you from making friends and socializing. Be yourself and have fun!

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There are times when life gives you breaks and allows you to breathe in between growing up and accepting new responsibilities, this is often not one of those times. Nothing you did in high school, including your AP work, will prepare you for the shock brought about by deadlines, extra-curricular work, expenditures and the sheer amount of time you will spend both doing your work and thinking about whether you should do it or not. Absences matter way more, and this time they count against your grade. Some teachers will become pseudo-best friends, others will not look you in the eye, and some will even hurt your feelings. You might cry, and there are days you will. Your roommates will snore loudly, and in the beginning you will feel bad about waking them up, but you’ll stop honoring their rest once it keeps you from yours. “Crap! It’s midnight” will turn into “Oh, it’s only midnight,” and later evolve into “3:00 am? Pshh, I got this.” Your parents will get tough on you, yes, tougher than before, and you’ll wish you had applied to many more scholarships earlier. So please, do them now.

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First of all, when starting the process of college selection, do not limit yourself to choosing one school. Choose a variety ( small, large, urban setting, rural setting), and, do visit the campus. Decide on what requirements are most important to you that the school should meet, and make a decision based on those. I would also suggest that if you are unsure of your major, or if money is an issue, a good alternative is to attend a 2-year college first where you will be exposed to a broad range of subjects which can help you decide on a career. Then when you transfer to a 4-year college, you can totally focus on your chosen career path. There are many activities, organizations, clubs, etc. on campus and you may be tempted to join many. But again, choose those that are most meaningful to you. While it is important to expose yourself to variety, be an active member of your school community, and enjoy the full experience of campus life, one should not lose focus of the fact that you are there to learn, to be successful, and to build a solid foundation for your future.

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The value of a college education began to benefit me the moment that I opened the little white envelope. I had been accepted into the Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Provost scholarship. I had always been a hard worker, but seeing the words “You’re Accepted!” made all of my hard work and perseverance seem worthwhile. This helped to affirm for me the American Dream; the promise that success comes to those who work for it, as a reality. Once I arrived, I adjusted quickly to the new environment, meeting new people and jumping into my new classes. One of these classes was American Government. In addition to providing me with the necessary social sciences credits for graduation, it gave me a much broader and personal sense of understanding the 2010 midterm elections. It made the nationwide election coverage real to me and helped me to understand how the democratic process truly affects me as an American citizen. I ended the semester with not only a 3.933 grade point average, but with a solidified understanding of both the American Dream and of my role as an American citizen.

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As much as I love Ramapo College, it took me about two years to discover it; I attended two other schools first, and was unhappy at one and even more so at the other. If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior, I think I would suggest that I attend community college first. Although I didn't "waste" those two years, they really burned a hole in my pocket and negatively impacted my mental and emotional health. My high school not only put a lot of emphasis on attending a four-year school, but also, in effect, gave off the impression that attending a two-year school was something to be frowned upon. I would tell myself to ignore that impression and use those first two years to save my money while taking general education classes that could be easily transferred to just about any four-year school. Freshman year of college is overrated in many respects, and the experiences I was told I would have should not have been the basis for my decision. I'm happy now, but again, only after two years of unnecessary financial, mental, and emotional struggles.

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