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Rice University

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

After attending Rice University for a year and a half, I have accumulated numerous pieces of wisdom and learned so much about the college experience. The most valuable piece of advice I would give myself would be to take my time and ease into college courses slowly. Four years is plenty of time to take all of the required courses so there is no reason to try to rush into many difficult classes the first semester of college. There are so many other social, emotional, and personal changes taking place during the transition to college that nobody needs the added stress of a difficult courseload at the very beginning. My first year of college I thought I was prepared to jump a full courseload and skip some of the introductory classes. However, I very quickly discovered that courses in college are more difficult and require more time than those in high school. Fortunately, I realized this early in my first semester and was able to make the necessary changes to prevent a complete meltdown. I dropped one of my more time consuming courses, but I wish I had known this information before even signing up for my classes.

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College is a time to stretch yourself; it is a time to find a new definition of comfort. It is a whirlwind of challenges made worthwhile by triumphs. It is a time to answer questions, but also a time to ask more. Allow yourself to be confident in uncertainty. I remember those hectic days as a senior in high school, scrambling to write the perfect college essay then trying to ace my admission tests the next weekend. I remember sitting around the dining room table surrounded by glossy college catalogs, armed with my mental checklist and my desire for a beautiful library and a comfortable campus. I saw the perfect college experience as an image of myself studying under a tree with a blue sky above, my trusty textbook below, pausing long enough to greet a professor--who knew me by name, of course! Although my time at college wasn?t exactly like I imagined, I did study under a tree once or twice (while studying abroad in Peru) and I certainly had plenty of friendly, supportive contact with my professors. Things may change, but that?s okay. Set the pressure and competition aside and just let yourself BE.

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I would highly suggest choosing a college based on realistic expectations (must meet SAT and GPA ranges, etc). If anything, the singlemost factor that swayed me towards one college over another was the campus visit. I cannot emphasize the college campus visit enough. I picked Rice because I visited during Owl Days and had a blast! I met so many cool people there and overall had an incredible vibe at the college after being introduced to the college life there, including academic offerings, research opportunities, and clubs and activities. Also, the second I stepped onto Rice's campus, I knew it was the college for me. As cliche as it sounds, I had an epiphany and knew right away that Rice was perfect for me. In regard to making the most of the college experience, I think you need to get out of your comfort zone and get out there and make friends. Everyone's new, everyone's nervous, and everyone's in the same boat as you--so don't be afraid of putting yourself out there! Join clubs and activities and expand your social circles. And go to class too! Have a good balance between academics and fun.

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Finding a college that is a fit is incredibly difficult. Just because its Harvard doesn't mean its the best school for YOU. I highly recommend visiting all the colleges and universities you're interested in applying to during the week and on the weekend to truly get a sense of campus life. Ask to attend a class, to which most colleges will be more than accomodating. Talk to students on campus of different backgrounds, don't take the advice of a single tour guide to reflect the entire school, remember its their job to impress you. Once you've found you're dream school and you're there, know that you'll get as much out of it as you put in. Freshman year can be make or break for a social life, academic career, notariety in campus clubs, internship opportunities, and professor relations. Remember that if you're at a competitive school, the game isn't over after you're accepted. If you choose a top 20 school, expect to be studying, applying for scholarships, and making academic and career connections from the very beginning because thats what who you're going to be competing against later.

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Applying to college should be one of the most exciting experiences in a young persons life, not a period of unending stress. Finding the right college can be very difficult, but remember that there is a university out there that will fit all of your needs. In addition to universities own websites, there are hundreds of websites and other resources that you can use to get a feel for campuses across the country. Do not skimp on research! Pick a range of schools that you find attractive and spend more time getting to know those school. Ideally visit each school so your can get a chance to interact with students. Spend plenty of time working or your applications and make sure that your essays express genuine sentiments. Once you get to college the most important thing you can do is approach everything with an open mind. In order to get the most out of college spend your first semester exploring everything your university has to offer, from clubs to classes. Try new things and do not commit to a specific major just yet. Being undecided might be one of the best choices you ever make.

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These four years are the most important years of your life. They will define your career, your relationships, your future, and most of all, you. You must find the best college that will tailor to specifically you. Your school must provide for your needs: your chosen major, your favorite activities, your beliefs and mantras, your personality, and your freedom. The number one school may not be the best school for you. The most famous school may not be the best for you. The fastest, farthest, or most metropolitan college may not be the best for you. Only you know the best college for you. You must choose the college for you by outlining what you want for your future life. Next, you must research colleges that fit into the categories that you outlined ? do not focus on names and numbers, just focus on you. Narrow down your list to the schools that fill most of your needs and visit them if you can. The visit might change your mind about the school you placed on the back burner. When you do find the school that is for you, take it. You will not regret it if it is your choice.

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?Let me out of here!? I yell to my seventeen-year-old self from within a dark closet. The door slowly opens, revealing my younger-self peering warily at me, heavy textbook in hand to beat the intruder - me. I cannot blame her for being cautious because I, too, would feel unnerved if I heard my own voice from a closet. My purpose for being here is to advise my younger-self about college. There is much to tell about the hard adjustments ahead, but I will only ease the passage ? not make the difficulties go away. The most valuable advice I have is to expect the unexpected; as a college student, I have experienced moments that have shaken me ? first time to truly have difficulties in academics and first time to not have my strong support system surround me. It is important to not be so comfortable when entering college; do not think that this will be a continuation of success in high school. College takes a lot more hours of work and studying; it breaks your self-confidence, but you just need to persevere. Younger-me looks intently at me; I take a breath and begin my story.

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Choosing the best college and receiving the greatest benefit from a college education depends on the person. Any college that allows you to pursue your interests can be a good fit as long as you are ready to put into it what you expect to get out of it. Consider colleges not only by their academic record, but also by how close they are to your interests and how much the students enjoy them. While it is important to do well, college should be about learning rather than succeeding. The ideal college is one that piques your interest and provides the means to continue your discovery of self and the world. Making the most of your college experience is as simple as maintaining a positive outlook. This is easiest at a school that suits your tastes and keeps you comfortably challenged, but can be achieved anywhere. Make the most of these years: expand your horizons, try new things. Saying "yes" to new opportunities and stepping outside your old comfort bubble will allow you to discover a wealth of new interests, make many lifelong friends, and redefine who you are.

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Findint the right college is really important for students and it is a long process. If it is possible, visit as many colleges as you (the student) are interested in, preferably while school is in session. This will allow you to get a good sense of classes, and the social life on campus (whether people are friendly, what goes on on a daily basis, extracurriculars available). It is very important to do a lot of research on each university to which you are applying. Everything you are interested in, anything you are involved in at your high school that you want to continue, anything new that you would like to try, academics, athletics. should be researched because this may help you as you narrow down your college choices. Do not take financial ability into account until the end, for you don't want to narrow down too soon. Don't get too stressed with work or you may not enjoy the years that go by fast. While in college, feel free to try as many new activtities because college comes only once and these experiences can turn out to be fantastic!

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It's always a good idea to choose a school with a strong department in the area you think you'll want to study. But plans and majors change, and in the end, you'll be happiest with your experience if you were able to fit in well with the other students and community surrounding your school. If you're Texan, be careful about choosing schools in the north (they have 'real' snow!), or if you've been close to your family all growing up, don't move so far away that you can only fly home once a semester. Pick a school that offers more than just the academics that interest you. Even if you want to study engineering, if you play an instrument and want to keep it up, think about a college with a good music school, where you can join an orchestra with non-music majors. Think about the city you choose - after freshman year, you may want to venture outside of campus, where a larger city could offer pro-sports teams and big concerts or a wider variety of interesting restaurants. Maybe you'd be comfortable in a smaller town, something to consider as well.

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