When finding the right college, don't just pick out of a hat, or say "This one looks promising", go see the college, talk to any random student (not those trained tour guides) and get real feedback on how the school is. You want a school that will fit who you are and what you want to be, not just a school for the price tag or social life. Think carefully and see if you can actually see yourself studying in the library, relaxing on couches, or living the dorms. This is your new home away from home, your new indepedence, make sure you don't set yourself up to fail. Most of all, get involved...the students that take their first year and get involved in at least one activity are the ones that make the most connections, most friends, and have the best times of their lives.
Talk to the financial aid office. Talk to the students. Visit the school as much as you can. Get a feel for it, you can only tell if a school is right for you by it's atmosphere. I felt welcome at my college. I was big on sports and music in high school. My school doesn't have a band or a track team, but it was the right school for me. Now we have a visual performing arts minor, I can play for our sister school and we're looking into starting a track team in the spring. My friends laughed at me for picking this school because it was in the suburbs. But now, I'm happier than all of them. And parents, you can't decide your child's future. In the end it will only hold them back from their true potential.
The advice i would give parents and/or students about finding the right college and making the most of the college experience would be to not only visit the school and hear what the advisors and students working there have to say, but emerce yourself in the community and really see what people around the community have to say about the school you are wishing to attend. This is a great way to get other outside views on the college and hear what people who are not paid to promote the school have to say. I would also think about having your child spend the weekend at the school (some colleges offer this feature) so that they can see the classes, dinning hall, people and what the school really has to offer.
The best advice I can give to prospective students and their parents is to really do your research. Find out as much as you can about the college: what its most popular majors are, the general makeup of the student population, athletics, the arts. Also it is important to figure out what type of environment you like: traditional college town, big city, rural setting. Knowing all of these things are only going to help you in the decision-making process. You wouldn't want to make a decision and regret it after the first week of classes. This is a very important and exciting time; it would be a pity to waste it being disappointed and miserable.
I would tell myself to be more selfish. College is the best time of a young person's life (so cliché, but true), and you can't let other people control your experience or happiness. As important as it is to listen to your friends, it's more important to listen to yourself. I have never regretted a decision I made on my own, but I have regretted a decision I made based on other people's opinions. I would shake my high school self and say, "Don't let the opinions of others determine your path, be an individual and leave your own mark. Most importantly, do what makes you happy. You'll always be there for yourself, but others might not be so lucky."
Before choosing a college I would tell students to actually sit down and look at the college. I picked my college because I wanted to play a sport, and now I cant handle the sport and my work load. I feel if I had chosen a school that I liked based off of their program that I might be happier (and a little richer). For parents I would say consider how much debt a school is going to either make you or your child in after they have graduated, sometimes its a lot. But most of all I would say for both parents and students find a college that you just feel right at and that you think you can call your second home.
I would tell myself to find out which study techniques work best for me, practice working in groups even more than I did in high school, and regulate my sleep pattern. Knowing how to study is extremely important in college since no one tells you what to do. Most classes involve some type of group project, so you better know how to cooperate with other people efficiently. And lastly, you never get enough sleep in college, so you need to make a schedule for yourself so that you have time to get a sufficient and healthy amount of sleep since sleep deprivation can make you ill if you're not careful.
Do not stress about adapting to a new environment and living on campus. Living in Murphy Hall is not as bad as everybody says. It is actually a great place to live because you become friends with everyone! Also, management your time wisely because there will be a lot of work you need to do outside of class on top of maintaining a work study job and having somewhat of a social life. Lastly, get involved on campus. It is a great way to make new friends and have fun while you're here. Again, do not stress. Everything ends up working out in the end.
I would suggest that they look at all types of colleges and not just the area colleges. I would suggest that they take a tour of the campus and do an overnight visit to realy find out what the school is like as you will see the school in a totally different light when you are not doing a tour. Also to make the most of college, try new things, step out of your comfort zone. Talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to. And find the perfect balance between working hard and getting good grades and having fun- don't ever sacrafice either!
I've made some wonderful connections while here at school, including friends, professors, and other networking contacts. The people I know are very supportive of my decisions when it comes to where I am heading with my life. If it wasn't for their love and support, I wouldn't be who I am today. Overall, college has helped me grow into a more confident and driven individual and I am thankful for the opportunity to attend such a wonderful institution.