Make sure you really understand the cost of which school you attend.
To Parents: My advice to you is simply to let your child have as much free reign as finacially responsible in picking a school. Having rules such as not being able to attend school west of the Mississippi River or even outside the continential U.S. will do nothing to protect your child. Their relative distance from you will not keep them safe from the amout of drugs and alcohol that exist in the world. In all frankness cut the umbilical cord and let your child go to the school that they have their heart set on even if it means they will be farther away than you wished.
To Students: There are seemingly endless opportunities for you when you attend college. My advice for you is to practice moderation in all things that you do. Drink alcohol in moderation. If you choose to do drugs, use in moderation. Party in moderation. Study in moderation. Drink energy drinks in moderation. Exercise in moderation. Eat in moderation. Make moderation a mantra in your life at school so that you can come out of college a well rounded individual. Moderation will help you avoid vices and addictions later in life.
Santa Clara University students tend to be well rounded and focused on their academics yet like to have a good time.
Narrowing down from a list that wasn't limted to beautiful-weather-gorgeous-campus schools, just-big-enough schools, how-far-can-i-get-from-my-parents-school, fine-just-to-make-my-parents-get-off-my-back schools, most-prestigious-let's-see-if-they-accept-me-schools, back-up schools, party schools, and renowned-ncaa-division-1 schools so that I wouldn't have to pay excess SAT and application expenses, was quite a challenge.
Finding the right words to express ME -- for all my passions, talents, wants, and drive -- to strangers who could only intepret them as best as I chose, was quite the challenge.
Digesting polite, but final rejections was quite the challenge.
Choosing, buying, packing, leaving, adjusting, balancing, partying, studying, working, volunteering, chilling, stressing, choosing (again, again, and again) and BEING were quite the challenges.
I don't know whether I chose the right college (is there such a thing?), but making the most of all situations has been rewarding thus far.
Ergo, in the brevity of Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn", I say, "Poop. Step in or walk around."
I would tell parents and students to research the prospective colleges in depth and make a visit to the top schools of choice. Making sure to note whether or not the environment and social scene is aceptable as well as the academic aspect. As to making the most of the college experience I would say only that it is better to try new things and get involved in a few groups even if it is outside your comfort zone rather than not take the chance of finding something you may not have known you would enjoy. College is a time to explore what it is that makes you happy and without exposing yourself to a variety of new experiences you can never truly figure it out.
Make sure the campus fits you!
Make sure the school accommodates both your academic and social needs. You may love the classes but hate the people, and that will make you miserable. Dont be afraid to change schools if you're not happy. If you find that you're having trouble making friends, join a club or do an intramural sport to meet people. Dont be confined to making friends with only the people you live with in your dorm, find friends who have common interests.
It is very important to research your college choices thoroughly. Visit the website and find out if desired courses are offered, activities or sports are available, and desired living arrangements. It is also important to decide if the location of the school works for you; whether it is in the city, near the beach, or in a secluded area. Visiting the college is very necessary for the college search because then you can get the feel of the school and the people hands on.
To make the most of the college experience it is important to attend every class and always participate whenever you can. Also, talk to your professors whenever you get the chance outside of class. Building a relationship can help in the future. It is also important to get involved in activities that you enjoy to make lasting friendships. Finish your homework early so you have plenty of time to socialize and meet people. College is a great place to network. Work hard, have fun, and make the most of everything because 4 years goes by fast.
Don't stress too much. From what I have seen, the college experience is what you make of it. Too often I have seen my friends blame their college experience on the college when really all they needed was an attitude change. So don't put to much pressure on yourself to find the "perfect school". Sure, you should consider location, size, etc. But I believe that once you find a campus that you feel comfortable walking around in, you should follow that instinct.
The first year of college is a rollercoaster. No matter how good or bad a fit the college is for you, there will be good times and bad times. Just remember why you picked that college and try to stay positive. The most important thing is to be open to trying new things and meeting as many new people as possible. Don't close yourself off to anything because of judgements, stereotypes, or insecurity. You only have 4 years to be a college student and trust me, they FLY BY. Appreciate everything from eating cereal for dinner to pulling all-nighters - these are some of the best days of your life.
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