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Smith College

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

Personal growth is the most significant benefit any student gains from four years in college. A motivated student will thrive academically in any college environment; it is the learning accomplished outside the classroom that determines the success of an undergraduate career. This is perhaps not what many parents would like to hear, but the fact remains the same. In accordance, the single most important aspect in choosing a school is fit. Fit involves factors such as school size, campus environment and location. College is the ideal time to discover new people, places and ideas. This experience is maximized in an environment suited to the student in terms of class size, student-teacher ratio, and peer attitude. It is helpful to speak with students currently enrolled in the college to get an accurate account of the student?s perspective. A visit to the college is invaluable in forming a clear picture of the campus atmosphere. In sum: don?t miss out on an incredible college experience by basing your decision on a school?s academic standing and reputable name. Choose a school that will enable you to achieve your goals, but don?t sacrifice personal growth for an Ivy League diploma.

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I am a firm proponent of universal success where every individual has an aptitude for a skill. A collegiate education will enhance and refine whatever ability that may be. But college isn?t all about the formal learning that takes place within the institutions; the experiences that colleges are able to extend to their students have a greater impact on their success than any mathematics course would. Being able to develop an ideal self based off of the experiences one has encountered is the most critical difference between a successful individual and a failure. I attended college for academic purposes like most prospective students do but in my brief time at Valencia Community College, I have gain some invaluable experiences that will mold me into a man ready to illuminate my community. As a product of the Bridges to Success Program, I have been engraved with the determination to lead others in a positive direction. Soon I attained membership of Phi Theta Kappa and Presidency of I.M.A.G.E.S. (Influential Men Applying Gifts and Employing Strategies); our goal is to promote academic achievement and community service. My college experience has gave me power to enlighten my community.

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My experience at Smith College can be summed up in one word, and that word is confidence. At Smith, I learned the confidence to be myself, the confidence to do what it takes to succeed, the confidence to take chances, and most importantly, I gained confidence in being a woman. For me, attending an all-woman's college was extrodinarily valuable. If I had attended a co-ed college, I doubt I would have graduated with the same level of confidence. Smith was an accepting school that pushed female students to grow, learn and change. Smith professors are supportive and engaging. Simply being surrounded by intelligent, intellectual, creative women is incredibly inspiring. Smith also provides students with non-traditional opportunities to grow - like a semester-long for-credit internship at the Smithsonians, an opportunity I was excited to partake in. Since graduating, I have used the confidence that I gained at Smith to succeed in the "real world." In less than two years, I am at the director level, and have individuals who report directly to me. I owe my success to the professors, the administration, and most of all my fellow classmates. All inspired me beyond words.

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The best advice I could give to anyone looking for the right college to attend is to seek out an academic environment that fits your personality; be in your element. It is easy to become overwhelmed by statistics. Every potential college student spends hours poring over web sites and books, trying to determine where they can get the best degree, where the best professors can be found, where they can attend small classes or receive the best post-graduate assistance when they enter the job market. All of these factors are important, along with considering financial aid, but no amount of research can compare with visiting a campus. The bottom line is that your overall experience will depend on your state of mind, your quality of life, the connections and friendships you make along the way. College is not simply about the academics, it is about personal growth. Choose a place that is comfortable, where you see yourself reflected in the other students, where you can imagine enjoying a weekend on campus and having lively discussions over dinner. After all, college is a big invesment--invest wisely in yourself and the rest will follow.

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I was always a very good student and naturally wanted to attend the best school I could. However, ranking should not be a determinative factor. I chose my college because it fit my presonality: small, liberal, and academically challenging. Most students end up in a large university and become lost in the classroom. I wanted a school where professors knew my name and I could develop as an academic and feminist. The best advice I can give to a student is to consider college as a four-year investment in her intellectual growth. Regardless of the name of the institution, it is only worth nearly half a decade of one's life if it is an environment one can enjoy for several years. Foremost, students should visit the school and its location. In addition, a student should be realistic about one's capabilities and desires. If the student is likely to become homesick, she shouldn't feel compelled to move to another state to attend a school. At 18 it's hard to anticipate one's needs and career aspirations. Therefore, I advise choosing a school that meets one's immediate expectations and provides ample opportunities to change.

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Choose a college that will challenge you to think new ways. If you pick a school that has little diversity of opinion on campus, then constructive conversation about differing points of view is hard to find. If you pick a campus with diversity of people and opinion, then we can move together as a society to help understand one another. Respectful conversation between students is a must. Join the clubs on your campus?at least one! Usually, clubs and societies are an instant network of friends, and also something spectacular to put on your resume once you start looking for jobs upon graduation. If you hold a leadership position in your club, not only will it give you experience in supervision, but also it is an experience from which you can draw during job interviews. Because four-year degrees are more accessible than in our parents? age, it?s crucial that you have an idea of where you want to go after college. Use your university as a tool to make yourself look the best to possible employers by utilizing the programs your campus has to offer. The job market is hard to enter with only your degree?trust me!!

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As a junior in College, I now know things that would have been helpful to know while still in high school. If I could deliver important and insightful information to myself as a high school student, I would recite words of empowerment and personal growth. I would advise to always stand strong in my personal values and seek to continue to grow. To maintain a steadfast faith and that trials and tribulation will in fact come in my direct path. I would inform myself that the world and people I may trust will change and I must continue to seek and strive for an ultimate goal of making myself happy with my choices, my outcomes, the wisdom that I gain from them and my internal self. I would say that grades are not everything and that it?s important not to lose myself in achieving greatness, and greatness shows when my character radiates. I would say that success is not measured by the marks given by someone assessing me despite our society?s perception to impose this fabrication, but the amount of fulfillment, happiness and accomplishment that I find in my efforts, my goals, my loved ones and my life.

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I have only been in college for one semester and already I have changed so much. Before college, I procrastinated with every thing, forgot about assignments, I was unorganized, and a bit shy. Now I have learned to budget my time. I turn in all assignments on time if not early. Forgetting assignments is not an option in college. I write everything down and leave reminders for myself everywhere. I am much more responsible and reliable because of this and much more confident. Also, my college experience has given me a strong sense of accomplishment. I am going to a prestigious school filled with intelligent people who challenge me every day. Most of my professors have a Ph. D. I am learning Arabic, which is one of the hardest languages to learn. I am proud of myself. I am doing something no one in my family has done before. I am a first generation college student. I am also going to be the first graduate in my family. I am going to be the first person in my family to have a yearly salary versus hourly. College is molding me into a strong, intelligent, capable woman.

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I would advise parents to, perhaps for the first time, trust their children. This may be the most important decision their child ever makes and it is of the utmost significance that it be entirely up to them. Also, I strongly recommend not basing decisions on financial restraints. Loans can be taken and jobs can be worked to pay them back. Going to the right school, regardless of cost, can make a huge difference in their student's life and happiness. My college education is costing me a lot, but I do not doubt for a moment that it is truly priceless. To students, I would recommend following their intuition. I don't know if college is the best four years of one's life, but they are truly amazing. There is no better time to change and grow into the person one will become and finding the right place to do that is so important. Look into the future and think about what WILL be important, not necessarily what seems important as a senior in high school. Most importantly, no matter what, take the time to make sure that your decision feels right in the bottom of your heart.

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Advice to My Former Self The best way to prepare for college in particular and for life in general involves finding a cause that is close to my heart at an early age and working to address it through volunteering. Don't wait until the summer before my senior year to work with a local organization whose mission is to help those afflicted with aids. Start early so I can learn at a younger age how incredibly satisfying it is to help make a difference in the lives of others - to know the warmth of giving back to the community. Start early on the path that will lead to a major in college of social justice. Have the work convert my vague appreciation of how lucky I am to the knowledge of the incredible blessings in my life. Use the opportunity to meet those whose life is so different than mine, whose challenges far outweigh mine. Learn early to enjoy those who can teach me so much about the larger world. It is great preparation for college, where the range of people I meet will expand tremendously. Yes, begin early down the path to help myself as much as others.

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