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St Lawrence University

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

If I had the opportunity to visit myself as a high school senior, I would offer advice regarding the philosopy of learning. During my highschool career, I believe my peception of academics was flawed. I worked for the grade, and from memory, I can not think of any other incentive that drove me otherwise. A focus upon the number is greatly detrimental, for it corrupts the purpose of learning, and prevents any evolution of "being". If I were to go back, I would urge my previous self to focus upon the rewards of learning, to embrace the intrinsic benefits of expanding the realm of "awareness". Secondly, If I were to visit my previous self, I would advise him to open his mind to all possibilities. In highschool, I was typically conservative in behaviour, which limited my proclivity to pursue risks, to chase perceived opportunities. I lacked the ambition to embrace the atypical, to imbibe the glory of new change and new light. From what I have experienced, I would urge my former self to dismiss closed minded perspectives for the reward of great opportunity. A single day should not pass without the excitement of attaining a new discovery.

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Students should choose potential colleges based on their interests, and investigate the various academic, extracurricular, and social activities at each school. Visiting is also essential: the college may look great in the brochure (as most do), but a visit can tell you if the school feels like it would be the right fit. Don't be afraid to call the admissions office or student life office. There are usually many current students working in these departments who would be glad to talk to you on the phone or through email and give you an inside, student's perspective of life there. Take full advantage of everything your school has to offer. Attend lectures and special events, go to concerts and art exhibitions, sit in the stands or on the sidelines and cheer on your favorite sports team. Learn the traditional songs, jokes, and secrets of the school. Try a new sport or activity. Take a course in a department you are unfamiliar with. Who knows, you may discover a new passion and change your path completely. Smile at the people you pass on campus, and expand your circle of friends. Let your college experience make you the best you possible.

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College, like any experience, is about an equal balance of giving and receiving. I think that a great number of colleges would have been perfectly happy places for me to attend, but my experience is about investing time, effort, and care. I see so many students float through college with passing grades and bustling social lives, but many do not take the time to think about what they truly want from their time here on campus. College is about challenging yourself to thinking, knowing, and minding in different ways. I have made the choice to engage in the community around me; I participate in numerous extracurricular activities, and I hold a few positions of leadership on campus. I am not paying tuition to have just a fun experience, but I want to learn things about myself and the world around me in order to generate positive change. To any student looking to go to college, I would encourage that individual to get involved - challenge yourself. Take a class on something you have never heard of before. Try a new club with people much different than you are. Find what makes you happy and take control of your education.

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Make sure you do a lot of research on the colleges you look at. Visit the colleges and walk around and ask random students questions about their experience. Tour guides will answer you but will try to avoid giving you a bad perception of the school. Get the truth from someone who won't risk losing their job. If it doesn't feel right, don't go there even if you are being pressured by relatives, guidance counselors or friends. In the end, it isn't their life or education but yours. Take advantage of every opportunity that you come across. Take a step out of your comfort zone and try something new and/or learn about a different culture. Go abroad! It is an unbelievable experience that you will cherish forever. Take the time to plan out your course work but be sure to make time for yourself and making the most out of your college experience. It is a great place to make lifelong friends and memories. Take that course that sounds interesting but isn't relevant to what you want to do, you'd be surprised at how much it impacts your life. Enjoy every moment.

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Trust your instincts. Reading books on colleges and looking through information on the internet can be very useful ways of determining what colleges you might want to look at. But when push comes to shove, the most important thing is how you feel when you are actually there. If you have the chance to visit a school, do. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions while you are there. Talk to students as well, and not just the ones who are giving you the tours. Pay attention to how you feel when you are there, and compare the way you feel at different colleges. If it feels like a good fit, chances are it probably is. Once you are at school, be an active participant in your education and be open to new experiences. Your professors are people too, and they generally like it when you talk to them. Some of my most unique opportunites (such as a free trip to Malaysia to do research, or a teaching assistant position) arose from a simple conversation with a professor. If something interests you in the slightest, give it a try and see what happens. And have fun too.

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If I could go back in time and talk to my self as a high school senior, I would definitely have some advice for myself. The first thing I would say is that if you get a full-tuition scholarship, DO NOT PASS IT UP! Paying for college later in life as a working adult with kids is very difficult. Never pass up the opportunity for free money to go to college. The second thing I would say is to finish school before starting a family. I will never regret getting married and having my children, but it definitely makes working and going to school more difficult. I am now thirty one years old and still trying to finish my Bachelor?s degree. I got my AAS degree in Information Systems and was able to start my career in Information Technology, but with a job and a family, finishing my Bachelor?s degree has really been a challenge. I?ve had to start and stop several times due to varying circumstances. So those would be the two most important things that I have learned over the years since graduating from high school about finishing and paying for college.

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Finding the right school based on one or two visits, a campus tour and the mind-numbing repetition of reading college demographics doesn't always lead students or parents to feel feel confident in their final choice. When I visited my Alma Mater as an accepted but undecided student, the dean of students gave us advice that I found to be irritatingly sappy at the time: go find an Adirondack chair somewhere on campus, sit down, and see if you can really imagine yourself here. Well, I didnt do that, but I did take some time to just walk around campus by myself, and get a grasp of what this school felt like to me. Could I imagine walking to class or brunch in my pajamas down this path? Could I see myself lying on a blanket with my friends in that courtyard? Was that the building in which I would spend sixteen hours straight studying for an exam? In four years, would I walk across that green with a diploma in my hand? Could this new place ever feel like home? Something about that campus said yes, I would do all those things, and I never looked back.

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I would recommend you visit as many colleges as posible. Talk to not only administrators, but also current students. Get their feel for their academic and social life. You will get a feeling that certain colleges are a right fit. Once you narrow your list, go back for at least a second visit. This time take a harder look. Will they help you out financially? Will you like the housing? Will you like the community surrounding the college? Look hard. An education is a huge investment. Money does talk when it comes to financial aid, campus jobs. Do the alumni participate in career searches? Your education will be broken down into four basic areas: 1) Academic. Does the college have the programs you need? 2) Housing & social life. Does the college have not only proper facilities but people that share your social interests? 3) Extra-curricular activities. Not only social but altruistic. 4) Career placement & guidence? Bottom line as mentioned before, once you visit a few educational institutions, your gut will tell you which ones are right for you!

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Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't really change anything. I am happy with where I have gotten and have learned alot about myself along the way at college. The way I handled the process of getting to college really worked out well. The key was listening to my parents, not my friends, about what colleges look for in a strong application, and what steps I needed to go through in order to get my foot in the door. It was very important to visit the schools I was interested in before applying, not only because they will wave the application fee, but because you can learn more from stepping onto the campus than merely reading their website. So, if I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would really say that I should keep listening to my parents, establish a good rapport with the person sending my transcripts, visit the campuses more than once if necessary, and try to have some fun with my senior year. After all, its not about where you attend its about which school is going to give you the best base to succeed in whatever life throws your way.

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Pay attention to the location of the school and how far away it is from your home. My home is only a little under two hours away from my school, but that is far enough that I have my own life here at school (my family rarely visits), yet going home for breaks is convenient. I can just drive my car, and I don't have to worry about traveling or the amount of luggage or anything. Also, definitely visit the campus. All schools look pretty in the brochures, but when you actually visit the school you get a feel for its nuances and for the social atmosphere. My chosen school was very open with the tours and such, and other schools i have toured made it seem like I was bothering them when i asked to see certain buildings or dorms. The school should WANT to show you their buildings and facilities. If they don't, then ask yourself, "What are they trying to hide?". If you can do an overnight stay with a student, definitely do it. You learn so much more about the school when you spend time with actual students, not just tour guides.

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