Just do it. Don't think, just do it. Pick a school. It well shape your future path - academically, career-wise, and so on - but more important than the school you choose is what you do once you're there. Take advantage of the school's unique offerings, whatever they may be, and your time will not be wasted. The school you select will not be a golden ticket nor a kiss of death. You are responsible for your learning - now, more than ever - and only you have the power to put a limit on what you can learn. So, in spite of the nagging internal struggle that has troubled you for weeks, just do it. Sign your name, seal the envelope, and send it in. Be confident that you made the right choice - regardless of the school you've chosen - because you just did.
As an 18-year old, I couldn't have imagined the different directions my attention and interests would be pulled from my first day on campus. I was ready to dive into college life full throttle--which meant the social sphere almost more than it did the academic. While I settled on a double-major quickly enough, I don't feel I ever took advantage of the advising services the school had to offer. Having an experienced faculty member to help direct my studies, plan projects, and most importantly prepare for the transition out of college would have been the biggest benefit.
My "distraction" definitely took a toll on my grades by the time I graduated, and I came to regret the time I spent simply searching for my real interests in study and life. Once I found those, I discovered that being a scholar is the most fun I could have at school. My advice would be this: find a mentor who challenges you. They have seen hundreds of students struggle with college life. They can motivate and occasionally reign you in. At graduation time, they're able to help you get the most out of whatever comes next.
Don't be afraid to try things out before settling down on your chosen major. Don't be afraid to express yourself and let your voice be known.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that your choice is "dumb" -- don't let them berate you for it.
Be free. Try things out. If you don't like it, switch. Try everything out. This will be the once-in-a-life time chance you will get to explore and really spend time learning. I realize you would probably hear this a lot and have grown to tune it out, but it's true.
There are things I wished I had done differently and things I've said that I wish I could take back. I can't anymore and whatever decision you make, you won't be able to undo it. That's life.
So here are my final words: express yourself, try things out, and don't apologize for it. Happy learning.
If I was able to go back in time to my senior year and talk to myself, I would 100% tell my self to go straight to college and not delay with "taking a year off". I wont say that i completly frown apon my self for not going straight to college after my high school, but I will say I'm sure it would be much easier. The pro's of going to college now are, I am able to set an example for my daughter who is old enough to know the importance of a good education, but I am also matured and school is a new learning expierence for me every single day.
When I was a high school senior, I really wish I had known how important it was for me to talk to current students at the colleges I was interested in and really experience what it would be like to go to school there. When I visited colleges I was nervous to look like an awkward prospective student so I avoided current students and didn't do much besides go on the campus tour. Looking back, I think it would have been very helpful and informative if I had stayed with a current student overnight or sat in on some classes. The most important thing I learned from being in college is that college students LOVE prospective students! My friends and I love hosting prospies overnight and talking with them. I am not usually a very talkative person but when it comes to prospective students I really enjoy asking them questions about themselves as well as answering any questions they may have about my school or the college decision process in general. I would advise any high school senior to not be anxious about talking with college students and taking advantage of every chance to get to know the college.
College Do's and Dont's:
1. GET INVOLVED - When you're in college you need to become involved in what you love. Classes can only teach you so much. There are countless lessons and skills you don't learn in school, so step out of your comfort zone and learn about your interests. It is how you become self aware and discover who you want to be.
2. DON'T OVER EXTEND YOURSELF - Knowing your limits is not only helpful in college, but it is an important life lesson. Commit quality work to a few things you are passionate about, rather than giving partial effort to activities/groups you won't remember in five years.
3. TRY TO FIT IN BY NOT FITTING IN - be unique, be yourself and people will flock to you. Care about others and they will care about you. Market yourself and people will want to be your friend for your unique-ness. You will fit in like a piece in a puzzle - it is up to you if you want to be a four-sided piece or a corner piece - easy to place and not as exciting to discover.
I would tell myself that college classes are much more challenging than high school classes, and require more thought as well as an increased workload outside of class. I also could not stress enough the importance of getting a good night's sleep every night. With 8 am classes, that means going to bed earlier than you might want to. Lastly, I would make sure to tell myself that nothing should get in the way of your college experience; don't let any previous attachments hold you back. Meet lots of new people and seek out ways to connect to different types of people. College is a place where, in a short amount of time, you will develop considerably as a person. My transition went pretty smoothly as it is, but I feel that if I had known these things before moving in, it would have been much easier for me to adapt.
If I Could Go Back in Time
If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior I would tell myself to stay focused. I would tell myself that the end may be near but that doesn’t mean you should quit early. I should have applied to more colleges, written more scholarship essays, and volunteered more with school events and in more activities. I also should have taken both a math and a science class my senior year as well so I wouldn’t have forgotten it all when I got to college. There are many more things I should have done that definitely would have made college a little easier at first but you can’t change the past. I have made it through this far and I know that the future will be bright and full of possibilities if I only choose to look for them.
I know you're in your senior year of high school and you have worked your but off to get to where you are!! And now that you know you're really going to college and it's going to get really real you choose to slack off, you choose to take it easier. But that was a big mistake. Here's the real deal, yes you deserved a break for all the hard work you put into your high school career, but the only reason you even got to college was because you worked your but off. And since you have token that break, it's time to get off and start working again. College, espicailly St. Olaf, knows you were a great student, but now they expect that and more. I know you can make better choices, work even harder and still have time to take those breaks you need once in a while.
Well if I could go back and talk to myself as a high school senior, I would have saved myself much unneeded stress and lack of sleep. I would have convinced myself that I was taking a very positive step by going to college and to not worry about what my major was going to be, because chances are it will change as I develop more of my interests. I would have told myself to keep a very open mind, because opportunites will arise when least expected. Also, I now know building great relationships is one of the keys to sucess in college, and so I would have reassured myself to always reach out to others when possible. Besides that, I would have also convinced myself that making new friends is much easier than I expected, because other students also want a reliable friend who they can count on at school. Lastly, I would remind myself to not stress out about achieving all A's, but rather I would have told myself to just work hard, don't be lazy, and to have fun, because then life will work out the way it is meant to !
My adivce would be to study harder than I did freshman year. Start thinking for yourself and make your own life decisiouns. Ultimitely, your the one who controls his own life. Other people may influence you heavily, but you should be more open and put your trust in people. People at St. Olaf only want to help you succeed, that goes for faculty and friends.
An advice to myself would be: Save your money for books so you do not need to take out lots of loans because books are pricy. I never thought books would cost so much, now that I have experienced buying books, I regret not saving the fifty dollars I used for personal wants and wished I could have bought my Sociology texybook for next semester.
If I could go back in time and talk to my High School Senior self, I would tell him to spend more time studying for good grades and a better GPA. I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I wasn't placing my education first. I would tell my High School Self to apply for scholarships, enroll in colleges I wanted to go to, and save my paychecks instead of spending them.
Take time to appreciate every aspect of senior year. Yes, you are going to have moments that are rewarding and thrilling that are going to be easy to savor, but there are going to be times that you wish you skip over. Do not let yourself do that. Yes, it is exciting thinking about living away from the mundane home life and high school, but that is what you are going to miss the most when the times get tough.
The college transition is very difficult. It is exciting, but you will not always be walking to class confidently on a sunny day. There are going to be times that everything seems so daunting, and you will begin to doubt yourself. You will wonder why you are there and if you can really finish. In moments like these, you will seek old comforts to regain your confidence. You will miss those early mornings walking to the school bus, the rushed home cooked meals before evening school activities, and all the love and support from family wishing you well in life.
Please, capture every moment for safekeeping. You never know when the comfort will come in handy.
Don't hold back your personality. You know what you love, and even if it is not the most popular activity, it makes you happy, so why not do it? DON'T BE AFRAID TO DATE. Guys are nice and you might as well get used to having them around as long as you don't feel any pressure. They are just as scared as you so give them a break. You will never get enough sleep so don't fuss over a half hour extra of studying. Just give yourself a practical deadline BEFORE you lock yourself in the library for ten hours straight. Always eat at least one meal a day with friends. It's not fair to you or anyone else to be antisocial, especially during finals! Go to the football games, rain or shine, cheer on your friends, and just take it easy on Saturdays!
I am now a 29 year old mother with a husband who is incarcerated. I never saw my choices as mistakes and believed that if one door closed another would open soon after. I was partially right, I did everything backwards I graduated high school, went to community college, went to two universities, then took a long 4 year brake and got married, bought a house, went back to college, graduated with a B.S. in Organizational Management, moved back to my home town, got pregnant, lost everything that I knew in life including my house, my job, my dog, and my marriage. Doors didn't seem to open for me immediately, now unemployed and caring for a toddler alone, living with my in-laws I realize you have to physically open some doors instead of waiting for things to happen, you have to go out and get them. If I could tell myself as a high school senior I would say to not take the easy road of less resistance, during the transition to college everyone feels alone and scared. You are not defined in life by your challenges but what you do to make your challenges opportunities.
Life is about learning lessons, all humans make mistakes. Now that I am almost four years out of high school I have discovered what life after high school is REALITY. The best people with advice are the people who have already been there, but then theres people like me that like to test the waters anyways. If I could go back and talk to myself as a high school senior I would engrain in my head that school is just as important if not more then any other year of school. As a senior in high school I gave up on my school work and decided to live the college life as a high school senior. I would believe in myself more and accomplished my goals I had as a freshmen. I would encourage myself to try out for the sports I wanted to do and strive on the motivation. Most importantly I would have taken the advice from the people who have already been where im at now and saved myself less aggravation. I never regret anything because everything happens for a reason, I have learned through materity and failures that life is full of mistakes.
I honestly would not have told myself anything. College is a unique experience when you finally make the call on the big decisions in your life. I think to figure out all the aspects of college, you just need to fully experience them without someone telling you what you need to pay attention to and what to look out for. When I look back at college, I learned the most from the things I had no understanding of when I was entering my undergraduate education. People figure out what they need in order to grow and ultimately will learn that themselves.
In high school you worry about your grades way too much. Don't get me wrong, grades are very important, but I feel like learning is overlooked and grades are all peope care about. It is all a big game in highschool. Coming to college I realized that what you were expected to know actually really matters. Cramming before tests in highschool seems pretty standard, but this is not a good study technique to carry over to college academics. When first coming to college, let go of the reputation or image that you held in highschool. You are starting fresh and so is everyone else, so be yourself.
The best part about attending a community college is the class sizes. Starting in spring of 2011 I will be transferring to a 4 year CSU, the class sizes at the CSU's are huge, some up to 200 students. At a 2 year community college, you can get the same great education in smaller classes. Smaller class sizes helped me learn, I felt I that I could really connect with the teachers. With fewer students the teachers are more available for office hours to help individual students. Being a mechanical engineering major I spent a good portion of my time in my schools "math lab" working on math homework. The school I attended had such a great math program, the teachers were great to work with and the "math lab" gave me the opportunity to study in groups and be able to get the free tutoring I needed during those challenging sections of my homework. Between a good connection with the teachers and the free tutoring provided, I felt an ease of learning; I learned so much, never getting caught with the frustration of confusion. I hope to find the same at my CSU next semester.
I am only a second year in college, but the amount I have learned in the last three semesters astounds me. I love setting out all of my new books on my bookshelf before the start of the new semester, marveling at the thought of reading them all. I love holding a textbook once new, now full of highlighted pages. I love reading Hobbs, Locke and Rousseau and discovering their ideas echoing in modern contexts. My learning has shown me new ways to look at the world, improved the quality of my conversations and helped me find friends who will last my entire life.
I learned more than I was ever aware of at the time. While it was extremely challenging and stressful I was incredibly well prepared to go on to even higher academics. Olaf really prepared me for the next step in my life. I did not know all that I needed when I started at Olaf, but by the time I was finished I knew more than I needed to and felt ready to move on. I made a few friends with whom I will always be friends. I learned about what I need to survive in life. I had professors who were far more brilliant than I ever realized in classes with them. It was worth the massive amount of debt I incurred to have been given such a vital and full education.
I would tell myself to expect to be surprised at the level of scholarship expected. Going from a public high school to St Olaf was a big adjustment for me in terms of how hard I had to work in order to get similar results. I was expecting the work to be hard, but I wasn't expecting to be left so far behind. Going from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in the middle of an ocean is always hard, and I hadn't fully prepared myself for that fact.
I would also tell myself not to be discouraged, and to make an effort to enjoy the time here. Yes, it's hard to balance a social life with homework, but life is so much better if you invest time and energy into making friends and joining clubs. You only get four years, make the best of them, or you'll regret it.
Follow your heart! Don't let anyone or anything decide what is right for you. That's the only way to be truly happy. I spent months trying to convince myself that I wanted something that wasn't me. I changed my mind at the last minute and I've never been happier! So do what feels right and enjoy the moment!
You are about to feel a lot of things which you have never felt before. You will struggle a lot. It'll be worth it, though. You will be challenged and succeed, though it may not be as easy or as good as you're used to. You'll meet a lot of people you never imagined yourself meeting, and do a lot of things you never thought you could do. One thing that'll help though: don't buy random stuff that you don't need. Money's important, and frankly, you don't have enough of it. Save some of it for important things like books and food. Also, make an effort to overachieve academically. Your best is never going to be good enough at college, so set your goals higher and you might just make it closer to doing what you need to do to get ahead.
It's me (or you) from the future! Just wanted ot check in and make sure you haven't screwed up your senior year of high school! Just kidding. I would recommend avoinding the end-of-the-year drama, though... You get into your first choice school. There. STOP WORRYING. It's not as scary as you think it's going to be. The professors and staff here all work really hard to help you adjust to college life. The other students are fantastically nice, in fact, you'll be meeting some of the people you now trust above anyone else. So, relax a little and don't worry so much about how hard classes will be. You'll adjust academically, so have a little fun and meet some new people! And once you get here, don't take the "America After World War Two" class second semester. Trust me, that class time plus several weeks studying hippies will not make you happy and you know it. So, be good, lighten up, don't stress out, and for heaven's sake, please enjoy your senior year. Or try to. Good luck, and see you soon.
Relax. No, you do not have ADD. Yes, that guy is a player, forget him. You have the courage and strength to drive through backed- up Minneapolis rush-hour traffic. You can navigate the Mall of America during a scrap-booking convention in time to get to your appointment. Stop to watch the leaves change color. You'll make the right decision, St. Olaf is the place for you. Listen to your mother, she knows what you want.
Although it may be tempting to choose a college based on statistics such as the cost of tuition, the average ACT score of accepted students, and the student to professor ratio within the classroom, the only way to get a true feel for the college is by stepping on the campus. Many students talk about "the feeling" they get during a visit when they just know they have found the right place for them, and I can attest that this feeling is no joke. When I first visited St. Olaf, I felt comfortable and could actually see myself as a student there. I knew it was the right place for me, and although it was expensive, I did everything I could to ensure that I could attend the school of my dreams. Entering this fall in my second year at St. Olaf, I can't imagine going anywhere else. The hard work that I put into finding my school really paid off as I am having the best college experience possible. While there will probably not be one school that fits in absolutely every way, you should be open to new opportunites to make the most your higher education.
When you are a high school senior friends and family always want to discuss college: Where are you applying? What?s your first choice? Have you looked at?? Choose what feels right. So many opinions and so many choices make this decision overwhelming. Step inside yourself: What type of person are you? What college experiences do you want? Where do you want this college to take you? If you find this difficult discuss yourself, your personality, with close friends and family. Reflect upon their answers, does that feel like you? Don't try to please anyone but yourself. Use the resources available to you. Research schools and ask questions to get a better understanding of what the college truly is. This is the key because with the right environment the college experience you dream of will come. Comfortable surroundings will allow for you to fully come into yourself and do the things you?ve always wanted to do. In brief, listen to the advice of those around you: go with your gut. Don?t invent wild reasons as to why you wont like a school, if it feels right, go with it. Stick to the clich?-trust your instincts.
While I do not believe wholeheartedly that there is a "perfect" college for every one student, I do think that there are colleges that will bring out qualities, whether it be creativity, practicality, estudiousness etc., better than others. What personality characteristics do you want to be brought out, molded, and nurtured? Answering this question and others like it will be a great indicator to what type of school (and experience) you are looking for. Visiting the school and staying overnight is one of the best ways to get a feeling of a campus's atmosphere. Even if its flying from California to New York (or in my case, Illinois to Portland), the money is worth every penny and outshines any flyer or advertisment brochure. Once an ideal school is selected, choose a backup school list that the student would feel comfortable with. For financials, look past the Financial Aid office - there are millions of scholarships out there (including campusdiscovery) that will help pay for college. As a final note, remember to always, always be open to new ideas and people - your college won't be high school all over again.
First, start early. Begin researching and reading about colleges after your sophomore year of high school. This will prevent too much stressing out during the hard class schedules of your junior year, and the AP tests and social activities of your senior year. This also allows for enough time to apply early decision or early action if you choose. Try to visit as many colleges as possible, and pay attention to gut feelings you have about each campuses. Be outgoing on campus visits; tour the campus, schedule interviews, talk to current students, and meet professors and coaches. Jot down a few notes about each campus you visit so that each sticks out in your mind for one or two reasons in particular. Choose the school that seems to fit you best overall, but don't forget that selecting a college doesn't have to be a definite decision. Don't spend too much time worrying about whether it will be the PERFECT choice because transferring schools is always an option. Above all, be prepared, explore your options, and go with what seems to be the best fit for you.
Know what you're looking for. A lot of people I know spent a lot of time and money visiting and applying to as many schools as possible because they hadn't bothered doing their initial research: knowing themselves and determining what they wanted from college. Take an inventory of what you're interested in, what kind of environment you want, which aspects of a school are most important to you. For example, you may be willing to forgo going someplace sunny and warm if the school has top-notch progams in your fields of interest, has strong community values, and good food (trust me, good food is crucial)! Finding the right school is much easier when you know specifically what you're looking for. Some of the best resources are guidance counselors, guides to colleges, and of course the Internet. Once you've narrowed down your options, visit the schools to determine whether or not you can see yourself thriving at them. And once enrolled, dig in and get involved! Become active in the community. Talk to your professors; they have a lot of knowledge to share. Overall, be proactive about your education and you'll be richly rewarded.
Considering the tremendous financial burden that college presents, the path to a four year degree should not be chosen lightly. Therefore it is important for families to discuss, why the student wants to go to college and furthermore, why he/she deserves to, because it is important to remind kids how much of a privilege a college education truly is. If the student is eager to attend college then it is usually for two reasons, the first reason is because they wish to pursue further knowledge in various studies in order to discover their vocation. Otherwise, it is to delve right away into more in-depth technical study in a chosen field. Depending on which, for students seeking a more varied course load, a liberal arts program is ideal. These students should apply to schools based on conveniences such as size of school, location, scholarships, reputation of faculty and other personal values that schools appear to meet. For students seeking in depth study, a university setting or a technical school is more valuable because there are research opportunities, more financial aid and often a shorter period of time necessary to stay in school. The college selection starts the college experience!
Visit campuses. The image a school presents on paper can be very different from the way the school's campus environment actually feels. Overnight stays with current students are a great way to figure out how the college operates and how students go about their everyday lives. When I visited the college I currently attend, I felt safe and welcomed into the community. It just clicked as the right place for me to be. 4 years later I still feel secure and am surrounded by a group of supportive friends. Look for the kind of environment in which you know you will be able to function to the best of your abilities, both academically and socially. The time spent in college is a transition from childhood to adulthood, and it is imperative that the college itself facilitates a healthy transition. The best environment, in my opinion, is one in which students are held to high standards of academic excellence but are encouraged by the faculty and administration to be supportive of one another. College should prepare you to succeed in your chosen career, but it should also prepare you to exist as a thoughtful, informed citizen of the world.
Happiness is what every student and parent wants to feel when they have made their college decision, and the best way to achieve that is by working together and understanding each other. Students should begin by making a list of colleges that match their interests prior to their senior year, leaving ample room for visiting schools--a very important step in the decision-making process. It is important to include both financially realistic choices and a dream school, because students should never initially rule out a school based on cost. Parents should start researching to see which of these schools would be possible with financial aid, and students can help this process by applying for as many scholarships as possible. The more students apply for, the more likely they are to reach the cost of going to their dream school. Parents should know that it is worth every penny to pay for their child to go to the very best school possible. By working together like this, students and their parents can ensure that they choose a school that will help them make the most out of their college experience.
Don't make a decision that a school is right for you (or for you child) if you've heard good things about the school. The best way to find out if a school is right for you is to make sure you know what you are looking for in a school (in terms of your academic and social life), your expectations during your college experience and after college experience, and you know as much about your school including the location of your school. Location is a key factor in finding the perfect school. But the most important thing is to check out the school before you decide because it will help you make the right decision and not regret that decision.
At any college you choose, you will work hard, learn a lot, and have tons of fun. It all depends on what kind of fun, what kind of learning, and what kind of work you want to pick. At St. Olaf, a small liberal arts college, every major has the opportunity to get a basis on any subject. I am a music major who has taken Writing classes, Stats, Jihad and Crusade history, Philosophy, Psychology classes, and this January I'm traveling to Greece for a month for a Classics course...and I'm only a first-semester Sophomore! At a bigger University, you will most likely and eventually apply for a school within your school that concentrates on the subject of your choice. Both options are wonderful and notorius for success. Lastly, don't worry... you can always transfer. One should never feel trapped within a college or University. Good luck!
Finding a rewarding college experience involves discovering a place where you can be true to yourself, yet still have freedom to grow. After sorting through endless college websites and pouring over guidebook descriptions, the most valuable college evaluations necessitate actually visiting different schools. Only being on a campus of 2,500 residents, spending an afternoon at a college that retains 95% of its first-year students, or eating at the 3rd best ranked cafeteria in the country can help you to understand what those numbers really mean. To be satisfied with the college you eventually choose to attend requires knowing what you personally think is most important about your education; some students desire a rigorous specialized curriculum while others may be looking for a more relaxed social environment. Fortunately, if you find a school that is a good fit for you, it's likely that you will also be a good fit at that school! Whatever your preferences and whichever college you choose, I advise you take advantage the opportunities your college offers. Join a club, attend a lecture, or party at a concert, because in the end, your college experience will only be what you choose to make it.
VIST,VISIT, VISIT....... Remember to enjoy college life, don't forget to have a social life.
Parents and students stake so much on a college education. Anxiety, stress, and confusion inevitably surround such a large investment of time and money in a person's future. Your first job is to relax. Giving yourself plenty of time to explore different colleges and then to apply will do the most for settling your nerves. The rest of the work is answering a series of important questions thoughtfully and honestly.
First, who are you? This is a daunting question for a student. But it can be approached simply by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Think academically, socially, and spiritually. Often when you approach a school you can simply describe yourself to a current student or admissions counselor and get feedback about how you might fit there.
Second, narrow down the list of colleges using what you know about yourself. Think where you are willing to go geographically; in-state or out-of state, urban or rural? In what class sizes do you work best? What schools cater to a particular interest? Think positively, and don't just focus on financial or academic restrictions.
Finally, visit the schools and see for yourself. Good Luck!
Try to imagine yourself in that place in four years. Would you be happy with being friends with the people you see? Would you still enjoy the landscape, housing, food, and opportunities available? Check out how easy it is to get home and make sure that you stay overnight. Try to see what the campus is like on the weekends as well as the weekdays and talk to the professors. Meet as many students as you can and don't stop asking questions.
Get a feel for what student groups are available on campus. Figure out how difficult it is for student groups to get what they want regarding money. Visit the school and see what displays are up from student groups. Go to student group meetings that you are interested in and see what the student complaints are. Meet people that don't work for admissions and try to get honest answers out of them. See what the sophomore year experience is like rather than just hearing about what it is like to be a first-year. At my school, it was much different and what drew me there disappeared. Figure out how you fit in religously and if there is support for your worldview. See if the school stands true to its claims about diversity and acceptance.
The choice of college will be pretty clear when the right one rolls around. Your education will be of the quality you make it-- an Ivy League grad who fooled around is no smarter than a state school grad who worked hard. The difference will be in the connections you make. While it is very important to do well academically, it is equally important to look toward the future. Network, take internships in the industry in which you are interested, and look towards getting into the job you want BEFORE you graduate. Above all, realize that the resources you have in college like a sports program, dorm life, and a library will not always be available to you after you graduate. You'll never again have the opportunity to play a college sport, or visit the music library, or take the kinds of enrichment courses you can take while at school. Academic focus is important, but so is having some fun, making friends, and having a life outside the books.
Don't make application decisions based purely on finances-- I didn't think I would be able to afford my college, but they gave me a huge grant that cut the tuition in half.
I closely relate to this question because in high school, I was left to figure out the logistics of college on my own. Luckily, through summer music programs and some luck, I found the perfect school for me, and I have no regrets about what I am doing here. However, if I knew just a few years ago what I know now, I would have acted much differently regarding academics and finances. First of all, I didn't take high school seriously enough. I coasted by, able to maintain a reasonable GPA without actually trying, and never studied for the ONE TIME took the SAT. I think back now, constantly questioning why nobody told me that GPA and SAT scores determine how much MONEY you receive for college! And at St. Olaf, academic scholarships are applied for once and only once: before the first year, meaning that tens of thousands of dollars are given to a student based on decisions they made as far back as 9th grade. I would advise any high school student to think seriously about what they do, because the choices you make in high school will affect you for the rest of your life.
Visit campus! You can't always get a good feel for a school without being there. The best way to do that is to visit and stay overnight if you can. Also, don't go into a visit with expectations. Be open to anything and you'll probably find something great that you never expected. Don't worry about tuition too much. I know it's not smart to ignore it completely, but have faith in the financial aid system. You should go somewhere because you love it, not because it was cheapest. You'd be surprised how good they are at working things out with you. As far as the college experience, just be yourself. Work hard and have fun. Find some good friends: it's not quantity, but quality that matters. Be prepared for the transition. It will probably be hard at first, no matter how independent you are. Finally, don't forget where you came from. It's part of you and it probably makes you a better, more interesting, and likeable person. It's easy to get caught up in your new life away from home, but stay connected.
Definitely visit the college before you decide if you are able to, and keep in mind its location. I really love my school, but am constantly conflicted by the fact that I'm not in a city - access to fun things on the weekend is limited unless you have a car.
If you're someone who wants to be another face in the crowd, go to a state school. If you want to truly connect with your professors and have relationships with many people on campus, look for a small liberal arts college. It will prepare you in more than just the area of your major, it will prepare you for almost any job you could ever imagine. A liberal arts college emphasizes a well-rounded education, and the professors here truly care about the student's education.
The most important thing in finding the correct college is making sure you have the right fit at your school. It is essential to find a school that welcomes you into a supportive community who share the drive towards sucess. Once at college, it is important to remember that you are there to learn. Learning does not mean you will get As on exams and tests. At the end of the day, grades are of little importance compared to the knowledge that you gain.
VISIT! A place may look beautiful, or challenging, or social, or any number of other things on paper, but you never really know where you need to be until you're standing on campus, seeing other students and getting a feel for how your life will be should you choose to go there. Of all the schools I applied at, St. Olaf is the one place I looked around and saw myself living for the next four years. And once you're at school, participate in everything you can. Even if you're probably not going to get into the play, or make the team, or get onto the panel you may want to, it won't hurt to put your name down and try. If anything, higher ups will see your name, make contact with you, and recognize you for future projects, even if you're not right for that particular one. And there's always the chance that you'll blow someone away and get a head start on the activities you want to be involved in for the rest of your college career.
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