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Stetson University

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

When transitioning from high school to college, most seniors feel ill prepared. As a college student, I would first assure all seniors that attending college is a wise decision. Not only will it provide the student with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and grow as an individual, but it will increase the likelihood of success in their future. I would advise them to set goals they strive to achieve as they go through college. This will provide structure, as it’s a guided path towards their future endeavors. Staying positive and motivated about themselves and their progress is important to stay on track. At one point, I began to lose motivation in school, which affected the quality of my work. Although students might not deem it important, exercise is essential when being a college student. Becoming physically active nourishes the body by improving neurological functions of the brain. A student will go far by going beyond their professors expectations. Keeping a powerful work ethic will help assure that result. Staying physically and mentally healthy are factors that greatly determine the outcome of a student’s college career. That’s the advice I'd give to seniors entering college.

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Although this little bit of advice I am about to give never did apply to myself, I recommend parents and especially the students themselves to explore and locate the right college. Most students settle for colleges that are near their own homes, but those same students might not benefit at the local colleges. Finding the perfect school is vital to one's own personal growth and knowledge. Taking trips and spending several weeks locating the right college might become expensive for most families, but events like this make parents and students realize that there are numerous opportunities available for the student to pick from. Never settle for anything less than what that student really wants in their education, personal development and lifestyle. A student should choose a college after visiting at least three or four campuses. Most decide after visiting one, as in my case, but this practice does not work for everyone. I have friends that have even visited seven colleges before making a final decision, and they are quite pleased with the results. Why attend several universities and then find the right one when that right one should have been visited in the first place?

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Have the student and parent analyze their comfort zones. Make a list of characteristics the school must have in order to qualify as a suitiable environment for the student to live and learn in. Visit each university during a day that classes are in session and observe everything around you including how long it takes to get there and the asthetics of the campus. Stop a couple students and ask them some concerning questions and compare the answers of each student. Take an insider tour of the campus, eat there, go to a dorm, the health department, talk to a professor in your subject interest, a dean of students, the campus safety department. Take a tour of the town and the restaurants, shops and entertainment in it. Note where a hospital, a police station and fire station are. Research all possible aspects of the university from cost to social life and the area around it especially crime statistics and availability of emergency assistance. Take notes on all of this and after researching all other possible university choices, compare the pros and cons of each until you realize which school is the best fit for both parents and especially, the student.

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It would be more than interesting to sit down and watch a film about the journey through a freshmens first year of college. To go through and experience the emotions of feeling that first positive acknowledgement from your professor or that adrenaline rush of agonizing fear during your first presentation, dry mouth, sweaty palms and all. In the end that is not the case, the emotions of a college experience is not recorded through the lens of a camera it is encoded in the idiosyncrasies of an undergraduate student . The first day of my freshmen year of college was comparable to being stranded alone in the darkness of a jungle. My parents high school diploma was all they had and any questions I had about college were unanswered as a result. The only positve reinforcement I had was thoughts of my father and his Leukemia/Lymphoma diagnosis . The gratitude he would share if I was able to obtain ideal academic standing was all I needed. College was a competition, in that, I wanted to obtain an AB average while coping with sickness of my father. The thoughts of his happiness alone made college the most valuable asset in my life.

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The college experience is all about making mistakes and figuring out who you are and what you want out of life. However, there is much advice that I would give to a college freshman and his/her parents. Firstly, take it seriously. Grades are crucial, and the first two years are the most important, given the way GPA is calculated. Secondly, get as many classes out of the way as possible during high school and summer breaks. This can be done through dual enrollment, or taking summer classes at a community college. Most schools will only accept community college credits until one has earned 60 credits, so do it early! This saves you time, money, and allows you to take classes you are interested in, not just general ed. Third, start thinking about career plans early. You do not want to graduate with the wrong major because you didn't start thinking about a job until your junior year, and by then, it was too late to switch from that biology major. If graduate school is your plan, take grades extremely seriously, and get to know your professors. They help with letters of reccomendation, advice, and more. Lastly, enjoy it!

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I am forever grateful for everything that Stetson gave to me, and it was bittersweet to graduate from such a memorable experience. Beginning college, I would have never expected to graduate with a degree in both Mathematics and in Religious Studies. It was this polarization of interests that only Stetson could provide to a student, like myself, that simply wanted to learn as much as possible. However, I knew I needed to make my interests more applicable and Stetson provided me with the resources to intern at the nearby NASA Kennedy Space Center. Stetson then noticed my unique interests and suggested that I study abroad at Oxford in the UK, which I gladly accepted. It was at Oxford that I finally saw what Stetson had taught me had universal value. It was at Oxford that I decided to join the rowing team, which rounded out my college career. My college experience shaped me academically, physically, and spiritually for the better, which, I believe, are the main elements of humanity. No discrete value could give justice to what college has done for me, and I can only hope that others share in the experience with me.

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If I could talk to myself as a high school senior, I would tell myself to find more scholarships so that I could be financially stable throughout college. I would also tell myself to shop around for textbooks because they can be extremely expensive. Finances aside, I would let myself know that college is a great deal more fun than high school and that I would meet a lot of great people while attending Stetson. Also, becoming involved in as many organizations as possible while in college is the best way to meet friends who share common interests and even long term goals. I would also want myself to know networking through many organizations is also essential to being someone in college. Finally, I'd really want my high school senior self to know that going to college means becoming independent and striving to improve one's self every day. It means growing up and trusting your own instincts while trying to accomplish any seemingly trival goal. It means that with each acamdemic and social accomplishment, no matter how seemingly insignificant, you are doing it on your very own, and that is something to be proud of.

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For students unsure of where to go, I would suggest finding a college that not only has a very good reputation, but also a place where you would feel right at home. Don't just rely on tours and faculty recommendations. Ask current college students about their school to get a more accurate feel of campus life, because in the end you are the one that will be living there. There are all different tastes. You need to feel comfortable and be manageable wherever you are at. Success is the most important, and to be successful, good time management is crucial. Living on your own can be stressful, as well as finding companions and being social. It's time to shine. Break out and rise up to be better than the rest. Hard work will pay off in the end. Become involved with clubs and organizations, volunteer, play a sport, be an intern, there is always something you will be interested in. Personal experiences will mold you into a more skilled and more knowledgeable individual. Sharing those experiences with your friends and others, will leave some of the best memories of your life. Be happy and always follow your heart.

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I would say do not forget to look back. I would also say do not forget to look forward. And side to side, especially when crossing the street. As light hearted as my advice may seem, it is very important advice that I did not get as a high school senior. My parents divorced when I was three. During the school year my sisters and I lived with our mother and grandparents in The Carlos Avery Game Farm. The summer months were spent working on my father’s dairy farm. I had an interesting, yet simple life. College was very different. I had chosen a private university in the city and I was the first of my siblings to go to college, so naturally I was very excited. I allowed myself to become distracted. I joined a sorority, attended fundraisers, and ‘social events.’ I changed majors, and schools, twice. I procrastinated on my homework and my grades suffered. I lost scholarships and had to withdraw. I had disappointed my family. Had I been paying attention back then, maybe I would be still moving forward. Instead I am going back to try again, but this time I have focus and determination.

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Hey Ryan, I know you think if you opt for dual enrollment in your senior year that you are going to miss out on the whole high school experience but that is really not true. Sure, you won’t see those knuckleheads that entertain the whole class and you might not be able to walk your girlfriend to her locker, but the other possibilities are endless. Those knuckleheads will still be entertaining crowds at the fast food restaurant they are working at and it is definitely way “more cool” to be waiting to pick up your girlfriend when she gets out. Understanding that, consider the following. First, you will get one year of college for free. Crazy, I know, but consider the savings if you transfer to a college that accepts all the credits. There are a lot of hidden costs when you are in college and the savings could help. Secondly, you’ll get to experience the pace of assignments and the type of work college professors expect from you. Lastly, I think you will really appreciate that the other students are there to learn just like you and because they are paying tuition, most are take it seriously.

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