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The Evergreen State College

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

Having struggled in high school, it might come as a surprise that I am consistently on the college honors list. As a visual learner, school is always challenging since few classes are geared toward my learning style. Readings and lectures are rarely enough, and courses utilizing images and videos are scarce. In attempt to better grasp concepts I visit museums, seek educational videos and engage in long discussions with teachers and peers. I have had many more educational experiences and become more confident as a result. Most recently, I volunteered with a local historical association where I learned much about the pioneers and geography of Washington State, Native American history in the area, and even about new ways education programs are reaching out to students. Interacting and visualizing what my class was teaching, not only let me experience and understand the information in a way that textbooks cannot, but also allows for personal growth that I could not obtain in a classroom the same way. My grades are consistently high and I am getting more than a degree and course credits from college that will help me in my career, I am getting real life experience and a lifelong education.

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Finding the right college is about knowing how you learn best and knowing who you are, and making the most of your college experience is all about staying positive and proactive. I chose my college because I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted interdisciplinary learning. This college gives me an amazing amount of academic freedom-- I have created my own classes, added elements to different classes, and done an amazing amount of extra projects on the side with the encouragement of my inspiring faculty members. And even though I'm a mathematics major, it's a holistic approach to mathematics: I've learned an incredible amount about philosophy, history, and science to put all of my mathematics knowledge into proper perspective. But no matter what your institution is like, making the most of your education is about being a positive and proactive person. Talk to your professors outside of class, form study groups and friendships and connections with classmates. Don't be afraid to try out new activities or learn a new subject. Approach college as you would approach life-- with zeal and love-- and you will have an amazing college experience.

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In terms of the career pursued: find your passion and follow it with all your heart and mind. Balance your heart and your conscience -- you cannot build happiness or personal success on a sense of moral obligation or acting out of a sense of dispair from the state of the world. In terms of study practices: cultivate a balanced academic and social life -- either extreme defeats the purpose of learning and being alive; find good people in your class with whom to study -- if you enjoy the process, you will learn and retain more; take time to rejuvinate; don't do drugs -- they're a waste of your mind, time and money. In terms of financing: minimize taking out student loans; maximize work study and, especially, paid internships in areas of interest (both to help cover costs and to gain hands-on experience). Explore all grant and scholarship opportunities. Seek out and surround yourself with good people. Treat yourself and others with respect. Dream big and believe in yourself! In your career, seek out good people; if people are mean and do not appreciate you from the start, there is little chance they will change in the future. Have fun!

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In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, A Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes tells his partner John Watson, "You see, but you do not observe." Holmes criticizes Watson’s unquestioning view of the world. In contrast, Holmes analytically observes his environment to find clues and solve crimes. To my past self I’d offer this advice: Observe your environment every day, think about your relationship to it, then consider why what you’re observing has come to pass. Truthfully, you allow much of what you “see” to melt into the background of your consciousness. But you need not be a detective to pay attention or make a difference. The world needs your conscious consideration now more than ever. Go outside, take a walk, and look around. How are the people in your community? Are they healthy or homeless? Do they get enough to eat? What’s happening to the fields and forests around you? Have you noticed? What about the plastic in our oceans? Is there something you can do? Take a Sherlock Holmesian approach to life. Think about what you see through your own eyes—observe, analyze, and deduce—to help yourself, your peers, the environment, and the world.

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Consider your goals in life, and research which colleges are best suited to help you acheive those goals. The primary reason students should be attending college is to help shape the rest of their lives, and this is manifested in multiple forms - in the information you learn, the relationships you form with peers and faculty, and the degree you will receive that will help you to build a career doing something you will be happy doing for the long-term. College should be an enjoyable experience, but responsibility is key for success. Balance between your studies and recreation, but always put your studies first. Whatever you do, apply yourself fully to the material being taught in all your classes. The old adage is true, that you get out of college what you put into it. You will become a more developed and intelligent person if you challenge yourself by fully absorbing new information, even if you don't care for it initially. Sometimes you will have to put extra effort into liking more difficult subject matter (and difficult professors/peers), but it is ultimately worth the effort. So apply yourself; you might surprise yourself.

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You know some things, but you don't know everything. You are about to embark on one of the most intellectually and emotionally formative experiences of your life. I recently came across a research article about the role emotion plays in the degree to which our memories retain vivid detail; college is an experience you will never forget. Keep your mind open and work hard. I know that last year one of your teachers warned you, "Don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out." In college, there is no way to prevent this from happening. Please remember that the real learning happens within the process of putting your fallen-out brains back together again. You'll leave completely new, with the philosophical training to ask questions no one else knew could be asked. You'll penetrate the hearts and minds of the most wooden personalities. Above all else, trust your intuition. Always. In high school you were told to ignore it. But in college you'll find that your intuition is your unique contribution to every project, interaction, gesture, and relationship. You'll learn the world wouldn't be the same without it. Nor without you.

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Choose a college that feels right. Don't overly concern yourself with the perceptions of others, the prestige of the name, or what people tell you. What's most important is that it feels right TO YOU, the student. If you're not comfortable there you won't be working to the full extent of your ability. Each college has positives and negatives. If you're somewhere you feel safe and happy, you will find and embrace the positives and be able to ignore the negatives. Visit the campus, watch the students, explore the classes, talk to professors. This is one of the biggest decisions of your life! When you're in classes, remember you get out of college what you put in to it. If you slack off and do the bare minimum, you'll be unhappy and wasting your and your parents' money; you'll also deeply regret it. If you strive to do your best, do the reading, participate in discussions, make friends and form study groups, your college experience will be not only academically enlightening but emotionally as well. You will grow incredibly, find strengths within yourself, and always look back on these years with fondness.

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For me, the transition between high school and college was a matter of a mere 76.6 miles and a complete change of attitude. Though the concept of a collegiate education wasn?t very daunting to me, (I wasn?t going far from home, and I was headed to college whose style of education was remarkably similar to the alternative schooling of my younger days), there is something about that switch between having your education dictated for you and finding your own path that can be disconcerting. Looking back, there are a few choice things I would impart to my high school senior self if I were given the chance. There is the ?Don?t slack off second semester!? admonishment that is so common, yet so very important. I would remind myself to get to work on those scholarships and ask for letters of recommendation BEFORE the inevitable panic sets in. And lastly, most importantly, I would tell myself not to worry. Scholarships and applications and college life may seem big and scary, but the real story is that everyone else is just as confused as you are. Keep a smile on that face. You?re in good company.

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Wow... what would I tell myself?! I think most importantly I would tell myself not to worry, and that college and life are going to turn out better than you ever expected! I would stress the importance of not trying to fit in and be someone you know you aren't, because the people you will meet down the road are going to be true friends and definitely worth the wait. You really need to relax a little and realize that, although you're a smart and academically talented individual, your GPA and getting into the most academically competative, private college available, isn't the world. Take the time to appreciate the little things, and don't take the experiences that life (and those presented through Evergreen) throws your way for granted. Be open and accepting of change. Be passionate about school and your future... don't take the easy way out. Realize that your future salery isn't everything, and shouldn't determine your academic choices. Don't stress about not coming in with a declared major, IT WILL CHANGE! Keep up the good work, staying academically focused and determined WILL pay off :)

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My first two years at Evergreen were spent deconstructing my identity. I come from huge warm family reunions with tons of food and loud aunts and uncles. I come from the islands of Hawaii, Samoa, and Aotearoa. But I also come from mixed messages and confusing spaces and often allowed homophobia and anti-Indigenous mentalities to govern most of my decisions in my developing years. I grew up thinking I didn't have a voice, that there was path laid out before me I had no say on. Evergreen helped me to find that voice within myself: in deeply introspective seminars on identity, in studying how Christianized American colonization shaped many of the beliefs I once mistakenly took for my native peoples', and in learning to self-care and self-love. If I could go back in time to talk to myself as a high school senior, I would be sure to say something about scholarships and aid. I would try to mitigate the fears and intimidations that "adult life" often comes with. But I would also tell younger me to stand strong in his deeper sense of self--because I and many, many others are so proud of him.

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