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The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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

There are two important categories to consider when selecting a college that is right for you or your child - academic and non-academic. In the academic category I place quality of classes, academic standards, and help with career placement upon graduation. The non-academic component, however, is just as important to one's overall college experience, and may not be as easy to detect. No matter how serious a student is academically, he or she will still have other aspects of his or her life that need to be fulfilled as well. I am referring to quality of relationships, exposure to new experiences, and overall happiness. To asses these areas, one needs to analyze the culture of a school and the key thing to look for is variety - variety of people, extra curricular activities, and events going on in the area surrounding the campus. The best way to get a thorough and accurate feel for the culture is to talk to the students that currently go there, especially upperclassmen. I also recommend walking around campus when classes are in session and looking for variety in how people dress, fliers for campus activities or events, and the surrounding area's newspaper.

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Overbooked and under-planned, my first semester of college was miserable at best. Three honors classes juxtaposed with a 300-level course and a premedical requirement served as both culprit to my anguish and backbone to my nineteen hours-per-week schedule. Somehow, this truly liberal arts amalgamation of Spanish, math, science, and theatre was not at all daunting to my proud and audacious eighteen-year-old self. If I could reach into the past, grab myself by the neck, and show that overconfident high schooler the distress in my eyes, I would tell her this: you don't have to prove anything. At that age, I was the class valedictorian with dreams of the Ivy League. After being thrown a post-graduation curve ball by financial aid offices, I found myself joining the public school system, adapting an "I'll show them!" attitude, building an impossible schedule, and hoping to prove my ability to peers and medical schools. As expected, I struggled with time management, watched my GPA sink, spent no time cultivating a social life, and sank into depression. So, to that valedictorian with a vendetta: know your limits and consider life's letdowns as possibility for limelight.

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Learn what's available early. Use the first few weeks to get a feel for the campus, and get involved with a campus organization or initiative. From there meeting new people and finding new opportunities can be far easier. On the side of academics, don't feel too restricted too early. Speak with an academic advisor about possible majors, minors, and concentrations. Not knowing exactly what field to go into initially is ok, try narrowing it down to about 3 or 4. From there, take introductory courses to determine where your interests really lie. There's a chance that double majors or minors might be in the future. The college experience is about discovery, and the time should be taken to truly discover self-interests. Take advantage of any situation that presents something new and different from what was available at home. Try new foods, learn languages. Parents should encourage their child's discovery of all the world has to offer. Be there as a source of support, but let their students make their own decisions about things. College is a somewhat incubated environment to possibly make poor decisions without it detrimentally affecting the rest of their lives.

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Senior me: ?Holy guacamole! You are me from the future?!?? College me: ?Indeed. Now listen closely, I have advice to give you?I mean, myself. Here are your 10 College Commandments: ONE: You shall have no other goods between meals. TWO: You shall not make for yourself a cookie indulgence. THREE: You shall not take the name of the DEAN your leader in vain. FOUR: Remember the Saturday, to keep yourself sane. FIVE: Honor your French and math books. SIX: You shall not mistake the Asian on the elevator in your all-girls dormitory for a boy. SEVEN: You shall not commit acts of procrastination. EIGHT: You shall not stalk Eric Berry on Facebook. NINE: You shall not bear false witness against your teacher; dogs don?t eat homework these days. TEN: You shall not covet your neighbor?s dorm room; you shall not covet your neighbor?s wide-screen TV, nor her male seduction, nor her fashion sense, nor her oxygen purifier, nor her Dell laptop, nor anything that is your neighbor?s.? Senior me: ?Who?s Eric Berry?? College me: ?Just don?t grab for the football player?s ankles when you?re volunteering in the haunted house!?

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When asked, "What have you gotten out of your college experience and why has it been valuable to attend?" my response returns a question; What have I not gotten out of my college experience? Before entering my first year at The University of Tennessee, I could hardly imagine the great adventure I would soon embark on. Now after completing two years of my undergraduate studies, I realize I have grown in so many ways. Within this short amount of time, my college experience has already given me more than I could ever think of. It has provided me with some of the best friendships I will ever have. These are friends from all over the world that I learn with, live with, and will ultimately keep forever. Professors have shown me their passions, their patience, and their incredible practices in order to expand my mind. Campus life has given me Student Government, sporting events, and countless more extra-curriculars to accompany my growth. Finally, my college attendance continues to provide an extraordinary education so that I may excel as a professional. Although my time at the University of Tennessee is finite, I will value my experience infinitely.

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You were born a psychologist. All your life, you observed others, attempting to understand everything about them, so you wouldn't have to try to understand yourself. Now it is time to learn. Form your own opinions, explore, experiment (safely), and don't take the easy way out. Stop cowering in the corner, afraid that someone will disagree with you. Instead, embrace disagreement, allowing for your beliefs to be questioned and your mind to be opened. This way, you'll differentiate the beliefs you actually hold from the ones you just hopped on the bandwagon. Don't be so stubborn that no amount of good evidence will change your mind, but also don't be afraid to defend your beliefs with good evidence yourself. By now, you have formed your tight group of friends that you hold dearer than life itself, and you're terrified of losing them. You won't. They were there through all your hardships so far, and they will continue being there, just a phone call away. However, don't allow your loyalty get in the way of equally wonderful new friendships. Just as important, you will always have your family, with love, advice, and support.

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Adriana, college life is a big change. While high school prepares you for college academically, there are just some things left out. Before getting into that, hit the books, they are not going to hit themselves. What you are learning now is going to follow you into college. I know you dislike writing essays in English, but you are going to write about one essay per class every semester and your practice now will help you. On the topic of help, when you get to college some classes will be more difficult than others and there is nothing wrong with getting it. Afterall, you are there to learn, and if something does not make sesne, seeking help from peers, tutors, or the proffesors themselves demonstrates just how much you want to learn. Chemistry will start off not being your favorite class, but with tutoring, study groups, and asking your teacher for help, you will actually look forward to going to class, end up getting an A, and even get recommended as a tutor for the next semester! Finally, friends. You have different classes with up to 100 students at a time. While daunting at first, you cannot live without them.

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If I were to talk to my high school self, I would leave him with these passing thoughts: Never change yourself for a significant other. The one worth hanging on to will love you for who you are. Give yourself a break. This assignment is not life or death. You are an intelligent and hardworking person, and your quality of life is the most improtant thing. Find something you are truly passionate about. A handsome salary means nothing if you hate what you do. Don't date yourself. Find someone who compliments you not someone who mirrors you. If you are a scientist, date an artist, and vice versa that way you always have something to teach your partner. Don't be afraid to try something new. My favorite classes were theatre, world religions, and constitutional law, which have nothing to do with my major. Find some positive friends who build you up and encourage the better aspects of your personality. In my case I found these at my campus ministry. This is also where I met my fiance. Get involved in a religious or spiritual organization. Murphy's law happens in spades in college. These people can help.

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For parents, I would say to make sure that you really know and understand your child's needs. Just because your child graduates from high school does not automatically mean that they are ready to move out and away to large universities. Likewise, there are students who graduate from high school and are ready to move out and away to large universities. The important thing to remember is that the beginning of your child's college education is crucial to their development. You want to be sure that your child is serious about college and is willing to put forth 100% effort. Also remember that their is nothing wrong with Junior Colleges and Technical/Vocational Schools. Be actively in involved in your child's college search to assure them that you are supporting them. Allow them to make the decision, but if you are paying the tution and other fees do not hesitate to negotiate with options. As for the students, college is supposed to a fun and exciting new adventure, but understand that you are there to get a degree(s). Your transcript will follow you wherever you go. Use sound judgment and ask for advice!

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Looking back over my adjustment to college life, the best advice I would give myself as a high school senior would be to take on as much responsibilty as possible. As a college freshman, I was thrown into the world of responsibilty really quickly when I arrived at the University of Tennessee. My health, hunger, cleanliness, spirituality, [and] sanity, were all up to ME. Not to say that my friends and family were not there helping me along the way, because, as I moved away from family and friends, I truly did realize who my true friends were, and how much my family really did do for me while I lived under their roof. But, I would commit my high school self to find a steady job, manage my finances, start looking up professions that seem interesting, learn about the entire college process [from relatives or older friends], but also, bottom line: to simply enjoy high school. I would tell myself to take the responsibilty of simply enjoying classes, getting good/ decent grades, and learning about the world. I know now that every piece of information that you learn in high school will, in fact, be useful in college.

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