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The University of Texas at San Antonio

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

I believe that the most important and useful resources when searching for the "right" or "best" college are 1) the advisors and professors themselves, and 2) the students who attend that college/university for the same degree plan the school shopper is looking for. Find out what YOU are looking for in your educational experience. Compare and contrast what you want available to you during and after your academic career, and what your potential school has to offer you. Take into consideration what the costs of tuition and daily living expenses are and how you will pay for them; where you will live and what the city/area has to offer; what career services and job opportunities are available; how your school works with the community to provide internships/experience to students in your program; what you want in your school as far as extracurriculars, schedules and types of classes, student/study facilities; etc. Make a list of all of these variables and use it to ask MANY questions among all of your resources. Set up interviews with advisors, professors, and their students to find out the pros and cons of each school you are considering from these various perspectives.

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Senior year in high school is a whirlwind of emotions from feeling overwhelmed in making final school decisions, updating resumes for college entrance exams and writing college essays. Amid of all that every high school senior still struggles with self worth regardless if they are the most popular student or the outcast. That being said, I would definitely tell myself that I am enough. Knowing that my happiness and fierce determination stems from understanding that I deserve a successful life because I am enough to deserve it propels me to be a good person and leader and to work hard! I would tell myself not to worry about the minor details and worry about my heart since that will always be there, individuals and essays will not. Those come to an end, but the heart and spirit of a person remains. On the finance side, I would tell myself to research! Research ALL options for financial aid and not to expect everything to fall into place. Being the first in my family to attend college is a wonderful accolade but be careful and consider all the options for paying for college before getting wrapped up in the “college life” experience.

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One and a half years ago I was sailing through my senior highschool year. As a current college student, I am encountering several waves in this sea of academia. Although I had taken advanced classes in math and science to prepare myself as a Mechanical Engineering major, I have found out these courses taken on college level are very indepth and even difficult. I would advise my highschool "senior self" how important it is to actually read the college textbooks, and not to rely entirely on class notes and memory. I would also advise myself to be prepared to make classroom attendance mandatory, so as not to miss out on important information and knowledge necessary to pass the quizzes and tests. Probably the best advice I would give my "senior self" would be to do college homework assignments as soon as possible, and not wait until the day before or last minute. It is easy to run out of time, get over-whelmed or even forget about it. Reading the textbooks, being serious about attendance, and to always complete the homework assignments is a summary of the advice I would have given myself one and a half years ago.

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I would tell parents to encourage their students to pursue an education that will help them accomplish their goals, and help them locate the college that will do this. And for the students I would encourage them to work hard to make good grades. Although grades are not everything, they are necessary for their education to be successful. But they should enjoy themselves and have fun. College is a wonderful experience full of new and exciting things. There will be some challenges and some adjustment, but as long as they are flexible and willing to work hard, they will do very well. In addition, I would tell students to work on their connections. The connections they make with classmates, roomates, teachers, and advisors. Each of these indivduals will make your college experience unique and enjoyable. In addition, I will tell them that they do not need to become involved in every single club on campus to make friends, but to pick the things you want to do and that make you happy. Spend time with people with similar interests, and be open to meeting new people. Getting involved as much as you can is the best thing you can do!

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On June 4, 2011 I blasted Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” driving away in my cap and gown, leaving my high school in the dust. Distinctly, I can recall feeling like anything could happen and having little idea where the subsequent months would lead. Naturally, the summer passed and thus began my freshman year of college. In the past year, I have accumulated much advice that I would offer my high school self, given the chance. There are epiphanies (most) students encounter, usually involving money, partying, and laziness. However, I’d prefer to emphasize opportunities found in volunteering. Before coming to college, I hadn’t volunteered much and certainly hadn’t used it as a means of discovering my future occupation. Aside from the obvious networking abilities made possible by volunteering, it can also help give you real-world experience. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself that it is totally okay not to know what I want to do yet. Volunteering has helped me narrow down my many career choices, even more than the material I’ve learned in lectures. It is something I wish I’d done earlier, and encourage others to utilize.

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The college experience has been one of the most valuable experiences in my life because of the people I have met, especially the teachers. It was through them that I learned to expand my thought process beyond just finding the "right answer": they taught me how school subjects related to real-world issues. The teacher of my Medieval Philosophy class, which I originally thought was going to be quite nondescript, was outstanding. He had us look at questions that are still relevant today, such as "Does God exist?", "Why is there evil in the world?", and "Is there such a thing as a just war?” He challenged us to think as the people in those days would have thought, helping us to broaden our thinking processes. Another great teacher taught my Music Theory class. He spent his time not only talking about the fundamentals of music theory, but also discussing how it has influenced current pop music. This encouraged us to think outisde-the-box and we learned more because of it. These people taught me more than just what to think, they taught me how to think; and that is a valuable lesson which can be applied daily.

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I have always been told that, ?College is not like high school. You must study and work even harder.? Even though I knew this, it still does not prepare you for college. In comparison to high school, college is a life experience that really isn?t understood until you are there. If could go back, there is general information I wish I had known earlier. Never believe information from a school advisor or school office without double checking the information yourself. Always get the information in writing. Make a budget and never buy new textbooks. Always buy used textbooks and check online for deals. Use all of your resources- study groups, professors, and teaching assistants-to help you. In class, sit in the front row and exchange numbers with someone near you. It can become very valuable later. Be careful who you trust. Make sure your professor knows you and that you come to class. Ask for a recommendation even if you do not need it now, it can help later. Always update your resume; you might need it. Enjoy college because it's one of life's best experiences, but do not forget the reason why you are there.

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If only going back in time were possible, at least to change the important decisions in life, not to change who your ex-boyfriend was, I would make more time for college preparation. I’m going into my third year in college, and the most important steps I wish I would have done different relate to money and happiness. First of all, It’s never too early to apply for scholarships; I’ve seen some scholarships that request for high school freshman! Most scholarships are leaned for college freshman, straight out of high school. If only I would have paid more attention, it would have been easier for me to find scholarships. Secondly, I would have told myself to take the leap into independence. Lifelong friendships, troubling experiences, appreciation for the loved ones, and much more is gained when one lives away from home. Commuting daily from home to school can become a nuisance, and coming from a large family, it’s always difficult to find a quiet place with so much commotion surrounding me at home. I can’t help myself anymore, but I can help my one younger sibling who I plan to drown with my advice.

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If I were able to venture backward through time to speak to my younger self, knowing everything I know now, I would have much to say. I would first grab several pencils and then search for a notebook in my desk with as many blank pages as possible (I would be surprised if I were to find a blank one because of the tremendous amount of drawing and writing that I do). I would make myself take extensive and detailed notes in my neatest handwriting (anticipating that I probably won't remember everything I say and remembering that my handwriting, when taking notes, resembles hieroglyphs at best). I would tell myself that getting that 4.0 won’t be as difficult as I think, and the SAT is always easier the second time around. I would urge myself to make time for the important things: having fun with my family, deliberately NOT complaining, finally finishing the many concept art stories I started forever ago, pushing my limits, strengthening my boundaries, and always remembering that everything I do has a major impact on the future, so I had better make it count. I can only wish for such a priceless opportunity.

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When I entered college, I had little professional experience, was very timid, and was not independent minded; I relied on my parents and the security I saw in them. As of May, I live a different life to which I lived my first semester. My father left my mother and abandoned his promise to support me entirely. Although having to endure this ordeal, this suffering forced me to receive a crash course in self-sufficiency. I gladly welcomed the intense workload that came with a nineteen hour semester and the professional responsibilities expected of me from my professors. I saw campus as something comforting and understanding. What my father took away put perspective into my life; I took up my responsibilities, held my head up high, and held back not. As I reflect upon myself at the beginning of the semester, I see a world of difference. I see that nothing about my school had changed – it was me and my acceptance of what my school had been trying to give me from the moment I stepped foot in orientation: independence and self-assurance. I now obtain what is required of me when I become an oral deaf educator.

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