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United States Naval Academy

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

During my two and a half years here, I have learned that the academic aspect of school is only part of the experience. Having different leadership postitions has afforded me the opportunity to develop myself mentally and emotionally for my future in the military world. I have learned a great deal about how to relate to people on a more personal level in order to motivate them at their jobs. I have also learned that rules, although purposeful, have situations where they can and must be broken in order to do the "right" thing. When put in a situation where I must chose between breaking the rules while helping someone and obeying the rules and ignoring someone else's misfortune, I know for a fact that I will do whatever I can to help that person, even if it means getting myself in trouble. Selflessness is the ingredient that our society today lacks. If this virtue is reinstated as an important value once more, society would begin to make the changes that are necessary to solve communal, national, and even as far reaching as international issues. The opportunity to cultivate this virtue in myself is what college has given me.

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With all honesty, the beginning of my college career has been a very rocky and very unsure road. Coming into the "new world," I was truly unaware of the responsibilites attached to this pursuit of higher education. I was unfamiliar of the life, the responsibilites, and lastly, I was unfamiliar with my true self and what I wanted to pursue in life. Throughout my journey, though with a rough start and many changes in what I wanted to focus on, I finally found my true life's motive. My college experience allowed me to explore an unfamilar atmosphere, interect with others and ultimately discover myself. If the college experience does anything, it's allows students to find who they are, no matter how long it takes and what obsticles they faced to get a hold of their place in life. It also matures undergraduates as they face the real life responsibilties that are placed upon their shoulders. Attending college opened my eyes, guided me, broke me down then made me stronger. This is why I value my college career and I'm proud to say that I am currently a Computer Information Systems major with many goals ahead.

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Don't expect it to be easy, BUT know that you can do it. Every year almost 1000 people finish their four years at USNA and recieve commissions. It is completely doable. Don't be worried about water polo or swimming owning your life, it is very possible to succeed academically while competing to at the highest levels for your school. Enjoy the little things in life, because you will be so busy at times that those are the only things you'll get. While other times you'll get to experience some really unique things that the Navy does. Be open to making friends immediately. From I-Day onwards, your classmates will be your path to success. The friends you make here and the bonds you form will be the strongest ones in your life and will last forever. That said, if you have found the right person already and they are willing to spend time away from you, it is possible to keep a significant other all four years. Its called the 2% club, its hard, but like anything here, its possible. That phrase sums up the Naval Academy: if you want it enough, anything is possible here.

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Finding the ?right college? is a clandestine term; for some right may mean affordable and for others it may mean carrying on a family legacy. I offer my advice coming from someone who made their own decision against their parents. I attend the United States Naval Academy and chose to transfer from another university. My parents enjoyed the fact that I was close to home and relatively safe. My dream, ever since I was in 8th grade, was to attend the Naval Academy. I was denied the first time I applied, but I chose to reapply my freshman year in college in 2007. I was accepted in 2008 and finished my first year in 2009. Coming from a very liberal family, the military holds a negative stigma in my house. My parents were unsure as to why I made this decision and disagreed, but I have never felt better about myself. Following my own heart and mind was the best thing I ever did and I would suggest that to any student. To the parents: let your children decide for themselves, it is the first major step in their lives and they should make it on their own.

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College is not easy. For the first time students are thrust from their home into a world where every meal is not made for them, their laundry is not magically clean every morning, and their friends and family are not there to help them with difficult situations. My greatest discovery at college was how you never really know how much you enjoy something until it is not there to enjoy. With that knowledge, I would tell myself as a high school senior to not take for granted anything that I had. I would tell myself to squeeze tighter and hold on longer during every hug; to laugh a little harder and a little louder with my friends; to roll on the floor with my dogs and give them an extra belly-rub; to slow-down and cherish the home cooked meals; to thank my parents and listen to them more; and to spend an extra hour under the stars talking about nothing with my girlfriend. College is new, exciting, and different. But there are no dogs to rub against you after school, no home-cooked meals to engorge yourself with, and no mom or dad to say I love you.

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Look for schools that have a good academic reputation overall. It's good to look for one that is known for a certain field but how many students change their mind once or many times? Schools that have many extra curricular activities will allow students to find something they enjoy to do outside of school even if it's just intramurals. Money shouldn't be the main concern because there are many ways to pay for school you just have to look. Most states will gives grants, especially for single parents. Scholarships are easy to come by too. The point is you have to go look for it because people will not approach you. One of the most importan things I found when choosing a college was actually visiting it and seeing the day to day activities of the students. As for making the most of your experience, work hard in class because it will pay off. Teachers will help you out. They love enthusiasm but again you have to ask for it. Don't forget to get away too. Go have fun and explore the city your college is in. You need to destress.

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Do not pick the school you will attend based on prestige or financial restrictions. The most important aspect of choosing the college that is right for you is focusing on a school that will maximize your potential to succeed both while you attend the university and after you graduate. The future is a very uncertain thing. The best way to prepare for it is to attend a school that will challenge you significantly, but also one that allows for even greater levels of achievement should you choose to push yourself to those new heights. Despite what you may think, no matter how challenging a university may appear to be you will be able to slide by without much effort if you choose to. What you need to look for in a school is a place where you will be able to push yourself to maximize your potential, not a school that will try to do this for you. Do not sell yourself short by going to a school that will ask little of you and to which you will give little in return. In short, you only have a short time to prepare for tomorrow. Don?t waste it.

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A person should not go tot college to simply go to college; a student should want to attend a university because he or she wants to better his or herself through education. Witht that in mind, the first factor to look at in my opinion is location. Your college of choice will be your home for the at least the next four years, so it is important to go somewhere you would want to live. Issues such as price are secondary because regardless of where in the country you are looking to go to school, there are expensive, cheaper, more historical, more modern, etc. types of schools. Once you have found what area of the country to go to school, and schools that meet your budget, it is time for a road trip to visit those schools. The key is to find the pulse of the campus: go to the academic buildings, look at a dormitory room, eat in a dining hall, talk to students, or watch a sporting event. All these things would be a part of your life at that school. so try them (so to speak) and see how they fit.

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The most important thing in choosing a college is where you want to be in your future. I have always known that I wanted to serve my country and that becoming a military officer was right for me. Choosing the Naval Academy was a huge step in my life but I have never looked back and regreted my decision. You always have to make the best of college, especially at a school like the academy. You must always remember your goals and desires and why you are there. Always keeping these things in mind will make school and life much more enjoyable. Whenever things become stressful here, I step back and remember I am doing all this so that I can become a great leader one day and be responsible for people's lives. My main objective is to learn as much as I can now so I can perform later for my sailors or marines. Choosing the right college is very important and I would recomend thinking very hard about your future goals, not so much what kind of social life you are going to have there.

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If you are like me, you may never be able to find that "definite, this is it, I just know it" answer. You have to look at where you are and where you want to be. Don't be afraid to take a chance. There are no regrets in life. I chose the military academy path. There are many times when I've looked back and asked myself, "Was that the right choice?" I can never get a straight answer out of myself, but I do know one thing: I'm proud of what I've done, and I feel like I've accomplished something in my life. Any student or parent should know that picking a college isn't about which is the best one, but which is the best one for you, and that might even mean taking a chance at something unknown. That's what college is about. It's about discovering yourself and finding out what drives you in life. It teaches you how to stick to something tough and how to come out on top. College is a life lesson--in and out of the classroom.

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