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University of California-Santa Cruz

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

My experiences as an undergraduate student were some of the most rewarding of my life thus far. I would strongly consider myself to be defined as a highly ambitious student, and from the moment I enrolled at the University of California-Santa Cruz, I fully immersed myself in all the university had to offer. During my four years as an American Studies undergraduate, I completed enough courses to satisfy my major twice over and requested permission to take additional credits in fields such as sociology, computer programming, art history and music. I also had the opportunity to involve myself in various campus organizations including: the American Studies Student Representative Board, Women's Varsity Golf, Gospel Choir, Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, Students Against War, and the Kinetics Poetics Performance Poetry Group. My experiences as an undergraduate allowed me to intellectually and spiritually blossom and created a lifelong learner of me. The knowledge I have attained and the fire that has been ignited inside me is absolutely invaluable, and I eagerly anticipate starting graduate school in the fall. I move forward a great deal wiser, more self sufficient, and well equipped to achieve all of my educational and career goals.

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Parents and students should consider a number of factors when deciding on the right college. Academics are one. If the student knows what they want to study, the academic programs offered are the most important consideration. If the student doesn't know, they may want to choose a larger school with more options so that they can experiment with many different fields of study. Another important factor is the school environment. The location of a school ha a huge impact on the school experience. Students should take into consideration whether they prefer a more rural or urban environment, the availability of transportation and housing, and the general appearance and upkeep of the campus. The cost, the activities offered, and the makeup of the student body are also important factors to consider. With that said, college is really what one makes of it. In order to have the best experience, the student should pursue a course of study that interests them, and take every opportunity to interact with their professors. They may also want to take advantage of recreational opportunities on their campus and in the community, as the college experience is greatly enhanced by a balance of academics and extracurriculars.

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Expand your mind and open your heart wider than you thought possible; the world is unimaginably full and richer than you know. Be a sponge and allow yourself to absorb every last drop of your experiences. There will joy, heartbreak, a dismantling and rebuilding of your identity, a rediscovery of your values, and endless opportunities for self- and other-exploration. Fear not novelty; expose yourself to possibility, question everything, accept the challenge of uncovering the answers, and watch yourself grow in ways you had not previously considered. You will struggle; you will feel lost, you will feel alone, you will question your journey and the destination, and you will doubt your ability to achieve success. Take comfort in knowing that everyone around you has felt, does feel, or will feel this way from time to time. Embrace these struggles, as they will teach you more about your strength and inner resources than anything else. Welcome change and transformation with open arms, but remember who you are and do not compromise yourself. Above all, be proud. You have already achieved more than you realize, and if you want to, you will thrive in this new world of endless possibilities.

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What advice wouldn't one give their younger self? The confidence to engage in activities and experiences outside of one's established comfort zone is vital to becoming a more well-rounded individual. Although most students are considered adults when they begin their college career at eighteen, the vast majority are not confident enough in their own skin to try new things and possibly risk either their reputation or pride. If I could advise my eighteen year-old self at the brink of starting her Freshman year at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I ask her to loosen up and challenge her insecurities and fears by attempting things outside her comfort zone. I would plead with her to consider studying abroad - her high school boyfriend will still be around when she returns and even end up marrying her. I would encourage her to participate in multicultural theater and to audition for plays before her junior year - she ends up being cast as the principals in two plays later anyway. More importantly, however, I would push her to do things that she might never have the opportunity of doing again. College is, in fact, the time of her life.

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When I was a high school senior in 1998, I decided not to attend college directly after completely my first 12 years. I fall into the category of the "untraditional" student, and I do not regret any of the time that I allowed myself to experience the working world. In fact, I believe the expectations on high school students to enter college and get a degree in order to participate in the working force until they retire is unreasonable for many. The pressure and belief that there is no other option to that chronology forces young adults to choose careers hastily, thus often resulting in eventual unhappiness. I do believe that as a country we must foster an intelligent and inspired population. The difference lies in our attitudes of what defines success and happiness. Some people benefit from taking time to understand themselves and the world better in order to choose an appropriate career path. I am an example of that model. If I visited myself in high school, the first piece of advice I would offer is to take chances and believe in yourself. With that positive mind frame success and happiness will follow. Secondly, it will take time.

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Many parents take charge of where they want their child to attend college. However, the best thing a parent can do for their child and themself, is to let the child choose, according to his/her personal preference when it comes to class size, campus size, housing, location, majors, extra-curricular activities, special programs, academic advising, and personal needs. Prospective students should do their own research to find out what suits them best. After completing this personal research step, sign up for a tour of that specific college to get a first-hand experience of it. Many people want to attend schools that are well known and prestigious, but in the end, the most important thing is how well you will do at that school. Mainly colleges offer many different fields of study, some have what others dont. Look for a college that offers the major of your field of study and may have special programs that may go along with it. This will help you even better when it comes to what you are pursuing. Dont worry about entering a college as undecided, all colleges have GE's, these help to expose you to potential career ambitions. Goodluck! =)

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The only advice to parents is to let their children choose the college. With that said its important for the children to choose the right school. There are several important factors when deciding on a school along with some simple exclusionary factors. If a school does not offer the major of interest, has classes that are too large, or is known for a field that is not in the students area of interest then it is probably not worth applying to depending on the interests of the student. Besides these specific exclusionary factors there are other, equaly important factors to consider before choosing a school. From personal experience I know that the culture of the school is of paramount importance. It is imperative that a student fit in with the mentality of the school. There are few things that could make a student more miserable than feeling like they do not fit in. If the student is science minded then they should seriously consider a polytechnic institute or, otherwise, a school that is know for a scientific bias. If a student is more free-spirited then they should strongly consider a liberal arts school for their education.

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If time travel were possible I would tell my tell my high school self to be open and accepting of all people, because in college you become immersed in a society that is unlike any you have or will ever experience again. The people you meet come from all walks of life and have invaluable information to share with you, so don?t be so judgmental. The same goes toward taking advantage of all available resources and opportunities that a college campus provides, such as tutoring, internships, and definitely office hours, because after all, academics is why you are here. Don?t be afraid to ask questions no matter how trivial or stupid they appear, and definitely don?t be afraid to challenge your professors or make mistakes. How else will you learn? Most importantly you will come across many situations that make you uncomfortable, but do not compromise yourself in order to fit in because you can only pretend to be someone you?re not for so long before you lose yourself completely. College is about finding yourself, discovering your interests and talents, and pushing yourself to always do better, so never lose sight of why you are here.

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If I could go back in time to high school I would tell myself I am capable of succeeding in a larger university and encourage an open-minded attitude. Growing up in a rural, small town I worried I was not "good enough" to keep up with the challenging academics of college classes. Students from larger high schools had Advanced Placement and honors courses available. I thought I would less prepared comparatively and feared failure in college level classes. I wish somebody told me that by attending discussion sections for my classes and asking questions during a professor's office hours I would do more than simply keep up with the rest of the class. I would advise myself to find the most helpful TA's to aid my studies. Part of reaching out and benefitting from the resources available involves a level of openess. Initially intimidated by the campus size I feared getting lost trying to find the professor's office or section. Had I entered with a more open-mind, I would be less inhibited by fear and maximize my experience. Knowing about the resources available and being open to exploring them would have increased my confidence.

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I think the most important aspect of choosing a college is the availability of the students proposed major or, if their major is unknown, classes or subjects the college focuses on that the student finds interesting. I am not saying, however, that a school should be based on this alone. The success of a student depends on the social aspects too. A student is more likely to succeed if they feel comfortable in their new environment. Making friends cannot only benefit the student from being overwhelmed with the changes of moving to college but can also improve grades. Having friends that have interests and in the classes that are the same helps when it comes to school work by forming study groups. This allows for the student to not have to solely rely on the availability of the professors and TAs. However, that should be taken into consideration. This information is best from current students, but can usually be found on web sites and it varies from professor to professor. The best way to know if a college is the best fit is to go visit the campus, talk to students and see if the atmosphere is right for you.

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