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University of Central Arkansas

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

Dear younger and na?ve me, Soon you will begin your first semester at college. And I just want to write this letter warning you of the mistakes you are going to make. This semester you will procrastinate and choose to have fun instead of working on your assignments. Your procrastination will lead to many stressful nights and disappointing days. You will also fall into the trap of letting your friends influence you to hang out instead of doing your schoolwork. But, as the semester continues you will learn to say no because it?s for your own good. Just have fun, but always make sure to put school first. Writing this letter has made me realize that no matter how much I warn you, you are still going to make mistakes. And I?m glad, because the mistakes you make this semester will make you into a better person. Your mistakes are going to teach you some important lessons; lessons you would have never learned any other way. And be glad you learned these lessons now instead of later in your life. Just remember to live life fully and learn. Sincerely, older and experienced you!

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I would tell myself to get involved in the community more. Find something that interests you and stick with it the entire year. Community service teaches you time management, discipline, goal-setting, and the value of helping others. In high school, I have always been very studious in my academics, taking a bunch of honors and AP classes and graduating with an over-4.0 GPA. But I never knew the great importance of being a well-rounded person when it came to showing yourself off to the college admissions committees. I had the mindset that my relatively high grades would get me into my top-choice univeristy. Establishing yourself as a well-rounded person shouldn't just be about getting into a prestigious university, it should be about finding what you love to do. Get involved in community service, clubs, or sports because you want to, not because it looks fantastic on your college application. Your own initiation, not your thinking solely about whether you will impress an admissions officer, will translate into a passionate story that will be sure to make you stand out in the selection process. So do what you love, and have fun doing it.

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Before you even choose the right college, make a list (not too big though) limited to about 20 maximum choices. For many, it won't come near that number. Then categorize those choices into three categories: Favorites (no matter the cost), OK Choices (the ones that are worth considering), and the Fall-Backs (the ones that you know you will be accepted to and you would be willing to attend if needed). Consider the pros and cons of these choices, taking into account the cost, scholarship opportunities, distance from home, transportation, fields of study, possible future opportunities, and competitiveness of the acceptance policy. If possible, tour the schools that you narrow your choices down to. This will help you get a feel for it. If the school has no application fee, go ahead and apply even if you're not sure just so you will know where you stand in terms of getting in the schools that you really want. Apply to all of the scholarships you can for your top schools to see if you could afford to go to that school. Apply for scholarships through your high school. Relax. Whichever college you choose, you will enjoy yourself.

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Before committing to any college decision, apply to every school you think you might want to attend. Visit the school before you choose. Getting a feel for the atmosphere is extremely important. In order to keep from worrying about money during your four year experience, get the highest ACT score possible. This will really help when you are applying for scholarships. During your visit, talk to as many students and faculty as you can. The people who live, learn, and work at the university have the best understanding of what really goes on. Tour all the dorms on campus so you know which one you will prefer to live in. Go ahead and talk to an advisor from the college to find out where the college's strengths lie. Ask questions about services and quality of the department in which you are most interested. Attend any student fairs that the college offers. This is a great way to inform yourself about the clubs, jobs, and opportunities available in the area. Finally, tune in to your instincts as you tour the campus. If it just feels right, you know you might be on to something. Good luck with your campus research.!

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Dear past self, This year you start college, and with it a new chapter in your life. It is an exciting time, and do not take a single moment of it for granted. I implore you to soak up every morsel of knowledge that a professor or fellow student throws your way, but do not be fooled by fancy degrees or a confident air; people are imperfect. Research what you are learning, and confirm its validity. The effect will be two fold; you will have a greater understanding of the subject and thus be better prepared, and you can know for certainty whether or not the information you are recieving is to be trusted. Information recieved will inevitably been doled out again, and it would be disasterous to lead others astray. Also, participate in more than classes. Get out of your own head, and engage with other students and professors. Many great minds, sensibilities, and personalities saturate UCA's campus. It can only be to your advantage to mingle your own with them. But most of all, do not forget to have fun. Academics is most important, but don't let the rest of the college experience pass you by.

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I would tell students/parents to look at a variety of schools. Looking at as many colleges as possible will insure the student has a better chance of choosing the right school for them. If the student knows or has a good idea of what field of study they wish to follow, the school should obviously have that degree oppurtunity available. Campus size should also be a factor. Many times a smaller campus will provide a more individualized experience with more one on one help from professors; this is often a very positive aspect of smaller campuses. However, if the student would like a more social environment, they might considered a larger university. As far as making the most of the college experience, I would suggest, first of all, to stay on the academic path, afterall that's why they're there, but to get involved in as many clubs/campus activities as possible. Being involved on campus is a great way to find new friends, many of which will be lifelong, as well as a great way to network. The more people you meet, the greater the possible you'll meet someone who can help you in the future.

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My advice for parents is to let your children grow up. One of the worst things I seen throughout my college career are college students who are completely dependent on their parents for money. I feel that parents should most definately help their children if they have the resources. However, college is a time to build character and prepare for the "real world" of work. If students do not have to face challenges, learn how to make and stick to a budget, and take pride in earning and spending their own money, they are not truly getting the tools for success that they need after college. To students my advice is to work hard at the beginning. Each semester, try to get a little ahead in each class, and that way, when you really want to skip a night of homework to go to a game, a party, or hang out with friends, you can do so. Remember that it is your money, and you deserve to get the skills and knowledge you will need for the future. I would suggest taking advantage of study abroad programs. Lastly, keeping up with degree requirements and finding a good advisor is priceless.

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The hardest thing about the transition from high school to college life was speaking up for myself and getting used to living more frugally. I was involved in a lot of social activities my freshman year, but I had a private suite and shared a living room and bathroom with a suitemate. Her boyfriend was over all day every day, he smelled, and they were messy. I wish I had been more assertive in suggesting that they hang out at his dorm as well. Sharing a space with a stranger that you have nothing in common with is difficult. It is something that every person should experience though, because I appreciate my current roommates I chose more than I would have otherwise. I was also in the Honors Program and freshman year we discussed a lot of philosophies I had never been exposed to. I wish I would not have been afraid to speak my view amongst the students with differing views. Although I had an academic scholarship and a small music scholarship stipened, it was still difficult to manage that stipened money. I had to conciously not blow it all at the beginning of the semester.

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Knowing what I know now about college life and making the transition, the best advice I could give myself is to get involved but remember why your there. Looking back on my first semester getting involved is what made my freshmen experience so great. You need to get out and meet everyone you can. You will be amazed at how many people you never knew will quickly become some of the most important people in your life. New friends and a refreshing new start as you begin a new chapter in your life makes the college experience all it's cracked up to be. Although getting invovled and meeting new people is vital to your college experience you have to keep in mind why you are there. School always comes first. Everytime you know you need to study or get caught up on homework there is always going to be someone wanting you to do something else, but there is always another time for that. Making an "A" on your next exam only comes around one time. Without a degree, college does not matter on a job application. Keeping your priorites straight is a vital component to the college experience.

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If I could go back in time, I would encourage myself to put me first sometimes. It is important to care about and take care of others, but sometimes you just need to take care of yourself. Learn to say no, be observant of your emotions and what your body is telling you. If you neglect your own needs, you can't do your best in school, your relationships, and helping others. Things can fall apart pretty quickly when you don't remember to take care of your emotional and physical needs. It's okay to go to the counseling center. It's even okay to go to more than one counselor if the first does not meet your needs. A lot of my undergraduate students I mentored could have used the same advice, especially the students who were determined to succeed and to achieve their goals. College can be tough, you might be moving away from family, friends, significant others that you usually rely on for emotional support. With help and support from resources in your college whether it be the resident assistants, counselors, or your roommate you can succeed and have a great experience.

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