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University of Dubuque

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

“I need to speak to you about the next ten years of your life,” I initiated the conversation with my past self. She looked up temporarily from her paper and sarcastically said, “Yeah, what are you, my guardian angel?” “Your grades are decent and your extra-curricular activities are impressive, but you have to do more.” “My schedule is full, as you seem to be aware, so what do you suggest, genius?” “There are a few things I would like you to spend the next semester looking into,” I explained as I handed her a checklist. The checklist is simple enough: 1.Apply for scholarships offered through specific colleges, essay contests, and promotional offers. 2.Ensure your acceptance to the college of your choice by giving anything you sign up for everything you have. 3.Understand that you will not be the best at everything every time you participate in something and that it is ok. 4.Love everyone you come in contact with- you never know which one will change your life, or which life you will change. 5.Hug Momma every chance you get, you don’t get her forever; heaven needs their angels back.

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When looking for a college to attend, begin by choosing one that has your desired major, or something from which you would like to make a career. Second, make campus visits or at least talk to as many people, preferably students, from that school as you can. Maximizing your knowledge about a school is key. Are class sizes so big that you will get lost in the crowd? Is this something that you would like? How do the teachers interact with students and other faculty? The point of this is to get a feel of the campus culture, to see how the people there interact with each other, and to determine if you will fit in. Making the most out of your college experience will depend on what you want college to be. If you enjoy being in groups, don't be shy in your classes. Get to know people. Don't focus too much on school or friends. Find a good balance that is healthy and won't stress you out. Some people involve themselves in too many activities and have no time for friends. Most importantly, don't change who you are to impress someone. Just be yourself!

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I would look my past- self in the eyes, smile and begin my speech by communicating the most important lesson I have learned from my college experience thus far: "Always... Always, keep your head up." College students are at a juncture in their lives where it is beneficial and critical to make mistakes. We may change our majors four times in a semester, we may stay up too late or get distracted by our newfound freedom. If we did not make mistakes, if we did not fail, we would never learn. People have asked me what I want to do after graduation and I unashamedly say to them, "I'm not quite sure yet." At the beginning of my journey out of high school, I had expected to enter my collegiate career infallibly and I couldn't have been more unprepared. I have progressed to seeing myself as a young woman who is on a journey. Throughout that journey I will make wrong and right turns which will both equally contribute to my ultimate goals. It's most critical to stay on the path, stay positive, through all of the wrong turns that will be made along the way.

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The past is the past. It is not something that you can change, only learn from. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in December of 2002. I had applied two years in a row for a graduate program and was denied acceptance. After contacting the schools I learned from my mistakes in undergrad. I am know in the process of retaking a few coursed as a result of not taking college seriously the first time around. What I have learned is that grades matter, grades will follow you if you want to move onto to the next level. I have learned the importance of putting studies first and socialization second, and not the other way around. I have learned that my teachers are there for me and want me to succeed in thier class. They want to ensure that I am able to meet my personal life goals. I have learned that hard work, dedication and determination is something that you have to maintain faith in and work at it. I have learned that it is never a mistake if you don't learn and grow form it. I have learned to believe in myself and my dreams.

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Although I am hoping to transfer next year to a more academically challenging university, just being away at any school living without my parents and with various roommates has taught me a wealth about real life. Since high school, I have led a busy schedule. All my life my mother has picked up the falling pieces I often left behind, but now that I live on my own, I have had to learn to be extra organized to keep my school, sports, job, and RA postition up to my and my superiors' standards. I know this will help in the future when I hope to be a doctor and mother. Both are demanding jobs and I am determined to be the best at both. Beyond living without my family, I have had to learn to live with new people. This has not been easy becuase I like things clean, while many students my age forgo cleaniness of their living space; however, through our disputes, I have learned how to effectively compromise and deal with people I find myself being complete opposites of. In short, I would say college has been the perfect transition into the real world!

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I've learned that getting your education is valuable and important for me in the future. With this recession going on, I can see some people who have their degrees constantly losing their job and having to struggle to find another one. While in college, I have been able to work with different people and have enjoyed it. Not only do you meet new people, but you also learn new things about them while trying to make friends. I plan on getting my bachelor's degree in Psychology and continuing on to get my master's and perhaps my PhD. While working in those groups in some of my classes, I have been able to see how different people are living and how they feel about certain things. I take that oppurtunity to try to at least help and or encourage them that they can make it in life and accomplish their dreams just as I am. My goal is to make a difference in this world and I am starting at my school as a backbone to me moving forward. I'm so thankful and blessed that I have this oppurtunity to do that and perhaps change the world.

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Make sure the college has a specific program related to what your career choice you have, and make sure the program is of good quality. Make sure the professors in your area of study are very educated and are highly qualified in your career or area of interest. Visit the college a couple times before you make a decision. I remember when I chose the first college I wanted to go to. WHen I was on campus I felt like I was at home, and this made the choice alot easier. You have to feel comfortable where you're at. Make sure you don't get caught up in the wrong crowd because if you do you will become something your not. Remember that you are paying to go to college. It's money you are spending, and don't let it go to waste. Most of all have fun: get involved in extra-curricular activities, sports, intramurals, fraternities/sororities, student groups, etc. When you are in college and choosing what college you want to go to you have to follow your heart because that is the only thing that can lead you the right direction.

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I thought that college was all about making new friends and memories and leaving my old life behind. I found out that I was wrong. My past always needs to be a part of my present and future. I should not have lost contact with old friends from high school, as someday I know I will need them. Actually, I need them now. I wish I could tell myself that in college friends will come and go. However, true friends that I grew up with will always be there for me. It is not going to be worth getting upset about because it is bound to happen, but that doesn't make it any easier, I know. I also wish that I could tell myself to work just a little bit harder. My present educational standing may have been a little better if I would have put in the extra effort in high school. More time spent on scholarships would have helped me out a lot, and so would have studying more for the ACT test. The best thing to remember is that your past will make your present and future, so make every day the best it can be.

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With so many colleges vying for new students, a few put on a good show and try oh-so-hard to impress potential freshmen. if you really want to see what a college is like, sit in on classes, see if there is a way for you to stay on campus for a Friday for classes and then the weekend to see what it's like. If possible try to attend classes focused on something you might be interested in majoring in. And remember, it's OKAY to change your major. Just because you picked something to start with doesn't mean that you have to stick with. Being stuck in a career you hate because you felt an obligation towards that major in college is definitely something you don't want to live with. Parents: yes you have more experience and wisdom etc. etc., but this is your child's future, let them decide where they want to go. You can guide them a little, but please, don't smother them with your profound insight on the fact that you, the parent, know what they want more than they do. Trust me, you don't.

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The task of choosing the right college may seem daunting and even frightening to parents. Sending your student off to a place where they will most likely be on there on for the first time can be very stressful. When researching schools it is imperative that the campus has more than just the desired degree to offer. Check the councelling services, new student orientation practices, the rules and regulations of the campus dorms, and the security and emergency alert procedures. Making sure these things are in place will bring peace of mind. Talking to alumni and current students is a great way to get an idea of the academic expectaions, social activities and resources available within the campus community. A tour of the campus and surrounding community is also a great way to ensure your student is a good fit for the school of their choice. Making sure your student feels comfortable in their new environment will make the transition to college life easier for both of you!

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