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University of Maryland-College Park

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

I was shocked when my Broadcasting Announcing and Production professor informed that my Japanese-English accent may lower my grade. I had never imagined that my fluency in my parents’ home language negatively affected to speak my own. Yet I decided to turn my attitude completely around— I worked to improve on my pronunciation. Essentially, my professor had indicated where I needed to enhance my communication skills. Thus, I began recording myself daily reading scripts and listened to my articulation of words. As I continued to listen to my enunciation, I realized my academic goal: I wanted to study Linguistics. College education allowed me to realize that in the current world, there are people who are still uncertain of how to become competent communicators. As the Vice President of the Japanese English Language Association Club, I developed my own language learning process with other Japanese club members, who had difficulty pronouncing certain words such as "crown." I was exhilarated that my own speaking methods, from a linguistics perspective, were helpful to them. I believe a degree in linguistics is the next step in gaining the knowledge necessary to become a professional speech pathologist and make a difference for future generations.

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Take high school seriously! The material you master in high school can save you time when studying for harder classes in college. Basic subjects like algebra, geometry, and grammar never go away! They are tools needed to complete more advanced and required coursework during freshman and sophomore years. Do not attempt to just ?barely manage? these crucial courses. Take challenging classes. You'll treasure the college credit you've earned in high school when you find yourself offered once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in college. Why take basic biology and chemistry courses all over again when you can finish those in high school and move on to more exciting experiences. You'll appreciate the extra time you have in your schedule for research, internships, or student activities. Develop good study habits in high school. Procrastination simply does not work in college. The earlier you learn good study skills and time management, the more confident you?ll be in college. Finally, teachers notice good students and value their work. In high school, your teachers will be recommending you to future universities and internships. Make a habit of building a connection with teachers and professors. It will change your academic experience completely.

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Even though I have attended my college for only one semester, it feels like I have attended for much longer. Reflecting back on this past semester, I have definitely grown academically and socially. One of the most important things I have learned while attending college is time management skills. Because you have more time between classes and during the day, it is very easy to lose sense of time. After struggling with classes the first couple of weeks, I discovered my own homework/studying "schedule." Because of this, I succeeded first semester. In addition, college wouldn't be as fun without campus extracurricular activities. There are a many different clubs, including academic groups, club sports, sororities/fraternities, religious/ethnic awareness groups, and purely "just for fun" groups (such as the Quidditch team). In addition, there are many work and research opportunities on campus that can enhance your educational background. By becoming involved in many campus groups such as the repertoire orchestra and the Gemstone Student Council, I have made many friends while doing something I love. College has so far, without a doubt, been an amazing experience because I have many more opportunities to persue my academic and social goals.

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What I value the most out of my college experience besides the knowledge I acquired in the field of education and Spanish, comes from the material we studied in various courses, and the experience of interacting with the professors and the students. In both departments, the importance of diversity is strongly emphasized. In addition, I was a member of the Office of Multi-ethnic Student Education, an organization lead by Dr. Christopher Lester, and where I had the opportunity of seeing how young minority high school students from underprivileged backgrounds flourished academically and socially. Throughout the two years I spent at the University of Maryland I learned how the youth of America is trying to overcome the racial barriers. Working together with the high school students and seeing the enormous positive results demonstrated that with love, respect for everyone, and perseverance, these teenagers learn to trust in others, and most importantly, in themselves. When we finished the academic year, their GPA had tremendously increased and they were all looking forward to attend college. I am very proud having been part of this community and their success. This experience has given me a very positive outlook for the American society.

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The college application process is a stressful one, but apply to every college in which you express even the vaguest interest. Give yourself options. You never know which college may compel you througout your senior year. Open yourself to shifting interests in the kind of campus life you'd like to have, the majors you'd like to pursue, and the professional field you'd like to access. Applying to several colleges will accomodate your changing interests and diminish the confinement of applying to only a couple. Also, immerse yourself in each of your potential colleges. Take several tours of each campus during operating hours in which you can observe current students progressing throughout their day. Shadowing a current student is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the college and determine whether you feel academically and emotionally comfortable on the campus. Envisioning yourself as a student at each college will assist you in deciding which college is the best fit for you. Finally, ignore negative stereotypes or stigmas that others might attach to the campus life of your potential colleges. This is your college experience and tuning out negative comments will decrease the stress you feel during this process.

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I have always been interested in buildings, ranging from Toronto's CN Tower or New York's Brooklyn Bridge. I wish for the skills to design and build their 21st century equivalents, but not in the form of skyscrapers or bridges, rather irrigation systems and roads. Most third world countries, particularly those in Africa, suffer from primitive to non-existent resources to care properly for their citizens. Civil engineering not only will allow me to study design and structure, but also to improve other people's lives, and I will expect my low-tech, innovative engineering designs for third-world countries to serve an important purpose. I could design simple irrigation and drinking water systems that a primitive village could support and maintain. Because of a severe lack of paving, I could design cheap and convenient public roads to accommodate the many who travel on foot, on carts, and on beasts of burden. Attending college will provide a basis of knowledge, discovering the impacts of engineering designs on a global setting. UMD engineering helps students with their future goals, and offers many chances to strengthen real life skills such as developing professional contacts and working in a multi-disciplinary team.

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With one semester under my belt, if I could go back and mentor myself as a High School senior, I would tell myself to participate in more extra curricular activities that could supplement my resume. In college, people often talk about how organization and time management are the most important aspects of college life. While this is true and these characteristics often determine your success as a student, your experience outside of the classroom is equally important to your growth as a person, and to your uniqueness as a potential employee and scholarship recipient. When you are competing for opportunities or employment against other students or employees, your experience is often what separates you from the pack, and shows the varied set of skills you bring to the table. Also, the skills developed through participating in community service activities or holding positions of responsibilty instill valuable instincts and can offer memories that last a life time. If I could go back and counsel myself I would definitely tell myself to strengthen my extra curricular participation because the most important lessons in life are not always learned in the confines of a classroom but often through interacting with the world.

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Entering the diverse college community has forced me to continually refine my beliefs. I’ve met many friendly people, but I’ve also noticed that their beliefs may be starkly different from my own. But even if those beliefs border on what I consider bigotry, a difference of opinion on whether homosexuality is natural isn’t a reason to ignore a dorm neighbor. However, I also understand that I should not shy away from explaining that I believe in equal rights for gay men and women when the topic does emerge. In college, I’m continually forced to consider new perspectives while holding fast to my essential principles. Those principles aren’t always about moral issues, but also about less controversial questions, such as the direction that biological research should take. Discussions with professors convinced me that a high throughput approach to biology -- for instance, using microarrays to observe thousands of genes at once -- is essential, but I still believe that good experimental design can cut down on the expenses and inaccuracies of acquiring large amounts of data. The new knowledge and perspectives I’ve found in college have proved extremely valuable in helping me continually better define myself.

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Parents and prospective college students should not be fooled by US News and Report rankings and other ranking tools that do not necessarily give readers an accurate description of where to attend college. The best way for parents and prospective students to find out which college is right for them is be PROACTIVE in their college research. Both parents and the student should sit down and honestly assess the student's personality, academic strengths and weaknesses, interests of study, and personal hobbies and lifestyle. Based on these factors of self-evaluation, students should look for colleges whose teaching philosophies and practices and campus lifestyle and climate best fit them, and would be most conducive to their academic success and accomplishment of their goals. Students and parents should then visit colleges of interest and most importantly talk to several current students to get a in-depth and first-hand look into what students there are like and what they like (and possibly dislike) about the school. All of these steps is critical for finding the perfect college that fits the needs and expectations of each individual prospective student looking for the perfect place to go to college.

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College is one of the greatest transitions in life. Therefore, it?s important to plan ahead and make the most of the experience. Students should consider majors that interest them. They should focus on those that they can enjoy rather than those that are typically associated with careers that lead to wealth. One can become successful in any major they choose. Hence, it's wiser to choose a field that one can appreciate for life. It?s okay if a student does not have a specific career goal. Many students actually change their majors at least once during their undergraduate studies. Thus, students should be patient- their dream job will surely come. Moreover, students and parents should talk about college together to ease the stress that accompanies planning for it. This way, everyone can be happy in the end. Prioritizing preferences like financial aid, school location, and school size, will help parents and students choose the best college. Students and parents should weigh their options wisely and compromise. In college, students should not be afraid to take risks. College, itself, is a test on balancing life. Hence, students should learn from their failures and achievements by trying new things.

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