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University of North Carolina Wilmington

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

When selecting an appropriate school it is benefitual to research the College's statistics: ethnic diversity, classroom size, and dorm-life. Universities that only accept certain qualified students will neglect an incoming student's cultural/worldy experience. Large classroom sizes are also a negative, since individualized attention will not be given and individual growth will be inhibited, ultimately defeating the purpose of higher education. Smaller classes sizes incourage excelled learning paces and promote learning outside of class. To enhance the college experience allowing the incoming student to live in the dorms their first semester/year is appropriate. The dorm experiene allows the student to understand what it is like to coexist with others and instructs them on life's daily responsbilities. Daily responsbilities including: eating and preparing meals, baths, adequate exercise and techniques to sustain an overall balance (getting enough sleep, nutrition,etc.) are learned within the dorm environment. However, the dorms can also be unsafe and could influence negative behaviors: binge drinking or depression. Researching the dorms environment (cleanliness, amont of living space, RA's attitudes) and the overrall atmosphere including their surrounding environment (proximity of the gym, library,etc) will greatly inform your college living experience.

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When applying to college, the most important aspects to me were the SAT and GPAs of the applicants attending that college. Three years later, I see how one-dimensional my outlook was. I've discovered that the difficulty of getting into a college isn?t as important as the skills you receive while there. My advice is to attend the college that will best suit the individual?s personality. The way to make this decision is through research from published sources, visiting the college, talking to actual students, and self-reflection. Making the most out of college requires realization that college is not just about acquiring knowledge. Developing skills is what will open the most doors in the future and provide fond memories. For students to develop skills, they need an educational environment that they will thrive in. An educational environment includes involvement outside the classroom. Therefore, to make the most out of a college experience a student should get involved with on-campus organizations, internships, research projects, and any other opportunity that may interest the student and challenge them. This is how I developed the skills to make me marketable as well as a satisfied customer at my university.

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College has always been a personal aspiration, and I have been privileged to have the opportunity to further my education by attending a community college for two years (from which I graduated with an Associate of Arts degree) and a private 4-year college (to which I am transferring to pursue a BA in Visual Communication). College has been valuable to me in, generally, two areas: first, I have acquired so much knowledge through a variety of courses that have challenged me not only in coursework, time management, and study skills, but also in the viewpoints and topics considered - my own beliefs have been shaken and, as a result, strengthened. Second, I have grown as an invidividual by stepping out of my comfort zone into a new phase of life; by meeting new people and cultivating close friendships; by learning to make wise financial decisions; by having to manage my time effectively, related to not only classes and studying, but also work, family time, and personal fitness; and by continuing to mature through not only overcoming struggles and temptations, but also becoming more helpful and encouraging to others. In the future, college will only become more valuable.

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Since the students are actually living the college experience, I will address this to the students. To find the right college, start searching early. Take advantage of free days to go around your area (or even far away) to look for what you really want in a school: sports? greek life? parties? great academic programs for your intended major? Parents' alma maters may play a role in the choosing of a college as well. This may be a good thing, as the student may already have a huge amount of spirit for that particular school. Once the right school has been found...I cannot emphasize this part enough: GET INVOLVED! College is so much more worthwhile being involved in absolutely anything. Most any college will have more than ample amounts of extracurricular activities to participate in...environmental, athletics, debate clubs, music, etc. Trust me, college is one example of "you get out of it what you put into it." Find something, anything that interests you and get out and try it. You will inevitably make new friends and gain some valuable experiences. After all, these are the best days of your life, why not make them memorable?

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I think in order to find the right college, an individual needs to research colleges they may be considering, and then visit that institution. I think individuals should spend time on and off the campus during their visit in order to get an idea of what living in that area would be like. I would also suggest that parents and students meet with professors and faculty members to ask any questions they may have in mind. This can guide help students in a direction toward choosing a major if they have not already done so. In reference to making th most out of the college experience, I think students should live on campus for at least their first year in order to establish comfort and friendships. I also think students should get involved in campus activities such as sports, clubs, and volunteering opportunities. Lastly, I think students should take the time to get to know their professors. They are incredibly intelligent people, and they have so much knowledge that they are willing to share. Speaking from personal experience, I have met professors that have impacted my life in ways they will never know, and I will never forget them!

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The advice I would give to parents and/or students about finding the right college would be to really do your research. I would suggest talking to students that are currently attending and those that have graduated from each prospective college on your list. I strongly suggest contacting a professor in your field of study at each prospective college. Ask him/her a few basic questions you may have that pertain to the way things work in the specific department you may be interested in. If a professor responds to your initial questions, that is a good indication that the faculty cares about students and would be helpful. Once you find the right college, I recommend building a good relationship with your advisor in order to get the most out of your college experience. If you can communicate your goals and interests to your advisor, he/she should be able to direct you to the classes that would fulfill your interests and credit requirements. Also, volunteering and/or working with a professor in an area that pertains to your major, such as research assistant or study assistant, is a great way to get the most out of the college experience .

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Research your choices extensively. In order to find the right fit students and parents alike should sit down and find the right fit for them. It is important in this day and age for parents to feel comfortable with the college they send their children to. This includes financial aid, housing, safety, and getting the best educational value for their money. Students need to realize that they need to take school seriously in order to succeed. This includes going to EVERY class, doing required assignments and limiting partying. Parents should ensure this is occuring, as education is more than dropping your kid off at college and going home. They should check with their kids periodically and give support appropriate for success. If they need help with homework, help them. It is essential that education is a primary goal for global health. It is NEVER to late to get an education. I graduated 150 out of 155 in my high school class and attended college with the G.I. Bill only to be in the top 10% of my college classes. I Practice what I preach so I know it works. My secret: Tenacity, perseverence, and the United States Marine Corps.

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My college experience has been anything but normal. I have transfered three times and have since left school for a period nearing two years. Despite this pattern, my college experience has atught me a lot about myself. In reflecting on my mistakes and mishaps, I have been afforded the oportunity to reflect on my experience and identify my true passions. From the ashes of college failure have rissen motivation, passion, a drive to once again be successful. This is the path I have begun to pursue as of late. I have taken those years of misguidance and cluelessness and turned them into a drive that I have not seen in myself since high school. So I would say that I have gotten a second chance out of my college experience. Itw as a valuable experience and one that will allow me to return to school wiser and more mature and allow me to reach my dreams of designing, building and operating underwater submersibles and ROV/AUV's and eventually obtaining a job at the highly regarded Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Now if I can overcome the challanges of financing my education like I have overcome other obstacles, life will flourish.

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Hindsight being 20/20 and the numerous life lessons I have encoutered, I would probably tell myself to take time and actually investigate what educational options are available and what career path interest me. The transition from high school to college will be a difficult one and you will not feel prepared. As a result, I started college and did not finish due to pressure from outside influences regarding a traditional educational experience, the pressure of time and starting a career. I would decide whether or not I want a traditional 4 year degree versus a technical 2-year college degree. I would also take a more in-depth personal analysis of whether college is right for me and what type of career I am truly passionate about pursing. I would tell myself that the jobs available to me will be limited, but that probably working in the real world for a year would give me the motivation to pursue higher education and actually finish to achieve the type of career I want. The most important thing I would tell myself is that success is only measured by your own happiness, desire and the difference it makes in the world.

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During my college search, I made the mistake of compromising my major for advertising, when really I wanted to do TV Production (a fact that strongly affects the right school for my interest). At the last minute I talked it out with my parents and with their blessing, abruptly chose UNCW - though I'd secrectly held it at #1 - over my other four options. My advice, is to never find yourself in that situation; make sure you and your parents are looking for the same characteristics in a college from the beginning. Conquer disagreements on your major, school competitiveness, and typical aspects that go into choosing a college BEFORE starting the process. Take everything head on! The same can be said for the college experience. I'm telling you now that you're going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. The thing you have to keep in mind, is that so is everyone else. It's once you realize your peers are in the same boat, that you embrace this newfound environment and change those feelings into acceptance and excitement. Don't wait for the college experience to come to you; walk up to the college experience and shake its hand.

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