Philadelphia, PA


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

Congratulations on being admitted to college! This summer vacation will seem very long, so to ease back into the mental state of learning, I would recommend skimming through your college textbooks over break. When selecting classes, plan ahead by looking at prerequisites for courses you would like to take during later semesters. Be outgoing and explore the surrounding metropolitan area during orientation week. You will likely feel homesick at times, but remember that your family is only a phone call away. Once school starts, focus on doing your best instead of stressing about the curve, and form study groups with classmates. Also, don’t forget to visit professors during office hours to discuss the course material, ask questions, and build relationships. In addition, seek opportunities outside of the classroom like research positions and internships, and get involved with extracurriculars to pursue the things you are passionate about and make friends. Time management will be very important so be aware of assignment deadlines and exams well in advance, and work productively in between classes. Finally, do not forget about the world beyond the campus. Watch the news regularly to stay up to date on politics, the economy, and breaking global developments.

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"College Knowledge" Benjamin Franklin, founder of our nation's first university, the University of Pennsylvania, once said that "an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." All students going through the college search process should take his advice when it comes to researching their options, for the most important thing in determining which college is "right" for you is obtaining college knowledge that goes beyond the plain facts and figures. Often, this will require a visit to the campus in order to really get a first-hand feel for the campus, student and academic life. Ultimately, there will always be comparable alternatives to any institution, and it's the in-person experience that truly sets apart a particular college from the others. Once accepted, knowledge is also the key to making the most of one's college experience. Get to know your peers, professors, and campus environment. But don't just make Facebook friends, make lifetime friends. Don't just sit in the back of large lectures, sit at Starbucks with lively lecturers. Don't just walk through campus nonchalantly, but explore and the environment in which your university resides - rural, urban or otherwise. Knowledge is power after all.

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First and foremost, visiting the campus itself is imperative. Having a feel for the campus can only be achieved by being on the campus. A brochure simply does not convey what the university truly has to offer. Additionally, spending time with students is a priceless experience. Although college sponsored tours may provide insight about the available facilities and support systems in place for students, there is far more to a college education than simply its academic aspect. Looking back on my college search, I truly wish that I had found a student at each institution that I wished to attend, who could give me a tour of the campus. Seeing the campus from a student's perspective is far more accurate than from an administrator's standpoint. Being that the staff and faculty instates programs to please students, the best way to measure their success is to speak to the students who experience such programs on a daily basis. I know that I, as a current undergraduate student at iPenn in the Engineering School, can provide prospective students with a clearer understanding of the academic courseload and the type of social life they can expect, than a school administrator.

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Go with the college where you get that special feeling when you step foot on the campus, the school that you cannot wait to hear back from, and the school where you can only dream of going. Do not be afraid to take risks when picking the right school. Pushing yourself, going outside of your comfort zone, and becoming an independent person is key to college success. When you feel intimidated or challenged, prove to yourself you are capable, because chances are you can do it and it will help you in the long run. Parents, do not let scholarships or financial aids influence your child's decision, because they could be missing out on absolutely incredible and life-changing opportunities at a more prestigious school. Students, once enrolled, become as active and involved in the school community as possible because that is where you can find your identity and your home away from home. Also, it is through these activities that you will meet your closest friends, and your networking on campus will dramatically increase. Also, utitlize everything the university has to offer and explore your options. Finally, never surrendur or give up- you will get through it!

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While a student's decision in choosing a college is very important, what is more important is what the student does with his or her college experience. All aspects of the college has to be looked into while the students and paretns are making a decision, which includes the academic courses available, the resources provided by the university, the social life and campus environment and of course the financial aid availabilities. All of these factors will allow the student to explore and figure out what they are really passionate about in life and to help the students to follow their dreams. I would definitely recommend visiting campuses in person and talk to the students who are walking around. Some specific advices I would dish out for students once they are in college are to find a good circle of friends who will become your network of support, talk to professors and upper classmen for their advice, attend on campus events, do volunteer work, subscribe to many club activities email updates and attend every class. Follow these advices and you will have a great college experience even if you are not sure you chose the right college.

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I would have told myself that everything would be fine. In college, you will inevitably face new challenges and pressures from the environment, but nothing is insurmountable. Stay grounded in your faith and have confidence. For most people, college only happens once, so don't waste your life. Push your limits, and don't let fear or self-doubt keep you from trying new things. After all, the sky's the limit! In everything, do your best, but don't stress over perfection. You learn more from your mistakes anyway. Be flexible. Things are susceptible to change, which can be a good thing. Above all else, live purposely and passionately. Spend time pursuing your current passions and exploring new ones. Get to know the vast and vibrant campus community, and care deeply for those around you. REmember at the end of the day, you are still unconditionally and deeply loved, so live much and regret nothing!Such advice would have sufficed for every circumstance. Perhaps, hearing these words would have changed the entire course of my first semester. For now, it is simply a kick-in-the-pants, nudging me in a better direction for 2010 and beyond.

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I have not only been able to refine my academic study strategies, but also I have learned so many essential life-skills such as doing laundry, buying groceries for myself on a weekly basis, as well as maintaining and cleaning my dormitory room on a regular basis. So far, I have met so many people from various ethnic backgrounds who have so many experiences and talents to offer. Not only are the students excellent in numerous fields, the professors also are so willing to help and share their knowledge with me about their field of study. It has been valuable for me to attend, as I have gained so many important skills that will help me later on in life, as I aspire to become a researching medical physician. I have been able to involve myself in organizations that provide public health service to countries around the world, including Peru and even my country of heritage, Sri Lanka. I have also been able to collaborate with wonderful musicians from across the globe, such as the Netherlands and Austria, and grow in my musical passion. My interest in academics has only skyrocketed, and I look forward to exploring more academic fields.

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Trust your child to make the right decision about what school to attend. S/he should be empowered to process informational pamphlets and develop pro/con lists independently, although parents can help by helping the student to debrief if they so request. Also recognize that a gap year may be appropriate for your child. Many colleges recognize that nontraditional paths just work out better for some people in the long run. When your child finally heads off, don't hover. "Helicopter parents" do their kids a disservice in the long run by causing professors/advisors to question the competence of the child, and also by denying the student the opportunity to find tools to help themselves when mom and dad aren't available to step in (usually at an embarassingly late stage in life). Buy a phone card, or send them off with some self addressed stamped envelopes. Don't call too often. Take a step back and let them enjoy their independence... but don't forget to send a care package or two with some good treats in the first semester. Even the most stalwart kid will get a little homesick, and nothing says I Love You more effectively.

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The most important thing in finding the right college and making the most of a college experience is visiting the college campus if possible and learning and hearing about it from students who are already there. Be sure to take into consideration the types of students who are there, the academic quality, academic rigor, social life, food, weather/climate, and campus before making a decision. Some students who fail to take all of these factors into consideration may not end up liking their college experience. If money is an issue, value of education for money is important. If you know you want to go to graduate school, it is better to pick a school which is cheaper and not as rigorous academically. Therefore, you can do well in college and get into a really great graduate school. However, if you are planning to work after college, make sure this is a school which will get you a good job after graduation. Every college has its pros and cons, but the whole college experience is what you make of it. Even at larger universities, you can find very close friends and meet interesting people everyday. Make the most of college.

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As a high-school student, I experienced a lot of frustration about my “mediocrity”. I wanted to excel at something, but could never find my “one thing” that separated me from the rest. And then my life was flipped upside down during my senior year. In September 2010, I was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In the blink of an eye, I went from my “normal” college application process and resenting my “normality”, to the ICU and longing for normality. I’m currently almost three years in remission, and having cancer made me understand things that I wish I understood beforehand. If I could tell my high-school self one thing, I would say to appreciate all of my blessings, despite how “average” they are. Normality is subjective. I didn’t understand that, until all I wanted was normality. In hindsight, I should have been thankful for my “average” life. Although I’m now in remission and I now understand how lucky it is to have even just a “normal” life, there are still thousands of people right now who crave normality and stability in their lives, and I was lucky to have all of my blessings, mediocrity included.

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