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University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

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

Taylor, the world is your oyster, but here is some wisdom to make college easier. -Commute. My parents weren’t fibbing when they said living at home was financially savvy. Commuting is inconvenient, but taking city buses to school (free with my student ID) saved me over $35,000 in dorm fees. - Choose a school with various majors, a good reputation, and professors who specialize in your interests. A prestigious school doesn’t get you hired, but studying diligently and befriending professors ultimately earn success. - Find scholarships. Collegiate financial aid isn’t guaranteed and is riddled with caveats. Apply for private and niche scholarships which typically receive fewer applications. - Explore your interests. Declaring a major in your first year will likely make you unhappy, flip-flop majors, and have to stay longer to complete coursework. Engage yourself in a diverse learning experience, and declare as a sophomore. - Enjoy student life. College should teach you how to network, make friends, and have fun responsibly; you don’t want to become the library’s resident hermit. Joining clubs, volunteering, and midnight Frisbee tournaments relieve stress and improve résumés. Follow my advice and everything will fall into place. Hail to Pitt!

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The college search is a long and relatively lonely process. Much time must be spent reading college books, looking through internet pages, and puttings in sufficient research. However, school logisitics should be the least part of the search. When you visit the correct college the "gut" feel is most often the determining factor. This positive feeling is comfort, and without comfort your childs college experience will not be completely fulfilling. To fully appreciate and enjoy a college experience the student must choose a school that does not limit his or her abilities. If a student is unsure of thier desired major, it is important to choose a school with a variety of options. and majors. It is also important to choose a school with a nuturing college community. This community encourages students to take part in new experiences such as student organizations, internships, and social activites. Finally, independence is important to fully appreciating college. Students should be encouraged to take chances, meet new friends, embrace new interests, and take advantage of everything the school offers. For example, a career and development department cannot help you if you don't reach out. Finding happiness is truly up to the student.

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Similar to most freshmen, my biggest fear was being alone in a new school. The number one advice addressing this fear was to get involved. This is great advice, but my recommendation is much more compelling: Take a Risk. Most freshmen do get involved, but I have seen firsthand that many retreat from more competitive and demanding activities, including joining sororities or applying for leadership positions. Well, I followed my own advice; I took a risk and it paid off! While visiting the University of Pittsburgh, I met several students who were “Pathfinders”- students who represented the school by running tours, giving presentations, and mingling with potential students. These Pathfinders were not only knowledgeable of the University’s resources, but also exhibited the camaraderie and school pride that I found essential in making my decision to attend PITT. I was eager to join this organization but heard it was very competitive. So, I initially decided to wait until sophomore year, but later, felt a surge of confidence and applied. After writing two essays, creating an infomercial, and completing several interviews, I found out I was accepted. So, never be afraid to take a risk; I’m grateful that I did.

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Going into college, I was under the impression that the true value of attending would come in the form of academics; both expanding upon previous knowledge and exlporing new topics and ideas. And in a sense, this is true. Education is a valuable aspect of attending any college or university. However, hindsight has revealed that college is not about the classes we attend, but rather the people we meet along the way. College has afforded me the opportunity to interact with individuals from all walks of life. Each person came from a completely different background, and in getting to know them, I was able to understand more about the brilliance of diversity--culture, ethnicty, socioeconomic status, religion, gender identity and personal struggles--than a hundred years of sitting in a classroom could have taught me. These people came from completely differing situations and, as a result, had developed his or her own philosophy and world views. My college experience gave me the chance to meet these people whom I would not have otherwise met, and the true value of this journey has been the opportunity learn from these individuals, and to incorporate their views and beliefs with those I hold.

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My undergraduate college experience was absolutely amazing. I learned so much about myself as an individual, and was given a means to challenge myself academically in ways that I had never done prior. University allowed me to meet individuals - students and professors alike - from all over the world and gave me much needed perspective on how different cultures may view the same things. As a student of both Psychology and Sociology, I was able to dive headfirst into these fields by conducting my own research about issues that I found interesting.The University of Pittsburgh also has an excellent Psychology research program that allowed me to get a first-hand look at what is currently being done in this rapidly growing field. Classroom lectures were facilitated by professors who are experts in their field and were incredibly passionate about the material being taught. The city itself also functioned as a "living classroom" filled to the brim with museums, galleries, and community outreach programs that were determined to draw in the public. If it were not for my experience at Pitt, I know I would not be inspired to pursue my Master's Degree this coming fall (2010). Hail to Pitt!

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First off, when picking a college or university it is necessary to find a school that offers your interests and choice of study. The biggest advice I can give is to research schools thoroughly. By researching schools, it allows you to determine location, size, and strong assets the school offers. It is important to have an idea of what type of school you think is best fitting, such as a larger school or a smaller school. Larger schools tend not to give one on one relationships consistently with faculty and peers; you have to make yourself known. A smaller school might be easier for professors and peers to remember names and personalities in a short amount of time. Research the geographic location, because location can be everything. In an urban setting you can find opportunities that could help you tremendously to build a resume that may interest graduate schools and employers. However, a school in a rural area may not offer such experiences, but may have strong assets such as research and development. You just have to look at what best fits your personality and career/educational goals. Research, follow your goals, and base your decision on yourself, not others!

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Attending the University of Pittsburgh has been such a valuable experience because throughout my studies as well as my participation in clubs and activities on campus, I have been able to foster a truly global and international experience. Brazilian festivals, Spanish movie nights, Indian Bhangra dancing and other cultural events are very popular and have helped me to meet international students, who share their experience of what life outside the U.S. is like. A more specific international event, the G-20 conference, was held in Pittsburgh during the fall of 2009, bringing with it peaceful protests, riots, as well as a series of lectures, by all different public officials open for students as well as the rest of the community. These opportunities for involvement in the international realm have been extremely important in helping to cultivate my career and personal goals for the future. I think by attending a diverse school in an urban environment that encourages students to take advantage of such opportunities, helps students not only learn about the world around them, but also learn more about themselves and how they as individuals fit into the big picture.

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When deciding on a university, look for a well-rounded environment, somewhere you are comfortable living, and diversity in academics. You are going to university for an academic education, so remember that although you may think you know exactly what you want to do/major in right now (and maybe you don't, this applies just as much to you, if not more), most students change their major at least once, if not many times. Find a school that offers many programs, including sciences, arts, business, engineering, and pre-professional studies. This will allow flexibility to pick what you really want to do with your life, even if it wasn't what you planned. You need to be happy and comfortable living in the area surrounding the university. You'll be there for most of the year, considering that another suggestion is to stay on campus (not go home) as much as possible and develop your independence. Lastly, you what happens outside the classroom, social experience and growth, is just as important as what happens in the classroom. Find a school that has various clubs, volunteering, sports, study abroad, internships, and acitivies, both in the school and the community.

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The most valuable – and surprising – lesson that I learned from my college experience has been modesty. Success in high school had always come easily to me; I never felt truly challenged and graduated with near perfect grades. I was given a large amount of awards and recognition from my community for my achievements. This recognition gave me a false sense of accomplishment entering college. I was admitted into the Honors College and the University of Pittsburgh and given the opportunity to live in the honors dorms, a community of other high achieving students. As the year progressed, I was working as hard as many of my peers but wasn’t getting the same results they were. I felt inadequate and at times questioned my abilities as a student. I had never expected to be a student that struggled with the transition to college, but I was. I had a relatively successful freshman year, but living with other honors students showed me how much work would be necessary to stand out. I also learned the value of surrounding myself with others who have high expectations for themselves. Their influence helped me understand what it would take to become a successful student.

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The most important piece of advice to incoming college freshmen and their families is to be open-minded. Everyone comes from different towns, high schools, and families. Everyone is used to their own ideas and lifestyles with which they've been raised. However, at college you meet diverse people and learn about a lot of unique opportunities and experiences. You need to be open-minded in order to learn about them and to make freinds. Besides being open-minded in regards to people and experiences, it's also important to try different subjects the first year of school before choosing a major. For example, throughout high school I had always been more interested in humanities, and wished to study History and English in college. However, when I got to college I tried a biology class and loved it. I have now switched my major to biology and science-related subjects, and will begin volunteer and research opportunities to further extend my knowledge in the hopes of finding the right career for me. If I had never tried that science class, and kept my mind closed to the other possibilties out there, I never would have found my other interests.

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