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University of Richmond

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

Despite the large numbers of people advising me to pursue my passions in college, I would not allow my preconceived interests to inhibit further personal growth. Although my intense love of reading and writing directed me to my English major, I wish I could remove the blinders I possessed as a high school senior. I now am fascinated by such diverse subjects as economics and biology, primarily as they relate to environmental issues. Although I highly value my background in English literature and critical writing, I should have allowed myself to explore the physicial and social sciences to greater detail. I will pursue a Master of Public Policy degree in Fall 2011 at The College of William & Mary, and I look forward to the varied curriculum of political science, economics, marine science, and law courses. These classes will better prepare me for a public policy career focusing on land use management issues and renewable energy policies. Ultimately though, I would not change my academic path throughout college, as I believe these experiences are necessary for personal development. So my former high school senior self should continue along the predicted trail and enjoy all of life's unexpected turns.

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Aside from simply slapping myself across the face, I would offer several pearls of wisdom to my blissfully ignorant high school self. Rather than attempting to treat the college application process as if you're seeking "the one" true love of your life, you should barrage the inboxes of every university even remotely intriguing. Don't overlook the private universities with price tags resembling half the value of your parents' house; often they can provide unbelievable financial aid packages. Come to terms now with the fact that some friends will leave your life but new ones will soon enter, and accept that you will change drastically from freshman to senior year. Welcome to quasi-adulthood! Finally, heed the advice of newspapers and magazines everywhere and choose a major with promising employment prospects. You don't need to sacrifice your passions and interests in order to accomplish this task, but you do need to search your soul in order to select the best path. Don't shy away from the science labs or fear calculus and statistics! Ultimately, college is an incredibly defining experience and one you will never forget, so enjoy the memories and jump in head first.

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At the University of Richmond, I have had the best preparation for and support through life's rollercoaster, both ups and downs. The academics are rigorous and the professors expect my best, but it has all developed me into a more informed, analytical, perceptive, and responsible student, woman, and citizen. I have discovered what true friendship is through a few students here, and I have witnessed others do the same. I have created invaluable relationships with professors, faculty, staff, and alumni as a result of their desire and willingness to be available for and provide assistance to students. I have the opportunity to do everything I want here, from studying abroad to dancing for three years with an African dance company, from networking with professionals (and securing internships) to joining a public service sorority. The university goes through lengths to make sure we as students have the best possible college experience and that all of our time and effort spent is worthwhile. Here, I feel like I am not just a number, but I am a face, a personality, a voice, a force, and the entire campus community is driven to ensure and support that reality.

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I would advice them to allow for all possibilities when searching for a school. A student, or parent, may think that a particular characteristic is essential for the school to be a perfect fit but that may not end up being true. The right college is the one where the student overall feels the most comfortable regardless of its prestige or any other specifc factor. In order to make the most of their college experiences, students need to be open to new experiences. They should try doing things that they have never tried before and take risks, both inside and outside the classroom. Colleges exist to broaden student's horizons and further their education about all topics, not just academic ones. College is also an opportunity to learn about yourself, to learn your limits and then surpass them. There is rarely another opportunity in life to be exposed to and experience the wide variety of opportunities that colleges provide. Basically, a student's college experience is what they make of it. Even if it is not their first choice school, embracing everything a school has to offer can make their college experience a valuable and enjoyable one.

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The past two years have been the most marvelous time of my life. The fascinating things I’ve learned in the classroom have opened up my mind to a new world of thinking. However, what I have gained outside the classroom has made me a more rounded, intrigued young woman. I was an officer in my school’s Snowriders Club, played on the women’s tennis team, and got hands on experience in our athletic training room. These experiences taught me more than I could’ve imagined. In the Snowriders club I publicized and coordinated events, learned difficulty of working with school regulations, and got everyone stoked for ski trips. Having to step out of my comfort zone to get these tasks done caused me to not only mature, but to learn how to handle new responsibilities. Playing on the tennis team taught me to have a hard work ethic, respect others, and stay healthy. Also, working with student athletes in a professional setting gave me a sense of power and curiosity that has fueled my ambition to become a physical therapist. These experiences have been invaluable to my education, and I know this is only the beginning!

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A student planning to attend college should ponder two questions: how will the school/programs help me reach my ultimate goal, AND open the most doors possible. Nearly every college student changes their major at least once and an undergraduate major does not dictate the rest of one's life as the average American changes careers several times over the course of their working life. It's foolish to go to school as a freshman and have a very clear cut game plan because college is a time of exploration and education. One should also consider what they enjoy studying as there is no sense being an accounting major if you hate numbers, and then analyze school rankings by major. Look at the top schools in your field, determine what is realistic within your GPA/SAT means, and then use other criteria such as size and location to make a decision. One final piece of advice NEVER allow finances to decide where to apply to. Receiving financial aid is much like buying a used car. Aid money is ENTIRELY negotiable, and personally I go to the second most expensive school in the country, and it's cheaper than state school.

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I believe the phrase "CALM DOWN!" would definitely need to be said for the chaos that was senior year. I didn?t know how lucky I would be in my transition to college. Though I was tense to the point of stress-balls and fingernail chewing, I somehow managed to make the best out of my opportunities. I actually have the ?I loved my school the moment I stepped on campus? relationship with Richmond. I applied early decision I not only got in, I got an enormous sum of financial aid! Everything somehow worked out for the best. I?d like to have been advised to completely throw myself into everything possible in college ? however weird it may seem at first. Originally I tried things that I never would have considered in high school, for I had the opportunity, free time and motivation. I enjoyed concerts, the international club, badminton, student government, the outdoors club... ?why not? became my daily mantra! And I loved every second of it. Also, I would have told myself to ditch the boyfriend, quite honestly. I?d like to advise every high-school senior out there that long distance relationships do NOT work.

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From my college experience I have discerned who I am and who I do not want to be. Some of my peers, having been born with many luxuries I could only dream of affording, often display a narrow-minded, priveledged, and selfish outlook on life. The "Richmond bubble" (UR students) studiously ignores the simultaneously impoverished, yet vibrant city of Richmond complaining there is nothing to do. Richmond has a world of plight that could be solved if students cared to get involved. I found a passion for social justice through my volunteer efforts. With so many non-profit organizations in the area, it is impossible NOT to find something to do, that would allow individuals to engage the community and really make a difference. My eyes have been opened more widely to see poverty because of blatant displays of gaudiness and wealth-braggarts. Not everyone can afford to jump flight to Europe for a week much less afford periodic weekend flights cross-country for family visits. I want to be the person who spends money sponsoring scholarships, not on buying needless and useless luxuries.

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I would advise parents and students to visit different schools and keep and open mind set. Don't just apply to schools that you hear about from others or that your friends are applying to. There are so many good colleges out there that have so much to offer you, its just a matter of what you want to get out of your college experience. I learned to love the University of Richmond after being depressed for the majority of my freshman year. I wanted to transfer... but I couldn't pin down why. My sophmore year, I started getting involved in more activities and started taking classes that I was truly interested in and started reaching out to people I never would have talked to. My experience and vision of the University of Richmond changed instantly. My grades began to go up, I partied less but had more friends, and I began to develop strong relationships with my professors. I started having fun not because of the partying, but because I felt that I was starting to be successful, doing things that I really wanted to do. I joined the Varsity Soccer team as a walk on shortly after!

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In your freshman year of college, it may seem that you have a ton of time until graduation. However, those years will turn into a few days quicker than you think . You'll realize how fast time passed and you'll start to reflect on what you've done, who you've become, where you're headed and everything in between. To find the right college ans make the BEST of your time there, you have to keep/make long-term goals (for post-college) and use them as a guideline for how you act. Keep in mind the goals and aspirations you have for the rest of your life and realize they might change, but after college you still have a lot of living to do: Set that foundation strong. Hone in on skills you'd like to improve. Try clubs and sports you find interesting. Talk to people you ordinarily wouldn't. College is the perfect opportunity to simultaneously do a multitude of diverse activities, learn a lot about yourself and others, get a good education and set the foundation for life without the responsibilities of everyday "real world" living. Find the school that allows you that opportunity,

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