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University of Wisconsin-Madison

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

One of the first questions to ask yourself is how far away from home do you want to be? College is scary , and you may feel more comfortable being closer to home. Knowing you can hop on a bus and be home for the weekend is very comforting, even if you never find the time to do it! Ask yourself how you will get back and forth. It makes a difference with you and your family. Next, think about what profession interests you. If you have an idea, then look for colleges that match your interests. If not, no worries, just enroll and pick classes that interest you. Your counselor can help with that. Find out which are the "Freshman" dorms and stay there. It's fun to meet new students in the same boat as you. Get involved with something you are passionate about. I love volleyball, so I am playing on UW Madison's Club traveling team. It's so fun and I've met some great friends. It keeps me in shape and busy so I am forced to budget my time well for my schoolwork. I love my school. Go Badgers!

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If there were one thing I could tell my past self, it would be that I must develop some study skills so I can use them in the future. Once in college, I found that I could no longer slide by as I had done in high school. College requires study, practice, and review: things that I had not done in high school. My problem was this: college courses cover material at a much faster rate, and I wasn?t learning the material fast enough. I was attempting to devote as little attention as possible to my studies, hoping it would be enough to get by. It worked in high school, didn?t it? As it turns out, college is an entirely different beast, and different strategies are required to tame it. If I had explored just a little farther than what the classes covered in high school, it would have given me a drive to learn that I could apply to my college courses. As of now, I have a hard time putting down my video games down to devote myself to that one extra hour of study. My past self can't fix this problem, so I will.

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Looking back on my senior year of high school, I realize that there are numerous things I could have done in order for my transition to becoming a college student to have been smoother. The main problem for me was my dependence upon my mother. I remember there was a time when I did not feel comfortable with making a decision for myself unless my mother also agreed. When you get to college, most of the time your family will not be there to hold your hand through every situation and you are now in control over your future. I went from having my mother take care of everything to having everything put on my shoulders in the course of about two months. If I could go back, I would tell myself to take the initiative in learning all I need in order to pursue my major early, instead of my mother having all of the information I need, which led me to making wrong decisions early in my collge career. Being ignorant of the steps you need to take to pursue your goals is the worst thing a person can do in college.

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I know it can be extremely hard to pick a college. Never pick a college solely without thinking about it. Don't pick a college simply because they are the number one part school in the nation. Don't pick a college because it's far away from home. Don't pick college because the weather there is amazing. Don't pick a college there because apparently they have really attractive members of the opposite sex. Yes. All of these things may be important. But they should not be the determining factor to your college. You are going to college to get an education--something that will last with you for the rest of your life. So pick college that you love. Pick a college that offers you exactly what you want. And even if you don't know what you want, pick a college that can offer you the best "undecided" studies. Choose the college that offers you an awesome education from awesome professors at an affordable price. And if the parties, distance, weather, and attractive co-eds come along with it, that's the bonus.

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If I could tell myself one thing as a high school senior, it would be to take chances and try new things. Seize opportunities to have fun and learn. Do not be afraid to join a sport or organization, or afraid to meet new people. Almost everyone that I will meet on my floor is in the same situation as I am: it is also their first time living by themselves and they do not know very many people yet either. However, they are the people I will spend my next four years with, so I should not be shy or scared to meet them. But most importantly, do not allow the possibility of failure keep me from trying something; it is only failure if I do not learn from my mistakes. If I do poorly on a test, work harder and study better. No matter how distant my goal is, how many obstacles stand in the way or how many times I fall short, I cannot become discouraged. After all, like Thomas Edison said after finally succeeding to make the light bulb: ?I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.?

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College is the place where young adults become adults. The college environment is one of the most important factors when calculating the pros and cons of various institutions. The most important step in finding a college that is right for you is identifying what you want to get out of your college experience. Are you concerned with a College's academic or athletic prestige, or do you want to have a guaranteed job after graduation? Would you rather learn from the best, or learn from the best teachers? These questions are examples of the kinds of decisions you should make before you begin to look at colleges. When you have decided what it is you want from college, then you can begin to look for colleges which fulfill your criteria. When you get to college, the most important first steps are; adjusting to the college lifestyle, establishing a network of friends, and developing good study habits. If you do these three things by the end of your first semester you will be happy with your choice.

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No matter where you find yourself currently, or see yourself going in the future, any student has to be comfortable in the university environment that they choose to attend. Although it may seem irrational to disregard tuition costs, I would recommend using this criteria only as a last resort when evaluating a potential school choice. If you're able to find somewhere that fuels your passions in life, by all means seize that opportunity, no matter what obstacles you may see somewhere down ther road. Having this type of environment will only enhance a students ability to grow and develop into the profession that they wish to be, in whatever field they desire. Ultimately what it boils down to is finding a school that you know you can wake up every morning and be pumped to start your day whether it's raining, clear skies, or snowed a foot the night before. If you can find some place like this, I assure you you'll enjoy every bit of your college experience. I know I did. ON WISCONSIN!!!

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The most important piece of advice I could give anyone about finding the right college is to visit the college. All colleges promote their education and extra-curricular services (so pretty much all printed documentation will have basically the same information). Visiting the campus will give you a real taste of what campus life is like. Madison was the last college I planned on going to because of it's size, but after going to my cousin's graduation at Madison I knew I had to go there. Now, I couldn't see it any other way. As for making the most of your college experience, get involved! I am extremely active in our SWE organization and have made so many friends. We are also extremely active in the community, which allows me to have fun while helping out our community. I am also involved in other organizations such as IIE and NOBE. Every campus has a variety of organizations and opportunities to get involved; there is something for everyone. Just find something you like, and participate!

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Picking the right college to go to is one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever made. I chose to forgo a large scholarship to attend the University that I am currently an undergraduate at. I also chose to go out of state. I know that it seems strange, but there really is a feeling of "rightness" when I stepped on the campus for the first time. The biggest piece of advice that I can give is to keep your mind open. Don't worry too much about finances, and never give up on the school of your dreams. As far as making the most of the experience, make sure you get involved with at least a small group your first semester. Stay in the dorms for 2 years ( I know it sucks...but then you really know people well enough to say if you can live with them or not), and just because you now have a huge amount of freedom, don't let classes slip so you can have fun. In the long run, it really is about finding a balance between work and play and once you do you'll love being in college.

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Some advice that I would give myself back as a high school senior is to take more challenging classes before getting to college. I didn't take easy classes but some AP classes like AP Biology or AP Chemistry really good've helped me do better in some of my gen ed classes I am taking this year. I am taking Zoology 101 currently and it is very similar to AP Biology. If I would've taken the AP class, I would be doing better in Zoology 101 and would have a great backround knowledge of Biology, compared to me now having not taken Biology since 9th grade. Another thing I know now that I would advise to my senior in high school self is learn how to truly study. In high school, I was never forced to study a lot, or study very intensely. My parents would tell me I need to learn to study before I get to college but I didn't know what they meant. College classes take many, many hours in your dorm room or at the library studying just to pass. I had no idea what the rigor would be like at Madison.

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