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University of Wisconsin-Madison

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

Often when a former college freshman comes upon an incoming freshman, their first reaction is to tell that person something they wish they had known before they chose or entered a college. For choosing a college, I would suggest writing down certain criteria that are necessary and then eliminating the universities that don't meet that criteria. Nothing is more important in choosing what college to go to than a person's own personal preferences. It is essential to remember however, that some criteria may not be as important as one might think. Thus, if a college is perfect in every way except one, it could still be the right school. Once the school has been chosen and the freshman has arrived, it is important to not only be as friendly to those in the same dorm (since they are the people most likely to become your friends), but also to become as involved as possible in as many different clubs or activites as possible. At first, this is a great idea, especially before the homework load has really begun. Later on, however, I would cut out the activites that are not as enjoyable to lower one's workload.

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To parents: Instill core values into your children as the progressive, liberal values of the campus/environment have a lot of sway on impressionable minds. To students: there is more to the college experience than drinking and partying such as getting involved in student/campus affairs, using professors and teaching assistants despite large class sizes (most are afraid to use this valuable resource and professors/TAs end up twiddling their thumbs during office hours as very few students make use of them), and surrounding yourself with people you'd like to model (e.g. people in your same major, entrepreneurially minded people, socially and environmentally responsible people, those with a shared vision, etc.). Above all else, become proactive in all areas of interest to you and even those that are not to challenge the status-quo work in collaboration with others to impact fellow students, campus, and community at large. By doing this, you will have experienced the Wisconsin Experience - the idea that together, we create and apply learning inside and outside the classroom to make the world a better place.

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Relax about college. It will be a difficult journey, but plenty of people can help you along the way: advisors to get you on the right track to getting a degree; teachers, teachers aids, free tutors, and other students to help whenever you are in a bind and cannot understand something; and counselors to aid you through a personal crisis. You will meet very talented individuals from around the globe each with amazing stories and backgrounds. - just talk to them and you will learn more than you could ever imagine. As for paying for college, make sure to talk to your advisor and check online. Also, do not be afraid to ask people for help regardless if you just need help making a resume, writing a scholarship essay, or need help choosing what classes to stay away from. Trust me, it will save you a lot of headaches and missed opportunities. Lastly, remember college is not all about the academics, there are tons of amazing activities you can join and even more friends you can make in the process. In the long run, getting involved will definitely help when it comes to getting jobs or furthering your education.

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Choosing the right college is one of the biggest decisions you may have had to make so far. Other people may influence the decision, but ultimately, it is your decision, that will impact you in the most direct way. Having recently graduated, I look back on four amazing years of my life. I formed friends I will never forget, passions I never knew existed within me, and the person I am and want to become. In order to fully benefit from your college experience, I would first recommend visiting the college. University of Wisconsin-Madison was my last choice until I went on a college visit and fell in love with the campus, the people, and the opportunities available. Can you see yourself as one of the tour guides, or a student in one of the lectures, or a person studying in the libraries? Invest as much time as possible finding out what kind of options the shcool can provide because if you change your major path, or career aspirations, you will want the tools to form a new path. And finally . . . when picking the college for you, find one aspect of that school that excites you beyond any other.

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If I could meet myself as a high school senior with my current knowledge, I would offer the advice to abandon social networking sites and be a more accountable friend. Thinking back on my life and how much time I have needlessly spent on the internet chatting, updating Facebook, and playing silly games, I am quite embarrassed. I could have spent much more time with friends building real relationships. I think hanging out with friends is more fun then online chatting anyway and helps maintain social interaction skills that are so often set on the back burner in the age of the "txt". I see the onset of cellular phones coincide with the abandonment of friendship accountability. It is too easy to change plans on the fly just because you recieved a text about another event. RSVPing has no use anymore since Facebook has a "maybe" button. This advice boils down to people should be more courteous: Your friends can depend on you, and in turn, you can depend on your friends. I think this advice can improve your life in college and the lives of your friends and is the best life advice I can give to students.

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At the University of Wisconsin, I discovered who I am. The amount of personal growth I experienced as an undergraduate profoundly changed my identity. When I transferred to UW-Madison as a sophomore, I simply hoped that I would begin to enjoy more academic and social freedom than I had at the small, Catholic college I’d attended my freshman year. Instead, I found my life’s direction. My diverse academic classes pointed me on a path of discovery that introduced me to professors who would become my mentors and to peers from whom I gained inspiration, knowledge and lifelong friendships. My journey even led me to study abroad in Cairo, Egypt, an experience that has forever reshaped my perspective on the world and life itself. Perhaps most importantly, as an undergraduate student I met the man who would become the love of my life. My years as a UW-Madison student taught me to seek out those moments that can change a life. When I started college, I needed to learn how to step forward and take ownership of my life. UW-Madison showed me the way, and that is a lesson for which I am forever grateful.

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The most important information that should be given to students leaving high school and entering college, is that the lifestyle is radically different. You enter an extremely different atmosphere that centers around you making all of your own decisions and figuring out your own life. Finances can be very difficult, so remember that too. There is a very large emphesis on making you responsible to attend class, know the material, and receive good grades. Many students aren't held responsible for similar things in high school, and that is much different in college. The caliber of learning and tests are exponentially higher, and you must really make an effort to push yourself to do well and stay on top of everything. I know that I didn't really try in high school, and entering college was a huge wake-up call. Because you are on top of your own lifestyle, it because extremely easy (and temptating) to just slack off to lounge and enjoy your life. College can be an truly helpful and unforgettably amazing experience, but it has to be done right. So remember to enjoy your time, but know that it's not free.

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I would recommend that parents and students seriously look into how they are going to be funding their college education. If their children are going to be paying for their own schooling they should be ready for the knowledge that they will still need to get their parents tax information in order to qualify for Financial Aid. If they do not plan on giving this information to their children to apply for financial aid the students should be aware that there are resources available to them for help with aid and other resources to help them secure money to pay for school without parent aid. I also recommend that both parents and students tour the campuses and ask a lot of questions to their tour guides such as how long it takes to get to classes and ask questions about classroom size averages. If you know what your major might be, make sure to look up that department before you go to tour campus and then while on campus tour the building as well as possible to ensure knowlege of how to get around the building. (some buildings can be very difficult to find classrooms based on the classroom number).

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Dump that guy, save your money (do not buy that ridiculously expensive phone), be prepared to work harder than you ever thought, train yourself not to sleep, request a roommate change, and make friends immediately. This advice may seem random and unhelpful, but it all has relevance. The guy I was dating withdrew me from getting my full freshmen experience and we ended up breaking up; I finally learned that sometimes it is better to put yourself first. Secondly, I am putting myself through college and it is a constant struggle. I wish I would have been smarter about saving my money. The sleeping and hard work may seem obvious, but since things came relatively easy for me in high school I was not prepared for college. It was a slap in the face, but it made me stronger. As for my freshman roommate, she taught me about myself, but caused me unneeded stress. I should have listened to myself and gotten out of that situation when I had the chance. Lastly, the friends you make within your first month of college will be some of the people you are closest with for the rest of your college career.

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After having graduated with an undergraduate degree, I feel that I have a very well-rounded idea of the most important things one must look for when choosing a college. There are many important issues that students face that must not be overlooked. Here are my words of advice for students looking to make the most out of their college experience. 1. Is the college you're choosing going to be financially within your reach? Be sure that you're choosing a college because of its merit, not because it is private or "everyone is going there." Student loan debt becomes very real post-graduation, and jobs may be hard to come by. 2. What are your main interests? Choose a school that accommodates the values you most appreciate. While college is about growth, it also is about learning who you really are. If you love people and sports, a large State school is a great fit. If you love small classes and tight-knit communitites, look at smaller schools. 3. Go to class!!! You're paying a lot of money for a degree that will hopefully make you more. Don't waste your time and money in the process.

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