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University of Wisconsin-Madison

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

Basically, it's difficult. You can never know for sure whether you're making the right decision until you take that first step. But because of that, and in light of my experiences at UW-Madison, you cannot to be scared of making mistakes. As time goes on you realize that everyone makes the same embarrasing mistakes as you will, or perhaps already have, so there is nothing to be afraid of in the first place. Many incoming students expend alot of energy stressing about grades, but it is not the letter that defines you, it's how much you've learned while here - and social experiences are part of that learning experience. The more you relax the more you realize that having fun with your friends, both in and out of class, is where the true learning takes place. No matter where you go or what you do, you will always find shoulders to lean on, some even for life, so don't be afraid of taking that leap of faith, don't put too much emphasis on money, and most importantly, follow your heart - do that and you've already accomplished more than the average college junior.

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Knowing what I know about college life and the transition required to adjust there are a lot of things I would go back and advise my high school self. First off, college life is full of the stereotypes that are shoved into our minds through the media, teachers, and parents throughout the yeras. However, I would advise myself to branch out and not conform to one stereotype. When confined into one stereotype it is difficult to branch out and experience the full campus life. Second, I would advise myself to get a good start in academic responsiblities. College is full of distractions and its easy to get caught up in them right away. My high school doesn't prepare you for the work load that comes with college, so therefore I would advise myself to stay on top of reading and be self-motivated in studies for all of my classes. Finally, I would advise my high school self to keep an open mind. I grew up as a pretty sheltered child, so I would advise myself once in college to try new things and don't be afraid or hesitant when presented with new opportunities.

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Dear High School Self, I know that you are anxious about whether or not you made the right decision for your future. You are boldly stepping out into the world, just three days after graduating high school and it is okay to be fearful. There is a grand possibility that life will not go the way that you envisioned throughout your younger days and I am here to tell you that is perfectly fine. Rather than fearing what will not go your way, focus on the things that are going well and the people that are beneficial to your daily life. Work hard when you have to and soak up the time that you have to relax. Do not create busy work for yourself; do things that you really want to. Enjoy yourself and live each moment to the fullest, even if that moment includes a nap. Make time for your family throughout your college years and focus on setting good habits; this time can be greatly beneficial to your future. Love boldly. Live for others. Take criticism in stride and never forget the importance of play and fun in life. You will be fantastic. Frankie Lynn Larson

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It is hard for any first time college student to be completely prepared for one of life's hardest and most abrupt transitions. If I could go back in time to when I was a high school senior and give myself some advice, one valuable lesson I would include is finding the balance between working hard in school and having a fun social life. As a student, the most important thing to remember is that you are attending college to get a degree, and your education should always come first. However, there are a lot of distractions that can get in the way of studying or attending classes. It is exciting to be on a campus full of students your own age and meet thousands of new people from all walks of life. Because of this, at any time of day there are new activities to try and new people to meet. It is important to remember that school work takes precedence over all other activities and if you need to forgo a basketball game for a night of studying, it is a necessary choice. Balancing school with fun will make any college experience successful and rewarding.

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My advice to students about picking the right college is this: pick for yourself. Do not pick a college based on what friends and family say. Research what you enjoy: extra curriculars, programs, sports, hobbies, or location- big city or little town. College shapes and defines who you are for the rest of your life. Pick a college that you believe is how you want to represent yourself to the world. You need to be confident and open-minded about your choice. Find a college that challenges you, inspires you, motivates you, and caters to you, when you put in the initiative. And once you find a college, be confident. The first year or two are a transition. It will be hard, it will break you, it will push you to your limits. That is how it defines you. For parents, let your child go. Support them, within means, in their decisions so they know they are not alone. Don't limit them. This is their turn to take on the world and they will need your help and wisdom. Don't let them down, but also don't let them take advantage of your support. The time has come.

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Parents need to be involved. My parents told me I didn't have a choice about going to college...which was fine with me because I was planning on going anyway. However, when it came to choosing the college I wanted to attend - my parents were no where to be found. Chosing a school is a hard and very time consuming decision. It wasn't until I actually came to college did I realize the tremendous amounts of school options in this country. I am not particularily happy with the decision I made, but I don't want to transfer. I know if my parents would have been more involved in my decision making process, such as attending tours with me and helping me reasearch or make a pro and con list of each school, I would be much happier. They know me more than anyone else and know my personal needs. Attending college has been difficult for me due to combined health issues and financial issues. If my parents had helped me in my decision, I know they would have pointed out some very important downfalls of the universities I chose. So, students ...ask for help.

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Out of my college experience, I have gotten many things that will benefit me through out my life. To name just a few, I learned that my view of things were different from other people's point of views. Entering a prodominately White college from a prodominately Black high school, my view was only based on where I came from, so I had to learn to be submissive and passive to other people and how they view different things. I had to begin listening and learning from others before I opened my mouth and said what I thought and how I viewed it. I also learned how to be independent and make independent decisions that was vital to my college experience and my life. College has been valuable to attend because it gives you a chance to learn how to prioritize and take care of your business. It also gives you the prespective of how the real world will be after college. while in college, it's slight different because you focus more on yourself than others most of the time, however, when entering into the real world, it's about how well you work well with others.

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To be a successful student, you need an open heart, determination, and focus. You must seek out help when necessary to remain successful in the classroom, as well as to enhance your relationship with your professors and peers. Attending office hours for extra helps shows dedication to the course and will only cement the material into your brain. It is not a sign of weakness or defeat, so do not consider it as such. Get involved in something that is meaningful to your future and heart. Show your passion for your field of interest by pursuing volunteer opportunities or obtaining a job in health care or a pharmacy. Engage in clubs that are gauged towards future health care professionals to show your commitment to the profession. Above all, stay close to your friends and family for support. There are going to be tough times where you need to call on your loved ones to help you pull through. Whatever the obstacle, it will pass and make you a stronger, more aware woman who is capable of conquering anything in her way to pursue her passion for pharmacy.

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Finding the right college is both and exciting and stressful process. As a student who has been through that process I would recommend exploring options both close to home and far from it. College is an adventure and students have the option to either go with what is most familiar and comfortable or break away and really get out into the world to experience something new. That's why I believe it is important to explore all kinds of schools, big and small, close and far, in order to determine what kind of college experience each student would like to have. No matter what kind of school a student looks at it is important to visit and meet with counselors in order to determine if it is a good fit. To make the most of a new college experience it's a good idea to live in the dorms, this is a perfect way to make new friends, friends who will be with you most of the rest of your college years. It is important to find activites on campus to be involved in that fit interests in order to make lifelong friends. Just always remember, college is an adventure.

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The best advice for choosing a college and the college experience is to know what you're looking for, and know what you're getting yourself into before you go in. Visit the campuses, make sure it's a place that the student would enjoy living. Talk to the students, see how they are enjoying life on campus. A student should never go to a school where the classes are too easy for them. This often results in negligence, boredom, and getting into more trouble than they should. Make sure that the class difficulty isn't too hard for the student, but don't go to an easy school just for an easy degree. It's not worth it. Know what kind of activities the student wants to get involved in. Do they offer such them at the school? Not everyone is in clubs, so maybe it's an irrelevant question, but this is definitely something to bring up when on a campus tour, or talking to current students. Ask them how involved students are on campus, and if it blends with your students' interests. Know what you want, and what you're getting yourself into. Then you're fine.

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