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University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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

Check out more than one college. Tour as many as you feel necessary. ASK QUESTIONS! Try to talk to a current student at the college. Go on-line to research the statistics of the college (graduation/retention rate, etc.). Apply early. Keep those grades up in high school starting as early as 9th grade. Work hard, be serious when you visit a campus. Maybe visit a couple of times depending on the time of year you visit. Parents should check out the various scholarship web sites. School counselors are valuable resources for scholarship/application information. Take your time filling out the applications (check for spelling, re-read what you've entered) and remember, if you get into a college and it turns out not to be the fit you thougt it would be you can always transfer to another college (maybe your second choice). No reason to stay in an environment that isn't comfortable, that could affect your learning and grades. I think a person can function much more easily and succesfully if they're secure in where they are attending school. Lastly, enjoy the journey. Visiting colleges can be a great experience. They all have their pros/cons.

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Having completed my freshman year of college, I wish that I could go back to senior year and give myself a few pieces of advice. First, I have always been an extremely hard working and dedicated student. This is something I am very proud of. However, I would recommend to myself to not stress. This is something much easier said than done. I am a perfectionist, therefore, I often stress easily over projects, finances, tests, and assignments. When other students study the night before, I start studying and preparing weeks before the assignment is actually due. This past year though I learned that it does not good to stress. Another piece of advice that I would give myself would be to not take “senior classes”, but rather intense courses that would prepare myself for the college load. Like most seniors, I chose to take a variety of courses that did not greatly challenge myself. I experienced the result of this during my first year of college. To all high school students, I recommend taking advantage of College Prep classes and not take one-minute for granted, all too soon High School will be over and you will enter real world.

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If I were able to go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior I would want to tell myself two important things that would influence my future life in college. The first and most important thing I would want to tell myself would be to be more active in clubs and community service as a college freshman. I believe that community service can be one of the most rewarding things about the college experience. Community service is important because it offers one the opportunity to give back to others and their community. Clubs can help you develop leadership skills as well as meet new and exciting people that you otherwise would have not met. There are tons of opportunities at UWRF to be involved with community service and clubs. The second thing I would want to tell myself would be to take classes in college that I wouldn't normally think would be interesting to me. By taking different classes outside of my comfort zone I am able to developing a diverse set of skills that opens up new experiences and opportunities that can ultimately lead to a more fulfilling and enriched life.

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As a high school senior, I had many questions about college life and how I would adjust. As I was packing up to start a whole new chapter in my life, I was excited yet full of anticipation. Looking back as a college sophomore, the one topic I wish I could have warned myself about is balance. I spent virtually my first two college semesters in my dorm room. While I desired to branch out and explore various extra-curricular activities, the pressure I placed on myself to obtain perfect grades hindered my social life. This year I have become more actively involved in bible studies, clubs, and volunteer opportunities. Despite venturing out of my dorm room and campus library, my grades did not suffer like I had feared. Learning how to manage your time is so important in order to get the most out of your college experience. I have learned that college is not just a means to an end. Instead of focusing on the degree at the end of the tunnel, it is vital to simply enjoy the ride. After all, not all life lessons can be learned from textbooks; people must go out and experience them.

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Make sure you know what you are looking for in a school and keep a list of the questions you know you want answered. Take a break. Take the responsibility onto yourself to get out and look into as many possible schools as you can. Take another break. Once the academic year hits, don't be afraid to meet new people. Make sure to act as strange as you normally do. There will be some who challenge your beliefs. Remember to stay humane while questioning their opinion and make sure you have evidence for your own. For sanities sake, take another break. Do your class work until you can explain it to someone without hesitating. Take a nap. Get involved with your school, if you don't like what there is to offer than start something new. College has one of the largest webs of potential opportunity per square foot there is. Take as much of it away with you as you can hold. Take another break. Remember to write things down including the date. Your friends will be important to stay sane, but how you juggle your free time will make the difference when tomorrow turns into yesterday.

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In order to find the right college is to first look for the major that you are interested in. When you find the colleges that your major is or think your major may be, then look for the estimated price per semester that it may cost. I chose to go to River Falls mainly because it had my major that I really wanted and the cost was very reasonable. There is no reason that anybody has to pay such an extreme amount to go to a college. The only reason anyone pays so much is just because of the name of the college. I get the same education from River Falls as I would at Madison. When you find the school that you believe is right for you then look at all of opprotunities that the school offers. Whether it be groups, fraternities/sororities, or extra curricular activities, you must find the school that will keep you interested not just because of your major but because of the friendships that you will build by interacting with other students and socializing with everyone. Above all, it must be a college that you believe you can have fun and become an individual.

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In high school, we are nervous about what college to pick and what to major in. We bite our nails over test scores and timidly wait by the mailbox for the letter that decides our fate. This is the traditional student ritual and it's imperative that we hear something new: it's NOT the biggest choice we will make in our lifetimes. Once you arrive on that campus, whether it is your first choice or your eleventh, you will find a place. If that place doesn't suit you, the next four years will not be the hell you pay for. Transfer! Transferring is more common than any high school counselor lets on. We make mistakes, college choices included. It can be fixed within a semester. Once you find your spot on campus, always keep in mind that friends will come. Even with a campus of 300, students manage to find friends. You are never alone--someone else out there feels just like you do. Go find them. Classes will be some of the most difficult encounters you will fight. But there's always help ranging from study groups to tutors. The trick? Apply yourself.

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Many of my high school peers wondered why I chose such a small college when my class rank, GPA, and standard test scores were high enough for acceptance to a more prestigious school. It was hard to explane, but I knew none of those schools would be the right school for me. Choosing a college is more then just choosing a degree, it is choosing your environment for the next several years. When looking at colleges, it is important to look at the size and feel of the city the school is in. Some people just do not do well in a big city while others do not do well in a small city. Besides city feel, Professor attitude is another very important aspect of a school. I chose my college because I knew that the class sizes were small, never taught by teaching assistants, and that the school tried to hire professors that were student focused rather than research focused, so I knew my professors would never be too busy to help me understand a concept. Although many people might not know of my school, I know I'm getting a good education, and am happy where I live.

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I think that if I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior, the greatest advice that I could give myself would be, "Don't be afraid to be yourself." The transition from high school to college is scary for countless students and one of the most common fears is not being accepted or not fitting in at the new school. High school was comfortable, I had lots of friends, and I knew all of my teachers. At college though, everything was new, different, unknown, and very intimidating! This fear of not being accepted in my new surroundings held me back from doing many things and getting involved on campus during my freshman year of college, and this is one of my biggest regrets. Once I opened up, started getting involved, and met new people, college became much more enjoyable for me! I didn't dread leaving my dorm room or my corner of the library anymore because I had friends I could hang out with who loved me for me. I realized I had no reason to fear being myself. This is the best advice that I could give to anyone starting college!

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One of my favorite quotations by Tom Landry (former coach of the Dallas Cowboys) is "today I gave everything I had and what I kept for myself I lost forever." This quotation reminds us that it is truly the things we do outside of ourselves that will make an impact on our world. Yet, when you are choosing a college you are choosing to invest in yourself, and this investment is what will allow you to give back to your world. It is important when choosing a college to choose one that is going to best equip you as an individual to give back to others in the the way that you want. I majored in Communications and minored in Spanish, now I realize that I want to return to graduate school for a degree in International Education Development. Through the process of figuring out how I wanted to give back, I figured out which college and program will be the best fit for me. So take a good look at your life up until now and ask yourself what you want to give, and that will help you figure out what you need to get from your college education.

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