Go with your gut instinct when it comes to choosing the school that is right for you; don't attend based on reputation, or anything intangible like that. Strongly consider the surrounding area, campus living environment, and things of this nature, which may seem to be minor at the time when you're looking more closely at academics. You will be surprised how these "little things" will actually impact your experience. Ask students who are NOT tour guides/affiliated with admissions about their opinions of the school; if you have the ability to, visit during times that are not official open-campuses/prospective student dates. Pick up and read STUDENT campus publications! They lend such an insight into the environment of the school. Finally, don't consider a major program as the determining factor in your decision to attend a university that you are otherwise luke-warm about--chances are you will change, and you want to be in a position where you can feel comfortable doing so!
If I was able to go back in time and give myself advice during my senior year in high school having the knowledge I have now as a college student, I would tell myself that studying is the most critical aspect in recieving a good grade. I would say that staying after class just for a few minuets to have the tecaher clarify any questions you may have will greatly improve your understanding of the subject. Your teacher is there as a resourse to help you, so utilize him/her. Your teachers want you to succeed, so do not be afraid to ask questions and recieve their help. Take organized notes during class so that they are understandable when you review them later on. Do not sit close to your friends beacuse they will distract you and cost you the knowledge of key concepts. By doing these things, you will be able to stay ontop in college and not fall short given the tough curriculum. Last, but not least, be yourself and enjoy the experience.
Be strategic in what classes you take, when you take them, and how you take them. Since no one stressed the above statement to me when I was a first year college student, my G.P.A. remains a poor reflection of my academic effort. Working hard is a fraction of the G.P.A. recipe. The other ingredients include the professor, the semester in which a student takes a course, his/her decision to take the class regular grading or pass/fail, and of course personal life issues. Had I been a wise incoming student, I would have gathered a variety of opinions on different professors, taken math and science courses pass/fail (considering that these are not my areas of strength), and probably arranged my schedule differently. I would not encourage myself to be obsessed with the G.P.A., but at the same time remind myself that despite any personal disagreement with the G.P.A. labelling system, it is something that will affect my future.
First off, be sure to visit any schools you're interested in - seeing the campus is invaluable. If possible, go during the school year to see what it's like when students are around, try and sit in on classes, and just make a day of it. That's the best way to see if a school is a good fit for you. The college experience is unique in that it's often the first time you're away from home and without rules, so it's easy to go a little crazy at first. Be sure to have fun and try new things you never thought you'd try - whether it's extra-curriculars, classes, foods, or anything! Take classes just because they sound cool - it's the last time you can do that. Try not to stress out about grades too much or you'll end up driving yourself nuts, especially at a hard, top-tier school. Make yourself available to do fun stuff with new people. Force yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time. And have fun!
Don't let your feelings get lost along the way. When I first visited Wellesley it felt right, and I really wanted to go there. But by the end of the process I had convinced myself to take a step back from that feeling, and consider the other options. I was really worried about college, and ended up picking a different school because I had friends and relatives who had gone there and so it seemed like less of a scary unknown. It ended up being completely the wrong school, and so I transferred to Wellesley. I wish I had made the decision based on my initial gut feeling that Wellesley was the right school so that I could have spent all four years there. As for making the most of the college experience - don't be afraid to try new things. Take classes in subjects you've never heard of, join new clubs, play new sports. This is the time to find out what else is out there beyond your previous experience.
When choosing a college, I think it's important to go beyond the typical. Most students don't think to look at small liberal arts colleges, favoring instead the large, prestigious universities. There is a school out there for each student, and not all students will thrive in the same environment. When you visit a school, see if the current students are the sorts of people you would be happy spending time with. Personal happiness is more important than prestige. Students should also, in my experience, really get to know and make use of their professors. The more you get to know your professors, the more they'll be able to help you with your academic and career goals. It's important to have adults you feel comfortable talking to on campus. Professors are truly an under-appreciated resource--try to take full advantage of everything they have to offer. After all, their job is to teach and help you.
What is important, first and above all else, is to be happy. Find a college at which you can imagine yourself happy and fulfilled, and when you get there, find something to be passionate about. Whether it is a class, a subject, a club, a sport, or whatever else, find something that you enjoy and that matters to you. Also, find friends. They don't have to have the same major as you or be in class with you; you just have to enjoy their company. You shouldn't feel guilty about relaxing in your dorm room, but remember to get out when you can! There are so many fun and amazing enrichment opportunities, and you will never be in an environment like that after college. Go to that cultural show, or concert, or football game, or student film screening. Go with friends, and you'll have fun. (And maybe you'll learn something - that's the point of college, right?)
Find the school that fits you and your learning style. Find a place where you will have a mutual relationship-the school will have things to offer you and you'll have things to offer it. Find a place that you will be happy at geographically. If you want to be in the city, go to the city. If it's not important to you if you're close to the hustle and bustle go to the country, and if it's nice to have but not necessary go inbetween. Find a school that has a strong program focused on your areas of interest. If you know what you want to do learn from the best whether that's pre-med or medieval studies. If you don't know what you want to do go to a strong liberal arts school and take courses about things you've never even thought about. Be open-minded and find a place where you can enjoy learning and becoming who you will be!
The advice I would give to myself for the transition into college would be to look more into scholarships that I am able to receive and qualify for. Research the College more in depth, rather than just going to a school because it was alway from home. Secondly, I would have been on top of my school work more so I woud have maintain a gpa greater than 3.75. In other words i would have been opened to more scholarships. Thirdly, I would have scheduled more more college visitation and visit with professors and department heads to understand what my school could offer me while matriculating through their program in the Natural Science and Mathematics Deparment. Finally, Ask myself want is it that I want to be and shadowed the fields of interests prior to freshmen year so that by sophmore year I could declare a major.
The advice I would give to someone searching for a college is to go visit the campus. You don't know where you belong until you get a feel for the atmosphere and for the people that you are going to spend the next four years of your life with. At the same time, once you arrive on campus, don't expect people to come to you and ask to be your friend like they used to in elementary school. You have to go out into the world and embrace new situations and new people. Remember those who shaped you in life, but know that there are millions of people in the world that can affect you in different ways, if only you would go out to meet them. Right now, you are infinite. You can be anything you want to be and you will find that people will welcome you for exactly who you are, no matter where you are. Be brave, go get 'em.