Above all, my college experience has expanded my horizons. I have learned so much from the college experience, even outside of the classroom. College has allowed me to explore an area entirely different from where I grew up, begin the process of living on my own, and meet the best friends I've ever known. These experiences might not be unique to my school. Yet attending Wheaton has allowed me to be a part of a strong, faith-based community. I love living in a place where I rarely encounter violence, drinking, or even profanity. Even the neverending snow has its benefits: I have certainly learned patience in waiting for spring. Wheaton has taught me more than I ever thought I did not know. It certainly is the right place for me.
Well, to start, don't panic. College is a challenge, but it's also do-able. The best way to do well is to organize your time. This way you aren't overwhelmed when the projects start rolling in at once. Along with this new sense of calm, meet new people and try to make friends right away. It's always good to have a support system at home, but it's nice to have someone at hand to talk to if need be. Another thing, STUDY. Don't go into this thinking that it's just a high school you live at. It's not. Teahcers really do expect you to have the assignments entirely done and on time. Crazy right? Well believe it, kid. Oh, and one more thing, have fun. It's true when people say that some of your best memories will be made in college.
Apply anywhere you think you might want to go, and if you are put on a waiting list for your first choice, don't lose hope. A lot of people change their minds, which can open up spots for you. If you have always wanted to go to a school, but you are nervous about it now, just go there. You can always transfer, and if you don't go, you will always wish you had. Remember, you can find your niche almost anywhere, so if a couple schools don't seem vastly different at first, they're probably not. Know what is the most important to you in a school, and look for that in the colleges you apply to. Every school will have its faults, so the key is in knowing which ones you can live with and which ones you can't.
When visiting a college on designated visitor weekends, I have seen first hand that it is not the most realistic experience you could have. If I could do it over again, I would come on a non-visitor designated weekend and sit and observe the student union, classes, etc. Stop a student and ask them questions. Most students love talking about their school. I had a few parents stop me and ask me questions. Once you find your college, make the most out of it by sitting back the first semester and soaking in the required stuff. Then observe which activities people enjoyed, and which ones were overwhelming. Pick which activities you will be involved in and be committed to them. Study hard, and play hard.
Spend a fair amount of time thinking about which dorm to live in as a freshmen. Many people frequently flock to the newest or most accomodating hall, typically the largest hall, ending up with a variety of people living in a small space which may not fit your personality. Many schools have multiple options, so spend some time discussing what you honestly perceive to be your approach to meeting new people. Some people do well in the large halls, but others need a smaller pool to get to know a bit better than trying to meet new people on a daily basis. Don't be afraid to forgo the personal bathroom for a floor bathroom if it means you're more likely to get out there & make friends.
I would tell myself to take as many college classes as I could in high school to further up the college process. Not only does it count as college credit, but it also counts for high school credits to graduate. I would also tell myself to not stress out about the whole college experience. It is a little scary in the beginning, but you get the hang of things pretty quickly and it isn't worth all the worry that people sometimes have. I would tell myself to set goals and have dreams and to reach for the sky until you reach those goals and dreams. You are the only one that holds yourself back or pushes yourself forward so you might as well make it count and reach for the stars!
I would say remember that college is about the over-all EXPERIENCE, in terms of life skills. You learn to interact with people and make friends and network and learn discipline. If you focus on the school/grades aspect, you might get overwhelmed. But you should remember that college is so much more than the classes. It is a precious time in life where you are around the greatest number of people your own age than ever before/again. Do not take this for granted, and what you put into college, you will get out of it. Enjoy the social aspect, but don't put too much emphasis on it. Remember that being able to attend college is a great privilege.
It is extremely important that both parents and students visit the college and get to know some of the students possible soon-to-be peers. In doing so, the parents will be comported knowing that their child has a place to fit in upon starting college. For the student, it allows him to have friends already, so that he doesn't have to worry about making them while also learning to balance classes and social life and adjusting to living in a dorm away from home. Additionally, by spending an extended period of time with students of the college, the student is able to get a less contrived picture of what the college is really like.
The child needs to seriously think about what they want out of their college experience. They need to thoroughly research a wide variety of colleges and look at many different aspects of the college. Also, students should not choose a college solely based on academia or on their perceived potential career path. Parents should help their students research but should leave the ultimate decision up to their students. In order for students to make the most of their experience they need to get involved in things they care about and they need to develop a strong social network of people they care about and can be real with.
I would tell myself to focus more on the end benefits of the college in question. During the process of applications and campus visits when I was a senior, I focused too much on where I was right now, and what would fit me as an 18 year old kid. If I could go back, I would look deeper and try to figure out where I saw myself 5 years down the road. I am convinced that I made the correct decision in attending Wheaton College. However, I went into it with reckless abandon. Assuming I could go back in time I would be more careful in my decision making, keeping my future in mind.