Well this is a different kind of posting, but one that I feel is very, very important. Maybe you'd like to pass this long to people--parents, students, your kids...whomever you think might find this helpful. I really hope you share it :)
I want to share with you a few words of advice, if you will, things I wish I had known before/during/ at some point in my journey to graduating, but that many times I had to learn the hard way, but nevertheless I reached my primary goal, yay!
Let's briefly start from the beginning: HIGH SCHOOL.
Lemme give you the rundown, to everyone who is reading this blog from overseas ("hi :)"). Some American public/private high schools can be exactly how you see them in movies or on TV, that's right down from Mean Girls to Glee to Gossip Girl. But essentially everyone, doesn't matter where you go to school has one thing (ok, maybe among others--lol) in mind graduation and college. It's a very common goal. But how do you prepare? Simple, but first take a deep breath.
High School Senior: Things to prepare for college journey
Most college preparation begins late sophmore year, and of course junior year, but let's be honest the REAL crackdown doesn't start until senior year and that is okay, you just have to work swiftly and smart.
1. Make a list of colleges you may be interested in, on this list add what attracts you to this certain school. Maybe it's that it's got a really good art program, or engineering program, or whatever it is list it. Also be sure to add to your list any deadlines or application requirements such as: some schools prefer online applications, others do not, some prefer that you send 2 letters of recommendations others is 3. Add all of this information to your list, make an excel sheet or a table on word it will help you a lot. To this list add whether it is a private university or a state university, is it out of state list that too, and the tuition.
(All of the things you add to your list will help you in making a well-rounded decision. This works even if you think you're an indecisive person.)
2. If you haven't already taken these tests find out what dates are available to take the SAT and ACT.
(These two exams are a must for most colleges and setting a definite date of when you can take them is definitely better than waiting around to 'find' time to study AND then figuring out when you will take them because by then it may be too late, as in behind a school's deadline. Also set a time AND place you will be dedicating to study for these tests.)
3. Find out about as many scholarships as you can and apply for all the ones you qualify. You might want to do this during the summer before senior year. Be mindful of some of the requirements for certain scholarships, some often ask for letters of recommendation. Take a look at the paperwork you will need for the FAFSA if you need to and fill it out on time.Check out these venues first before you or your parents sign an arm and a leg for a large loan.
(The sooner you apply for the FAFSA the more chances there are you will receive a larger grant.)
4. Letters of recommendation: Pick the people that know you best. Sometimes colleges ask for a letter specifically from certain teachers like math or science, and one from another person that knows you well. If they are not specific, and you are a mathlete and rock the sciences go for it ask one of those teachers. Do not hesitate because 'oh they're already writing too many rec.letters 'so' pretend you don't know that. However, be conscious of their time and your time as well, tell them ahead of time, well ahead of time. That way they can prepare and you don't have to worry about the letter making it to its destination on time.
(BUT, if you are one of the lucky few that know what they want to do and are going to a certain university like an art school, or you are applying to an English/Literature program get recommendations from those specific teachers.)
5. Be realistic. Can you really afford to move from say Texas to Hawaii? Can you really afford to move even to a college town just outside of the city? Ask yourself these questions because they will help you determine what's the best route to take. Consider living at home and attending a community college for the first year or two, where you can take the basic courses at much lower tuition. Then determine your transferring plans.
(Take deep breaths and steps to figure it out. Everything will turn out just fine.)
College Student: Things to consider once at university
1. It's totally cool to not know your major freshman year. But you know what's not cool not knowing by your second semester of sophmore year. You know what's helpful: making a list (and suddenly I feel like one of my dear friends who makes lists of lists all the time, but they're helpful) of all the things that you like/ that you find interesting. Making a list of the things you enjoy can help guide you into something you might be willing to focus on to be your major.
(Freshman year is for getting back in the groove of studying, not taking as many exams, so be sure to study, and read a lot. It's a good year to figure out the mechanics of college and college life.)
2. Dedicate a time and place each day where you will study. I don't know about you, but I can't concentrate in a place that's too quiet. Figure out what works for you, and stick to it. Be sure to bring all the necessities like: your homework or assigned reading, print ahead of time, computer, charger for both computer and your cell phone, lunch/dinner, snacks, a bottle of water, keys. If you can't dedicate at least 2-3 hours daily, work around your schedule, set everything down on a piece of paper to see clearly where you can make time to do your school work. Buy a planner and write down your exam dates, project due dates, important lectures, and all activities. Planner's are great to keep track of all of your events and activities.
(A structured routine of studying that's set early makes it so much easier to manage later on. It also allows you to actually make plans to go to birthday parties, dinners, seeing a movie, having a job, joining a club, etc.)
3. Don't have a major in mind? Don't panic, it's okay and common. But don't get too comfortable not knowing. Like I said in #1 make a list, setting apart things you enjoy doing, or are really good at doing, or your interests can guide you. Be sure to add classes you've found interesting, topics you would like to learn more about. And then determine the professions that would go with the things you've listed for example my list would sound something like this: psychology classes, listening, talking, people, learning about child development, teaching, arts and crafts, kids, child care, writing, helping people, learning about wellness. I found that I really enjoyed psychology, so I looked into it and made it my major, found that I really enjoyed being part this preschool program at school and learned a lot from my little friends who were 4-5 years old and decided to take on a second major child learning and development. Kids are amazing at that age, their understanding of certain things is so simple it reminded me everyday that it's okay to be bold (some kids were bold), that it's okay to be scared, and it's okay to smile even when you've had a tough day. :)
(Making a list is important, you'll be able to clearly see the ideas that are bouncing around in your head in a more concrete way.)
4. Join a club that interest you, or an honor society that you can be involved in. But be careful not to join too many because sometimes your responsibilities to the club may get in-between your time you have set to study, go to class, or time you've set for yourself. Usually 1 or 2 is okay, anything else is one too many.
(You can put these on your resume, if they're awesome and not inappropriate!)
5. Sign up to receive the school news, read the student paper, and attend any lectures that are offered. It's ultimately important, trust me. Check with your college's career center, or student center if they offer seminars on topics like : how to write a resume, job interviewing, and internships. Check your department's web page or keep an eye out for flyers announcing lectures by professors you've had. And if they do, reach out to them, let them know you will be attending or talk to them after their lecture. Don't be shy, you've been their student.
(You can really get off to a good start by doing attending seminars, workshops, lectures. You have to keep yourself informed and current with the faculty, who knows they may end up writing your recommendation letter to a certain scholarship, program, or graduate school.)
6. Make friends, talk to people in your classes, exchange emails or cell numbers (at your discretion of course) who knows maybe one day you won't make it to class and you need those notes. Make a study group, meet in a public or on-campus place to make it easier and safe for everyone (some people may not drive or have a car). Find out what classes are good electives, or which professors are great to take. Find out if students get a discount at certain restaurants or other places. Find out which places have great food or which dishes to avoid.
(Network and socialize. The best of friends come from study groups, library buddies---people who have the same academic goals in mind (even if they're of a different major))
7. Safety first: Don't have a car? Carpool with a trusted friend or trusted group of friends to go grocery shopping, if you live on-campus. Always carry a flashlight in your purse. Be mindful of any emergency phones in parking lots, libraries or walkways, near the residence halls or school apartments. Always travel to places with a trusted friend or someone else, preferably a girl if you're a girl or both girl and guy that you know. Also be aware of any isolated places or poorly lit walkways, hallways, buildings, and parking lots. Also if you're college offers a text system where they'll let you know by text if there's an emergency happening at school sign up for it, these can come in handy for God forbid those types of emergencies, but also for school closings due to weather, or classes being cancelled for electricity outages.
(Read the school paper for any incidents that may have happened at school or around school that you should be aware of.)
8. Don't be afraid to apply to be a teacher's assistant (TA), or a research assistant (RA). Look at what programs, or opportunities are open to you for your major and go for it. You won't know until you try! :) There may be certain things you may have to be involved in or have had experience in for a certain job, career, even graduate or medical school. Find out what is out there, reach out to the people who may know of these opportunities like professors, the student center, the career center, and other students. Ask questions, email a certain professor that teaches a class you are interested in and are very focused in possibly being more involved, ask them for advice.
(Take the initiative, and try it!)
9. Please, be sure to visit your academic adviser to talk about your degree plan. This is important even if you haven't declared a major yet. You want to get down on paper and see it (even get a copy) of what classes you'll need to take, when you'll need to take them, who teaches what on certain semesters, that kinda thing. Also it will help you plan for summers such as whether or not you'll have to take classes over the summer and if you do, where can you take them. Double check with them, don't always go to one adviser because she or he could be the one to make a mistake that could cost you another semester at the university, so check with other advisers.
(Make sure to make appointments or go in to see an adviser well ahead of time, there may be certain times of the year when they get too busy.)
10. Make time to do the things you enjoy. Whether it's baking, watching your favorite show, hanging out with friends, make that time.
I really hope this helps and remember bake a little, dance a little and take it easy :)