By Apsara Senaratne
For the vast majority of high school seniors, the last semester of high school is fraught with uncertainty. The months following college application season, the mention of which can render many a senior anxious and twitchy, have seemingly whizzed past, and seniors now await the final round of decisions.
For most college-bound students, the month of March brings letters notifying students of admission status, and many can feel that these letters of admission, or lack thereof, can entirely redefine their futures. Regardless of a senior’s college choice, however, making the most of the opportunities available during college will be more important than is the prestige or rank of the college a student attends.
“As a high school student, my perceptions about college were pretty narrow-minded. I was sort of convinced that if I didn’t attend a four-year university as a freshman, my life would be thrown off course. Now that I’m almost done with my first year of community college, I see college from a different perspective. I’ve had better experiences than I originally thought I would,” GHC Class of ’19 alumnus and College of the Canyons freshman Sarah Benson said.
While for some students, acceptance to a dream college is another step along a path to personal and career success, it is important to remember that rejection does not mean failure. Choosing a different college path than that which may have been expected by the student or his/her family and peers can still be equally satisfying and fruitful.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. I applied to a handful of in-state and a few out-of-state universities for a nursing degree. After receiving a multitude of acceptances and rejections, I was set on attending CSU Channel Islands. But my attendance to that university fell through and I made the last-minute decision to go to College of the Canyons. I was genuinely torn when I had to make this decision because I was so far along the process of becoming a freshman at Channel Islands. Life happened and I had to work with the opportunities I had at hand,” Benson said.
Just the thought of having to choose a college to commit to for the next four years of a student’s life can be extremely daunting and overwhelming. For many students, however, the idea of having to leave the relative comfort and safety of home and to embrace self-sufficiency can be just as terrifying, if not more so. However, thoroughly considering the benefits of each college and factoring in a student’s own desires, rather than solely relying on the advice of family or friends, and ensuring a degree of comfort in regards to college choice can help a student be better adjusted to changes ahead.
“I made the decision to attend Berkeley because I wanted to move away from home. When I started exploring the streets of San Francisco, I knew I had made the right choice. The environment was different from what I was used to in Los Angeles, and the culture was more prominent. Ultimately, I wanted to receive an education in an environment that I was excited about,” GHC Class of ’18 alumnus and University of California (UC) Berkeley sophomore Hanna Kim said.
Whether choosing a college based on location and culture or academic program, the student’s decision is a very personal one.
“I chose my university based on its academic program and the feel of the college town. I wanted to go somewhere different than the San Fernando Valley both culturally and geographically, and Columbia, Missouri was the perfect place for that,” GHC Class of ’18 alumnus and University of Missouri sophomore Ben Ramirez said.
Upon stepping foot on a college campus, it can be easy to be intimidated by such a new environment, as well as the variety of unfamiliar people and culture that accompany it, and it is perfectly normal to feel isolated or out of place upon first arriving.
However, it is important that incoming freshmen remember not to be afraid to take some time to acclimate to their new surroundings and to explore in order to more easily get their bearings on a new campus. Keeping an open mind and being willing to be involved in student organizations and events, engage in activities around campus, and take every opportunity given is key to maintaining a successful, balanced academic-social life, according to Kim.
The most common piece of advice from college students both current and former, however, is to be wary of procrastination.
“Something I wish I knew before I went to college is that you need to be really self-motivated. There are a lot of resources and opportunities in college, but it takes seeking them out to capitalize on them,” Ramirez said.
Thoroughly utilize all resources available on campus, whether that be taking full advantage of professors’ office hours or seeking out unique resources and in-house student help centers.
“I know procrastination is a silent disease among students because I myself still struggle with it, but if you can find certain study techniques and note-taking skills and can be committed to being diligent with the completion of your assignments, you’ll have a slightly easier time with the workloads. College students should also actively use campus resources such as tutoring services, the printing lab, and even the library. Don’t be afraid to check out the services your campus provides,” Benson said.
Though deciding upon which college to attend for the next four years and envisioning a future in unfamiliar territory, both educational and social, can seem nerve-wracking, it does not need to be discouraging but can be exciting.
“My one piece of advice to incoming college freshmen is that whatever decision you make, it’ll be the right one. That seems vague but it’s given me great peace of mind when I’m neck-deep in college chaos. You’re going to get where you’re going and you’ll be content with the way things have worked out for you, even if things didn’t go according to plan,” Benson said.