Monday, June 22, 2009

Notes to a College Freshman

Alright, I realize that getting my undergrad doesn't make me automatically wise or important or even more well-off in this economy (bummer). However, I do believe that I have gleaned some important lessons from my experience and have been compelled to share them (mostly because they won't let my brain rest or go on to anything else until I get this into written format).

Financial Aid - While this may seem a fleeting, unimportant-in-the-long-run revelation, it is probably one of the things that I look back on and am most disappointed about. Lesson learned: Do all the legwork yourself (or at least hound people who are supposed to be helping you). I learned this lesson too late. When I finally caught on I was in my second to last semester of my senior year and received two scholarships... for the next year [the year after I graduate]. With the economy so rough right now and college becoming less of a rarity and more of a requirement, financial aid is an absolute must. And actually, now that I think about it, this is an important-in-the-long-run thing. Seriously, how many of us are going to be spending our hard-earned salaries for the next ten years or so paying off gargantuan student loans? (Oh and that's an extra mini-lesson: Don't go to college on loans if you can prevent it at all. I am dead serious here. I wish someone had really educated me or warned me about taking out loans before I went into my freshman year.)

GPA - Yes, we are raised in a society that tells us we are 'all #1' and that we are all created equally (while that is true there have been some discrepancies in the application of this.). Yes, we are told that 'doing your best' is sufficient. Here's a wake-up call: It's not. Seriously, GPA is big. I suppose growing up in environment where grades were neither stressed nor really even given was a deficit when it comes to realizing how important those four points are to your academic achievement. This did not hit me for quite some time. I made it through freshman, sophomore, and junior year before I realized that the grades I was getting would affect where I went in the future. This is especially important if you want to get into any graduate programs. While I am not 100% sure about other disciplines, I can speak for anthropology and say that the cut off for grad school is usually 3.2. So even if you have good reference letters, excellent community involvement, and an incredible writing sample, you'll be cut off because of GPA alone.

Work Ethic - Apparently I am not the person to ask about work ethic. I have a 'good one' in the sense that I get all my work done on time. However, I am an expert at 'working under pressure' and it is not always a good thing. So lesson learned: stop smelling the roses and put your nose back in the book or in front of the computer screen. You will have the rest of your life to experience the finer things. (This may only apply to me as I am one of those who is easily distracted, but I couldn't very well leave it out).

Diversity - I honestly can say that (aside from the fact that my degree is not offered at the private college I formerly attended) the diversity of the campus has been one of the best experiences for me. I did not have a lot of exposure to people of other cultures and religions before I came to UM-Flint and I am glad that I did not miss out on this great opportunity. America the Melting Pot always held such great meaning for me, but my experience with the Melting Pot had always been a homogenizing affect, boiling us down to basic ingredients in the same basic mold. There was no inter-mingling or fusion of cultures to my understanding before I came to Flint. While I realize that this was most likely not intentional by my other teachers in my early experiences, it was never truly experienced or emphasized before I started here.

Do you all have any lessons you would pass on to freshman (college or high school)? If so, let me know what you think in the comments. Interested to hear what you all have to say.
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