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Freshman year will provide so many fresh starts and new experiences. You will meet new friends, try new foods, and have new experiences. For some students, this fresh start will be the opportunity to find their tribe. You will be able to find people that have the same interest, dress the same, and have a similar philosophy on life. For others, this experience may prove to be challenging and may not come as easy as things did in high school. You will be amongst others that may have been homecoming royalty, valedictorians, or brightest. Although you have grown into your previous role as a high schooler, you might be out of your element and need some time to adjust.

One thing remains the same in both scenarios, you must be authentically you. Walk with confidence, hold on to your beliefs and ideals, and don’t change who you are. Being you is the only way you will find the people that “get” you, the interest that speak to you, and the path you are meant to be on. Below are a few tips to help you be authentically you in your first semester.

1. Have an open mind. There will no longer be parents, siblings, or childhood influences. This will give you the opportunity to try new things. Your parents did not like sushi, but guess what, it may be your new favorite thing. Your siblings did not enjoy your favorite show, but you know what, a new season is about to start. Have an open mind and try not to be swayed by anyone.
2. Try something new each week. Make a decision to challenge yourself by trying something new each week. It can be a new exercise, a new smoothie, or even a new book. The idea is to keep things fresh and to not get stuck doing the same things week after week.
3. Meet someone new. Make friends with someone in your residence hall, one of your classes, or in the dining hall. A simple smile, sitting with someone alone at a table, or inviting someone to sit with you is an easy way to open up and meet new faces.
4. Learn to be confident in saying no. There may come a time when you are encouraged to participate in activities that you do not have an interest in. Learn to say no, instead of being sucked in, going with the flow, or following the crowd. If something does not look right or feel right, know that you can walk away.
5. Do what you love. Find an activity, an organization, or a class that you love. You will find other that will accept and welcome you with open arms. Not sure what you love, go back to #2 and repeat until you find something you love.
6. Be prepared to talk about your experiences. Other people want to know how things are going an how things are going. Be ready to share, as some people will learn from you, may offer support, or even have resources for you.

Freshman year brings a lot of changes, because you are learning, growing, and nurturing who you are and hope to be. So, take each day one day at a time and have fun learning who you are and how to stay true to yourself as you navigate your new world. Being yourself is the best way to embrace your new environment.

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Throughout high school you have heard about college, but you may not have been exposed to college. As you begin or continue your quest to college, you will need to do some research, broaden your exposure, and find your college match. College can be compared to a pair of shoes. You may wear a size 7 in shoes, but not all size 7 shoes will fit you comfortably. College is similar; a university may offer your major, but it may not be a good fit for you.

With college price tags increasing each year, spending $20,000, $40,000, or $60,000 a year is a major investment. Before spending this type of money, consider if the university will give you all the things you desire and prepare you for life after college. Think about the things that are important to you and weigh the items you NEED in a university and the things you WANT in a university.

When considering a college to attend think about the following:
• Did your parents or another family member attend the school?
• Does the university offer the major and/or minor you would like to pursue?
• Are you interested in Greek Life? Does the university offer the organization you would like to join?
• What is the political climate on campus?
• What is the student demographic?
• What is the atmosphere on campus? Some schools thrive from the energy of students being and living on campus, while other campus are more commuter in nature.
• What are the housing options?
• Will you know anyone or have any connections on campus?
• What impact does athletics have on the university?
• Who are the faculty? What research are they doing?
• What is the average class size?
• How long will it take to complete your program?
• How close is the school to your home?
• Can you see yourself at the campus? Do you see people that look like you? Do they have things that interest you?

These are a few questions to get you started as you begin to work through the answers, you will find universities that you should consider. One of the best places to start your search is right at your school with your guidance counselor. Make an appointment to sit down and flush out your initial thoughts about colleges and majors. Your counselor may also have connections at universities, access to possible scholarship funding, and prompt you to consider somethings you have not previously considered.

Your research can be conducted by looking online, talking to current or previous students, and by visiting the university. You want to make sure you give this process adequate time as visiting universities can be time consuming and expensive if you are looking to attend school out of the state. Taking time to research university and finding the right university on your first attempt can save you money, extra coursework, and adjusting should you choose to transfer to a new university.

Although this is a major life decision that requires your attention and focus, it can be a fun process. You will be able to travel and visit schools, meet new people, and have a voice in making your college decision.

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You have been very patient up to this point.  You completed your application and submitted your completed packet to several universities of your choice.  You should have selected several options; at least 3-5 schools, to provide yourself with options. Waiting can be the hardest part, as each school has its own timeline and selection process.  With most things the decision that you are most anticipating will most likely be the last one to respond.    You should not feel discouraged and consider no news as good news.

As your decision letters begin to come in you should continue to reference the list or chart you made when determining which schools to submit your application. You will want to add to your decision list any information included in your admission letters.  You should take special note of your admission status, noting if you have full or conditional acceptance.  You will also want to note if any scholarship funding as been awarded.

Once you have heard back from all your options, compare your list.  You will want to consider all the items on your list (location, major, acceptance status, scholarship funding) and attempt to decide by May 1 or the deadline listed in the acceptance letter.  You will need confirm your attendance with the school of your choice, so they can prepare for your arrival, which includes orientation, housing, and classes. If you fail to respond by the requested deadline, you run a major risk of losing your space to another deserving student. 

Unfortunately, you will also need to prepare for some potential bad news.  You may have to cope with not receiving admission to your school of choice.  As you can imagine, schools receive thousands of applications each year.  They have a difficult decision to make from students of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences from all over the world.  Yes; the world!  Therefore, allowing admission to every applicant is simply not feasible.  As a precaution, you must prepare yourself for unfavorable news, should you not be admitted or if you receive a conditional acceptance. 

A conditional acceptance means you will be granted admission to the university, if you complete a set of requirements.  You may have to complete additional classes, provide proof of class completion, or successfully complete classes at a satellite campus before transferring to the main campus.  A conditional acceptance is not a denial and should not be viewed as one.  If that is your school of choice completing the conditions should be done as soon as possible to confirm your admission.

If you are not accepted at a university, take it as an opportunity to explore other options.  With many things in life, you will not always receive your first choice and instead you will continue the journey you were meant to travel. There are variety of reason why you may not have been accepted like not meeting the criteria, there not being enough room, an incomplete application, etc.  You should not concern yourself with why you were not accepted, just know you will be on the path and start the next chapter of your life journey. 

With any potential bad news, you may receive, you should have an alternative plan. So, consider your other school options, look at the benefits of trying a semester or year at a community college, volunteer, take classes over where your grades were not as favorable.  Look at what the other schools offer, because more scholarship funding from your second or third choice, leaving you to reconfigure your top school of choice. 

Deciding on your school is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Weigh your options, talk it over with your support system, and make the best decision for your situation.  Take comfort in knowing that your decision may change several times throughout the process and your top choice may change several times and where you end may not be where you started. Enjoy the process and may you have a happy and joyous acceptance process.