In this post, I wanted to do some reflecting and share some wisdom I have gained since coming to college… And I know, I know, what wisdom can a 20-year-old have? Well, going to college is like speed reading a “Discover Who You Really Are for Dummies” book where half the chapters are missing and even when you follow the book exactly, things still don’t always go as planned. After two years and three semesters, I feel like a pro. But watch, tomorrow I will accidentally go to the wrong room or pull a complete amateur move because let’s be real, even the wisest people aren’t that wise during an 8 am class.
Now, while I’m still getting the hang of this whole college thing, I can confidently give advice on things I wish I could tell my senior-self. This idea came when I was applying for internships – I know, scary – and needed my high school transcript. When I went to pull up my old high school’s website, I saw a new “alumni” tab. And that’s when it hit me… I’m an alum! Working in the Office of Development for Embry-Riddle, I always knew I wanted to give back when I became an alum of the university. It had never occurred to me I was already an alum, but of my high school! Long story short, I began to reflect on my high school days and realized I thought I knew it all but boy was I wrong!
To begin, I was a good high school student. It’s not like I ditched class and I’m reflecting on how that was a bad idea. I had a GPA above a 4.0, took college classes, was the president of the National Honor Society and DECA, volunteered, and played a sport. Meanwhile, I worked two jobs and flew at the local airport. Life was busy but very fun. I always knew I wanted to go to Embry-Riddle. It had been my dream school since the 7th grade and my school counselor didn’t even try convincing me otherwise. Sounds like a pretty good time, right? It was! But, there are still things I wish I would have done or known and here they are:
- Take as many AP and dual-enrollment classes as possible: When you are paying thousands of dollars to learn basic biology, you will understand what I mean. College, especially ours, has so many interesting courses so try to knock out as many of the basic ones in high school.
- Do an internship: My high school offered an internship program and I really wish I had done it! Once you begin applying for internships, you realize that companies want experience and high school is a great time to begin.
- Find a mentor: Mentors are super important and I wish I saw this in high school. Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities. My sister’s friend’s mom (convoluted I know, sorry!) went to Embry-Riddle and works for Frontier now! It was nice to have her introduce me to people, write letters of recommendations, invite me to the Women in Aviation Conference as a senior in high school, and then be a great name to drop as an “in” when I attend Frontier events.
- Apply for scholarships: You’ve heard it a million times and I’m sorry but… It’s so important to apply, even when you are in college. Since many scholarships have similar essay topics, keep a folder with your essays and use those to quickly write more for other scholarships. Free money is free money and definitely worth 30 minutes of your time. My advice to high schoolers – look local. Even in my tiny town of Castle Rock, Colorado we had many scholarships being handed out by the local library and community organizations.
- Tour your top three: As I mentioned, I knew I wanted to attend Embry-Riddle since 7th grade, so anytime I toured another school, I fell more in love with our unique university. The line was always, “But Riddle has…” If you are unsure where to go, choose your top three schools to tour. Touring a university gives you a great understanding of what your life would be like there. Try to see if you can sit in on a class or if you are touring Embry-Riddle – a flight! Just like you would test drive a car before buying it, tour the campuses of the universities you are most interested in. I say three because if you need to travel it adds up! The investment is definitely worth it! Once you see a campus, you can also begin planning your transition, like what items you need to start buying!
- Choose friends wisely: Once you leave high school, your life moves on. While you will see your friends during breaks, and social media allows us to always be connected, make sure your focus is on you and your future. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most. I remember it was so easy to get caught up in drama but once you leave those high school doors for the last time, everything else shifts up in importance. Don’t waste your time and energy now on bad friendships. That being said, keep your closest friends close and if you end up on either side of the country (like me and my best friend), dedicate one day of the week for catching up over FaceTime!
- Begin dorm shopping ASAP: Packing for college is exciting and stressful. It can be hard to know exactly what you need but even harder to find certain items in the summer once everyone is shopping for their dorms too. Think ahead and get big ideas, like a mattress topper and steamer now and keep them in your closet. No matter where you go, whichever dorm you end up in, you will appreciate the early access but also the spread of costs since moving can add up.
- Join your college’s accepted student social media page: Embry-Riddle and many colleges offer social media connections. Think of it as a mini social media site just for your new incoming class. I know many people met their roommates using this app, made friend groups who met up during orientation, or were able to obtain answers to a lot of their questions this way. There is also an admissions adviser who helps answer questions quickly, so be sure to utilize this app and make friends now!
- Enjoy home: Once you are away at college and there are no more home cooked meals, you have to do your own laundry, and no one checks in on you, you quickly miss home. There are many times when I come back from a long day and miss my mom having a meal made for me and being able to do homework with my family in the living room with me. Cherish these moments because you will definitely miss them no matter how close you are to your family.
- Use your resources: I recommend talking to your high school counselor and college counselor often. Do not be shy when it comes to college. Finances and academics are confusing as you make your transition over, but remember tons of people do it and so can you. Your counselors have helped many others before you and are there to help now! Be smart and utilize your resources. If you are too nervous, try to find a current student to reach out to. For women coming to Embry-Riddle, you have a Women’s Ambassador. On top of that, my mom’s friend’s daughter also attended school here, so I was able to meet with her during summer and have my questions answered! It’s a small world, you never know who you may know that could be useful! (P.S. Do you FASFA earlier rather than later! It was the most stressful part of starting college for me.)
I hope these tips serve you well! The biggest takeaway: it all works out in the end! These are just tips to be a little extra wise!
– Maddie Dietrich