Deer-Caught-in-Headlights.

A wise friend once told me that, “A good leader is someone who helps nurture the next generation of leaders. The role of a leader is to create more leaders.” (1)

Last night, after surviving a five hour bus ride from Dallas to Austin, I found myself sitting at the library attempting to study. Like any productive student, the tabs on my internet browser consisted of Google Docs of test reviews, e-mail and Facebook. As I began studying my exam reviews, I couldn’t help but notice a notification for my Facebook tab. I clicked on it, of course, and was greeted with a chat notification from a current senior from my former high school. I had sent him a link to a scholarship I had received for this school year in hopes that he, along with several others, would be willing to apply to it. Without a doubt, my theory that his chat would be about the scholarship and/or college applications proved to be correct.

After answer a few questions, I realized that just a year ago, I was in his position: confused about the college application process and anything college related. As the quote above mentions: a good leader is one that nurtures the next generation. If someone provided me with a few important pieces of advice, I would have appreciated it. So here are my top five:

1. When deciding a college the key element is research. As stressful as senior year of high school can be with constant nagging from parents, teachers and counselors to apply to certain colleges and scholarships, one must never forget to research every college thoroughly before considering applying. The reality is that simply applying to college is expensive and the application costs will add up. No one wants to end up at a college that makes them unhappy, so research is key. Apply to colleges that not only have a strong academic record for the intended major, but also offers a variety of resources. I applied to the University of Texas not only because it has a great public relations program, but also because the alumni network is always willing to help out current students and the resources provided but the college are quite extensive.

2. Once you arrive to college, it can seem intimidating depending on what college you choose. If you do end up at a large university like Texas, then one of the key elements to making the college seem smaller is joining an organization. With a student population of over 50,000 my college seemed massive and at 5’3″ I was bound to get lost in the crowd. Joining organizations not only provides the opportunity to meet potential new friends, but also the potential to find older students who are willing to give necessary advice to survive college.

3. As cliche as it sounds, the theory is true: sit in the front of the class. This especially applies to larger schools that could potentially have 100+ size classes. Even in smaller class, sitting at the front allows one to stay more focused on the lecture due to the fear that the professor might catch one’s drowsy eyes.

4. It’s pretty hard to approach a professor when it comes to large classes and most seem intimidating, but at the end of the day, it is beneficial to get to know your professors. Show up to at least one office hour and simply ask the professor questions about his/her profession or research. Scholarships often require recommendations and these professors could be the determining factor for obtaining the scholarship.

5. Often times, we are under the impression that leaving for college means forgetting everyone from back home, especially parents. As great as it is to have freedom and independence the first month or so, call your parents once in a while. Especially when the holiday breaks are nearing, there is a strong sense of homesickness. Home cooked meals, a good shower and just knowing your parents will be there when you need the smallest favors. Call your parents once in a while, they’ll appreciate it.

I know that these top five do not cover the entire college experience, but they are definitely at the top of my list. With the entrance of college comes various changes which can be stressful and intimidating at first glance. In the end, however, being able to announce to the world “I survived college.”

(1) Wise friend: Hugo Rojo.

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