Where should I go to college? Student stories, UC-Riverside

August 12, 2015
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Trying all types of activities around campus is important says UCR graduate Nicole Han. As a member of the Student Alumni Association, she volunteered to plant young trees around campus with other students.

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Nicole Han says UCR introduced her to people, opportunities and experiences that helped her get accepted into the University of Southern California (USC) as a Master of Business Taxation student. (Courtesy of Nicole Han)

By Nicole Han

For a lot of students, going to college is akin to stepping into the great unknown. It’s the next step in life, but it feels more like a huge leap. The important thing isn’t knowing exactly where you are going, but being open to new ideas and experiences.

I attended a very small private Catholic all-girl high school before going to the University of California, Riverside (UCR). But the thought of studying at a university with over 20,000 undergraduate overwhelmed me. Being in a classroom with a student-to-teacher ratio greater than one to forty was a foreign concept.

Additionally I didn’t know what type of career to choose, but I decided to study business. That was the first clue in choosing which school would be a good fit. So I sent my Statement of Intent to UCR. The pre-business administration program at UCR allowed students to take general marketing, management, finance, and accounting business classes before having to choose a specific concentration by junior year. Two years seemed like plenty of time to figure out the details. It also didn’t hurt that the campus was beautiful and that the Riverside student and faculty community were down-to-earth and humble.

My first post-grad summer allowed me to reflect on my past four years at UCR. The school introduced me to people, opportunities and experiences that helped me get accepted into the University of Southern California (USC) as a Master of Business Taxation student.

There are several ways to ease pressure on your university decision process while getting the most value out of your college experience.

As a high school student choosing which university to attend, first take a deep breath and stay positive throughout the whole process. There are many inevitable highs and lows during the process so be patient and strong.

Second, know what you want in a university and take the time to do your research. I wanted to enter a business program that was part of the five percent of business schools in the world that are Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)-accredited. It was also important that the school had a diverse close-knit community. As it turned out, UCR is AACSB-accredited and is also ranked 12th most diverse university in the nation.

Third, talk about it. Talk about the process with family members, friends, and alumni. Since this decision will most likely be one of the biggest decisions that you make in your life, talk honestly with people around you who know you best. The more you talk about the process, the more information and real life experience you will get from older relatives, friends, and alumni. Don’t be afraid to reach out to alumni from the universities that admitted you. Alumni love talking about their alma mater and will most likely be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Lastly and most importantly, be self-aware and make your college decision for yourself, not for anyone else. This is easier said than done especially when your parents may be the ones paying for your education or if your parents tend to control and make decisions for you, but no one knows you better than you do. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You know what you are passionate about and you know what subjects you can excel in. Being happy at your university is key to being able to develop professionally and to grow to your full potential as a confident adult ready to take on the real world.

(Facebook photo -- courtesy of University of California, Riverside Undergraduate Admissions)

(Facebook photo)

Once you’ve chosen a school, go into your first year ready to experiment. It’s okay to make mistakes. Be proactive and stay open to new experiences. Join organizations that interest you, pursue your hobbies and step out of your comfort zone. Take this year to understand yourself better because that will shed light on finding something you can do professionally for the rest of your life.

Next, make an effort to build meaningful relationships with people you can trust. During your time as an undergraduate, you will need a strong support system of friends. Go beyond seeing your professors as just teachers that decide your grade. They are people too and can provide a lot of valuable advice inside and out of the classroom. If you decide to go to grad school, keep in mind that you will need them to write your letters of recommendation.

Lastly, don’t forget to maintain meaningful relationships with your family, especially your parents; do not push them away. Despite your newfound independence from them, you still need the love and support from your family when you inevitably make mistakes and things go wrong.

This may seem like common sense, but study. I guarantee that there will be parties every night in college. Go to as many of them as you can but not at the expense of your academics. A lot of students get lost in their first year. Don’t be one of them. Learn to balance your social life and your academic life. Study hard so that you can party harder.

Ultimately, your college experience is what you make of it. Forget about what people think of your school name, forget about making others happy at the expense of your own happiness, and forget about being the best. Just try your hardest and success will come. Be proud of where you choose to spend the next four years of your life. Most importantly, have fun.

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