By AMANDA SMITH
or most of their junior and senior years, high school students feel very important. Every time they open their mailboxes, it seems, there's another pamphlet or brochure from another college they've never heard of, urging them to apply.
There are so many questions that the glossy view books and information packets do not answer. When is it too soon (or too late) to start looking for a college? What is the experience going to be like? What high school classes are going to help -- and which ones are going to be no help at all?
Some things help prepare students for college life, according to 18-year-old YSU freshman Nick Maillis.
"Calculus. I recommend it," he said. Maillis said that if he had coasted through his high school career, he would probably be foundering right now. "High school students need to challenge themselves, or else they will be blindsided when they go to college. I may have wasted my time taking Advanced Placement Spanish, though," he said.
Leah Doughten, another YSU freshman, said taking advanced and challenging classes in high school has helped her along too.
"I may not have been able to keep up in college if I hadn't taken those classes [in high school]," she said.
Doughten advised high school students to take as many classes as are needed to fulfill college entrance requirements. At YSU, entering freshmen are required to have accumulated a certain number of credits of foreign languages, math and sciences during high school.
"If you don't take those classes [in high school], you may have to make up, and pay for, a deficiency in college. Why pay for something when you can get it for free?" she said.
A good start: Students also recommended not waiting until the last possible moment to apply to colleges. Maillis said, "I was slow ... I didn't even start until near the end of my senior year -- which was dumb."
Maillis said he was filling out forms and applications hours before they were due, and said that he missed many of the opportunities and deadlines that could have benefited him.
"It was crazy; that's all it was," he said.
Kari Utterback, a freshman from Jefferson, Ohio, said she had started her college search midway through her junior year. She said it's better to have the college search out of the way and taken care of as soon as possible, because "there's so much you don't want to have to deal with during your senior year, and there's just so much that is going on then."
Teaching style: Some YSU students said they weren't accustomed to the increased freedom and the lack of structure that college offers. Utterback said she noticed the most difference in the way professors teach their classes.
"In high school, teachers were more willing to walk you through things, and make sure you understand it, and to teach you on a personal basis. In college, it is up to you to make sure that you understand the material."
Jason Reinert, an electrical engineering student from Vienna, said class attendance policies were different from what he had been accustomed to in high school.
"Attendance is your responsibility," Reinert said. "No one is going to call home to see why you weren't in class."
Social shifts: With attending college, certain social aspects are bound to be more emphasized. Many students said YSU has more social outlets, groups and clubs than offered by high schools. There are also more students around to talk to.
Utterback said she noticed that much of the cliquishness she saw in high school was missing in college.
"It doesn't matter as much if you're in the 'in' crowd here," she said. "I find myself talking to people I may not have in high school -- but I enjoy talking to them now."
The social opportunities in college can be somewhat intoxicating. Doughten said that if she could, she would go out every night.
Reinert agrees. "There's always somewhere to go, and there's always someone to talk to," he said. Most of the time, he said, a group of people will just stop by and organize a social outing on the spot.
"You have to party in moderation though," Doughten said. "And study, study, study."