Right now many high school seniors are stressing over their college applications. Here, some NeXt correspondents weigh in on their experience so far of college life away from home.
THE NEW YORK EXPERIENCE
College: New York University
High School: Williamsville East
Whenever I tell anyone where I go to college, the most common response is: "Do you have a class with the Olsen twins?!" No, I do not, but I have friends who do. Yes, they look the way they do on TV, and no, Mary-Kate has not dropped out ... yet.
New York University is much more than just a place to spot the Olsen twins. Imagine one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world where every opportunity is at most a subway ride away.
The NYU experience is anything but the traditional college experience. When I first visited this school I visited Greenwich Village. The university buildings blended with the surrounding areas of Greenwich Village the dorms were converted apartments and hotels. However, upon coming here, I've discovered that it was much easier to adjust to than I had anticipated. It was a big help that freshman are all housed relatively close to "campus," meaning we are all within walking distance of the buildings where classes are held.
Friends are found through extracurricular activities and dorm halls. It is not quite so common to meet people while relaxing in the "quad" since our quad is Washington Square Park. Not only are students found here reading between classes but there are tourists, businessmen, protesters and hoboes.
I've met the most diverse group of people just in my dorm hall. Everyone is musically suave and fashionably swank. It's a common sight to see students filming classmates for their class project: a 20-minute documentary or feature film. While people are still searching for their own niche, you meet those who already have extraordinary talent in specific fields of interest.
Classes are challenging even though most freshman are lucky enough to get Friday off. Reading entire books in a week is the norm and writing papers at 3 a.m. becomes bonding time with your roommate.
Of course, it's easy to get lost in a school where you could live on Fifth Avenue and eat at a different restaurant every night for the next five years. The key is balancing your time and focusing on your priorities. Also, if you remind yourself how much you (or your parents) are paying in tuition, you are motivated to make the best of the next four years in the heart of one of the best cities in the world.
Dorm hall bonus: Each room has its own bathroom!
Favorite cafeteria food: Chicken wraps, tomato bisque soup
High school: West Seneca East
Being a part of Syracuse University involves more than cheering on the basketball team, though that is a big part of life here. The identity of this university has a way of growing on you and within weeks, you own more orange clothing than you thought was legal.
Syracuse is far enough from Buffalo to have some privacy, yet close enough to make a quick trip home on the weekends. Classes occupy a good portion of my time, and I've found them to be either unbearably difficult or ridiculously easy. My first test in a communications class asked for direct quotes from hundreds of pages of readings, whereas my math class feels like it's on a sixth grade level. The professors here really love their jobs and it shows in the classroom.
My new friends helped me through some difficult parts of life here, including dealing with my roommate. I used to laugh at people who had roommate horror stories; now I'm one of them. I've found the best way to deal with a bad roommate is through communication. A lot of tension has stemmed from the fact that we came from completely different backgrounds and didn't realize we were annoying each other. After a much-needed conversation (that set down ground rules and allowed me to explain that my bed is off-limits when I go home on a random weekend), things started to go a lot smoother.
Syracuse is a large campus but there's not much social activity to take advantage of in central New York. While the university does its best to entertain us with activities and guest speakers, drugs and alcohol seem to be popular here but no one forces you to do anything you don't want to.
People are very accepting in almost any aspect of life, except politics. As a hardcore liberal Democrat, I found myself at home here in the Salt City. A majority of students side with the left and nobody has a problem voicing their opinion. I will never forget seeing students break down in tears as networks called the election for George Bush. The next day protests between Bush and Kerry supporters in the middle of campus had to be broken up by police.
I spent election night covering the campaigns for the campus newspaper, The Daily Orange, which is one of the many student-run media outlets. Professors encourage us Newhouse students to take advantage of the television station, newspaper or three radio stations.
The campus is a melting pot but we have fun with our diversity. Despite our differences and the school's large size, the traditions of this university are enough to unite us. Being a student at Syracuse is like being in a giant family with roughly 12,000 brothers and sisters. Together, we don't just live and breathe orange, we bleed orange.
Priciest textbook: $140
Favorite dining hall food: chicken nuggets
Dorm Perk: I live in the tallest residence hall on campus, it's 20 floors. The 16th floor has a great view of campus and downtown Syracuse.
THE BONA DEAL
St. Bonaventure, Olean
Let's clear the air first. Yes, St. Bonaventure gets a lot of snow. Yes, Bona's out in the middle of nowhere. However, St. Bonaventure is anything but boring. Regardless of where you go to college, your weekdays are going to be full between classes, studying and sneaking in the occasional power nap. The rest of the day and how you spend your time is up to you. At Bona, there are many clubs, intramural sports, and service groups to join.
Going to a small school is not as bad as I thought it would be. When I first arrived at Bonaventure, I quickly realized how remote it is. I did soon find out that almost anything you need is within a short walk or ride on the BonaBus. The "BonaBus" is a free service the university provides students. There is a huge plaza with a Walmart, Old Navy, and other stores within walking distance. A supermarket is a little farther away. All of these you can take the "Bonabus" to, if you don't feel like walking. Speaking of free services, if you live on campus, you get free cable TV, Internet, and most importantly, laundry.
Another thing that struck me when I first arrived is how friendly people are. On my first day of classes, after all the upperclassmen had arrived and settled in two days earlier, almost everyone I walked past said hello to me. St. Bonaventure is a small campus, and you quickly become friends with a lot of different people. It's not uncommon for a freshman to have upperclassmen friends.
One thing you hear a lot in high school about college is finding a balance. It's not very hard to do. The key is to do your work during the week and have your fun on the weekends. When you attend college you are responsible for yourself. The only thing which holds you back from going to class, studying and getting a good grade is yourself. Keeping yourself in check with getting your work done so you can have fun is something you have to stay on top of.
Going to Bonaventure is a lot of fun, and generally a good experience. I have done things here that I would normally never have done in high school. I have also met a lot of different people from many walks of life and made friends with them. When you go to college, keep an open mind. You will have a better college experience if you do.
Room size: 16' x11'6
Favorite Cafeteria Food: Fajitas
Earliest Class: 8:30 a.m.
THE CRUSADER TRADITION
Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.
High school: Holy Angels
You walk through campus on a Friday night. You go up the hills and down the hills. You go up the stairs and down the stairs. You still can't really find anything to do, but at least you run into almost everyone you know.
At every college, there is give and take. At Holy Cross, even though there are no college bars down the block or frat houses around the corner, there is a special bond that each Crusader shares. Even though you may not always have huge plans on a Friday night, you're always together in lack of plans with all your friends.
It didn't take long to make new friends at Holy Cross. As the only girl from Holy Angels attending a New England college, I was nervous about being seven hours from home. After almost three months here, I know I made the right decision to go so far away. Even though I miss my friends, family, driving, and of course, Mighty Taco, being on my own has broadened my perspective on life and has helped me to grow up. Not being so close to home has forced me to rely on myself a lot. In the beginning, doing laundry, finding things to do, and needing things at the store were considered a chore. Now, I have a system for doing my wash, many places to go on weekends, and a way to get to and from many places.
The college provides many transportation options, important considering freshmen and sophomores aren't allowed to have cars on campus. There are shuttle services to area malls and supermarkets and free buses every weekend to Providence, R.I., and Boston. I've used the Boston bus; you can get some lobster, shop on Newbury Street, visit a friend at a Boston-area college, or check out a baseball game, all in time to catch the shuttle back to Holy Cross.
I feel that the perks of college, especially at a small school, outweigh the disadvantages. I can leave my room five minutes before any class and arrive with time to spare. I never have to prepare my own food, and even though the Kimball Dining Hall food took awhile to get used to, I cannot imagine eating anything else. I have a free gym to use and scenic views of trees, hills, and the second-largest city in Massachusetts out my window.
Even though I am so far away and learning so much from the experience, Buffalo will always be my home. I never cease telling my new New England friends that it is "pop" and not "soda," "beer pong" and not "beirut," and that I will go to a Bisons game any day over a trip to Fenway. I was amazed to find out that no one here has heard of beef on weck, frozen custard, or loganberry.
Although life here is much different than in the "B-lo," the Catholic values I learned throughout grammar and high school are preserved here. I don't feel like I am committing a crime when I say I enjoy my religion class (which I am sure Sister Karen Marie would be happy to hear). I have many opportunities here at Holy Cross, and I am eager to tell all at the Thanksgiving table what it is that I have been doing, what with being out of sight for so long.
Most mysterious cafeteria entree: Chicken Cacciatore
Best ways to procrastinate: A coffee run to Cool Beans,AOL Instant Messenger, Thefacebook.com (otherwise known as a great stalking tool), "The O.C."
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, N.Y.
In ninth grade, we wrote letters to ourselves about what we saw as our future plans when we graduated from high school. My letter began: "I really hope I will be going to William Smith College and playing college field hockey."
And here I am! William Smith College: the first college I visited, the only college I truly fell in love with.
It all started in mid-August with field hockey pre-season. The first few days were the most physically demanding of my life: waking up around 8, three practices a day, squeezing in meals and an occasional nap and then looking forward to going to bed. I will be honest: I cried. I felt both physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Away from home, no home-cooked meals, teammates who were all new to me and worst of all, I didn't have my computer yet so I was cut off from the world!
But then it hit me that this is such a privilege. A privilege to attend a phenomenal, small liberal arts school while playing the sport I love.
Classes finally started and there was structure to my day. My schedule gave me time to grab a quick breakfast, have some free time during the day to visit the library or sit by the lake and catch up on my reading and then off to field hockey practice from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dinner at 7 and back to my dorm for studying! With games mostly on weekends, my parents travel to my games and we go out to dinner afterwards and catch up on things back home.
You may wonder about the separate names, Hobart and William Smith, but classes and dorms are co-ed while the athletic departments are separate. Yeah, Title IX!
William Smith has been named by Sports Illustrated for Women as one of the top three Women's NCAA Division III intercollegiate programs in the country with the field hockey team a three-time winner of the NCAA Division III championship.
My first season as a William and Smith Heron is definitely one I will remember: we finished our regular season with a 14-2 record and made it to the NCAA Final Four Championship. Go Herons!
Earliest class: 9:05
Favorite class: Intro to Sociology
Typical room: 10'10'' x 15'5''
LIFE AT THE BORO
College: Edinboro University, Edinboro, Pa.
High School: Orchard Park
The Boro, as students call it, is located in rural Pennsylvania only two hours from my Orchard Park home. Even though Edinboro is a very small town, it has everything a college student needs, from a Walmart Supercenter to Dairy Queen. It was important to me to experience dorm life, but be close enough to go home for the weekend if I wanted to.
Like many new freshman, I was nervous about living with a total stranger. Being an only child, I have never shared a room with anyone, let alone a bathroom with everyone on my floor! It was definitely a shocker meeting my roommate, who traveled all the way from Germany to attend Edinboro. She was raised in Hawaii, has traveled to Australia many times, and danced hula for nine years. She even convinced her boyfriend to come to Edinboro with her!
Adjusting to college wasn't hard, and by leaving your door open and introducing yourself to everyone you meet a lot of people. Getting involved helps, too. I write for my school newspaper and am considering joining a sorority. At college, people are more open and less judgmental. No one cares if you were the most popular person or prom queen, people get to know you for who you really are.
Classes are fairly challenging. Many professors have office hours and will be happy to help you with a tough assignment, but they definitely won't seek you out if you do poorly on an exam.
People have told me college will be the best four years of my life, and I believe it. Just study, have fun, and enjoy your independence!
Favorite cafeteria item: Fettuccini Alfredo with shrimp
First morning class: 9 a.m.
Next Wednesday: The commuter experience: students who stay in Buffalo for college.