Advice from a freshman who survived - Ryan Whelchel

When you're in high school all you can think about is when it will end. When it becomes your senior year, you began to think what am I going to do with my life? To most the next logical step is to continue your education.

To most, unless you're filthy rich, college is expensive, especially if you if you plan to go out of state, and need a place to stay. Or if you plan to attend school in state but still need a place to stay. There are many factors that add up to how you will attend college, and how well you do in college. To all those who just graduated this past school year and are heading to college? don't expect that just because you did well in high school, that you'll do the same here.

To be honest I don't think that high school classes set me up, and many others I have talked to, to be prepared for college. Unless you're taking A.P. (advanced placement), classes then you won't really know what to expect. And the A.P. classes are just a good guideline for what you will do in the first few weeks of school. You will write lengthier essays in your English class, and other classes, in one semester than you have in your entire lives. These essays along with everything you submit to your teachers are carefully read through and picked apart. An "A" on an essay in high school doesn't even necessarily mean that you will even get a passing grade on a essay in college. The reasons why students drop like flies after the first year of college are mainly that they were not prepared for such a change, or they took it as serious as high school, which means they didn't take it seriously at all.

High schools look to make themselves appear as good as possible, by any means necessary. If they can hire a less efficient teacher at a lower cost, then so be it. If the requirements are low, then it seems like everyone is excelling. You are just allowed to get away with too much in high school. If you don't have your homework, well then bring it back a week from now and it'll be fine. In college, on a good day, you're lucky if the teacher will allow you to the end of the class to hand it in.

In no way am I trying to degrade the colleges or university system, I only mean to praise them, and make recommendations for high school education systems, including my former high school, Jonesboro High. They used to tell us in high school (and I'm aware they still do), to wait until your senior year to take your SAT's. Now what was the reason for waiting this long, seeing that early registration for most colleges and university starts in October? Because they believe if you wait until you're a senior then you can make better on you're SAT's, which I guess can be true. The real reason for this though is that schools are given an average of what their SAT scores were by averaging all the students together. If you do better, than the school looks better, which in the end that's all that matters to the school. I am telling you that early admission makes a lot of difference in going to school. Don't let high school officials tell you, that you have to make a certain score on the SAT's to get into you're school of choice. Now I'm not saying you can get into top schools with a low GPA or SAT score, but with scores that are slightly to moderately lower than the college average if you apply for early admission you increase your chances of getting in dramatically. Also with early admission you're sent a letter within the next week or two, so you don't have to be running around frantic near the end of the year worrying about where you're going to school. Also in early admission it becomes hard for schools to try and forecast if there are going to be many more academically better students than you, so some will let you in right away, while others will put you on a reserved waiting list.

No matter the college or university, every class will be 10 times as hard in high school, that is if you were watching movies in your classes in high school like so many of mine were. You will learn more about not only school classes, but also life in general your first year at college. You just have to be careful not to let the new environment be too much for you and end your college career early.

Colleges know that the first year, and the first semester in itself are when freshmen will be "weeded" out. I should also point out that Clayton County Schools are not the only ones who are ill preparing the youth, that is why there are so many who flunk or drop out in the first year. Some are too blown away by the experience to even attempt to try school again at a later date.

To another point as to why students are not prepared for college, or can't go to college is the price of everything. You have tuition, plus hundreds of dollars worth of fees like, science fees, recreation fees, math fees, etc. On top of all the tuition and fees, you have to pay hundreds of dollars for books for just one semester, and there is no guarantee of selling them back. Then you might have to, or want to, live in a dormitory, which will cost thousands more, just as if you wished to get an apartment. Scholarships are there for just about everything you can possibly imagine. The problem is that so many people are vying for money for colleges it makes everyone's chances significantly lower. The HOPE scholarship, an academic grant, is the way many people have found college an affordable route in Georgia. The problem is that it can only be used in Georgia schools, and it has stipulations as to how it can be taken away.

To first obtain the HOPE, you must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in high school or better. While you're in college you must take at least 12 credit hours of classes per semester, or it will be taken away. After 30 hours of "attempted" hours, and every 30 hours after that, HOPE checks your college GPA, and if it is lower than 3.0, then it is taken away. Even if you drop classes before or after the withdraw deadline, the class will still count as attempted, adding to the hours you have taken, making the check for your GPA come sooner than wanted.

When you receive notification that you have been offered HOPE, you receive a pamphlet with a lot of the stipulations; Make sure you read them.

My recommendation is that if you're in high school still, take the most rigorous schedule you can, because it will be the only thing that will come even a mile close to college experience. One more important thing for those still in high school? save your money.

Ryan Whelchel, of Jonesboro, is a rising sophomore at Georgia State University and a summer intern for the News Daily.