High School Seniors, Don't Sleep On The Smaller College

High School Seniors, Don't Sleep On The Smaller College

What are the odds that you get to walk your president's dog at a school with 40,000 people?

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I was on FaceTime with my friend who goes to a Big Ten school as she went to fill up her water in her residence hall. She went down a few flights, and my screen showed a gray ceiling or carpet whirling by in a hallway with doors crammed together. I sat comfortably in my room, on my floor of about 30 people and my residence hall of three floors, while she made her way through the flights of stairs numbered in the teens. Living in a cozy dorm where I know (most of) the people is just one minor perk of picking a medium or small school.

A year ago, when I had received acceptances from colleges across the country with big campuses and even bigger names, I thought the quality of the school or the experience could be judged by how well-known it was. I visited and fell in love with just about every campus I saw until it was spring, and I still wasn't wearing a T-shirt for a university or talking about the search for a roommate. My sister, who is two years older than I am, went to Miami University, but this made me overthink things even more. Should I go there because she does? Should I not go there because she does, so I can be my own person and have my own experience?

But come decision time, my attention turned to the finances of it all. The bigger schools were so much more expensive. They sent me letters and recognized my academics yet gave me zero scholarship money. I thought maybe if I made an appointment and tried to argue my case to the big, beautiful school they would help me out. But instead, we made the two-hour drive and couldn't find the right office. They redirected us from department to department, each sounding vaguely like they would do the same thing. After nobody could help us, and a solemn lunch in the downtown area that was begrudgingly delicious, I began to accept that I would not go to the school that has games on TV and alumni everywhere you go.

I was still unbelievably excited to go to Miami and in love with the school. I started to wear the shirts daily and make jokes about how we are not in Florida. I knew it was a good university with a beautiful campus, and ultimately every experience is what you make of it. Miami isn't necessarily small; it's classified as a medium school and got nods of approval from people from my hometown. In Illinois, everyone I mentioned it to seemed to know someone who went there or was currently there. I realized that even if it doesn't have hundreds of thousands of alumni, it was a community that reached far and wide. This has only been reaffirmed as I have been on campus and met people from every corner of the country.

I began to talk with other girls about being roommates, and though I did not end up being roommates with any of them, one of the girls I talked to sat next to me in my intro to religion class on the first day of school, and now we are good friends. That coincidence may not have happened had I been crammed into a lecture hall with hundreds of other students. I still run into people from my orientation group around campus. My small floor has game nights and watches "The Bachelor" together. I've even walked the president's dog, basically a celebrity.

I've taken classes with just 12 people, had an internship, and gotten involved in clubs I couldn't do at a university the size of a small city. Some people dream of being in a football stadium that could cause an earthquake, and that's perfect for them. But I love my professors knowing my name, running into friends at the dining hall and being able to get into sports games. Don't overlook the smaller school on your list, because it could be exactly what you need.

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So, You Want To Be A Nurse?

You're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

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To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,

I know why you want to be a nurse.

Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.

You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...

You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.

You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.

You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.

Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.

Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.

You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.

Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.

But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

So, you think you want to be a nurse?

Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.

Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.

Sincerely,

The nursing student with just one year left.

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What I Wish I Knew About Life After High School Before I Had To Live It

Life after high school isn't always what you expected it to be.

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So you're about to graduate high school and you think you have it all figured out. You and your best friends are going to stay close throughout college and you're going to take those long road trips in college to see each other. Think again.

Life after high school isn't always what you want it to be. You think you'll miss high school, you'll always be close with your high school besties, and you'll have all this free time in college. That's just not entirely true. I personally do not miss high school. I don't really talk to anyone I went to high school with on a regular basis, and I'm totally OK with that. I have friends in college that I believe will be my lifelong friends whereas my friends in high school didn't make an effort to keep in contact with me after high school.

I haven't had all the free time I've dreamed of in college, because I'm busy with school and meetings. When I'm not doing homework, I'm making sure the rest of my life is in order and all my stuff for school is in line. I'm not the crazy party girl that people think I am because of where I go to school. I'd rather sit in bed and watch Netflix than go out with my friends. I'm not a 4.0 student, but I work so hard in my classes just to make sure that I'm passing. I study a week before tests and still don't always make A's. And that's OK. It's not what I expected during my college years, but it's what's happening, and most of my friends are the same way.

Anne Marie Bonadio

Just know that life in college isn't all easy, breezy, and beautiful like Covergirl. It's hard and you will struggle whether it be in school or with your friends. College isn't always complete freedom. You'll be tied down with school and life and you won't have the free time that you always imagined. You won't always be best friends with your high school friends. You won't be taking those road trips because you won't be able to afford them, and if you're like me, your parents won't let you.

College won't be exactly what you dreamed it'll be, but it'll be some of the best years of your life.

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