I’m not a professor or some expert on college campus living. In fact, my college experience was turbulent as hell. I tripped and fell way too many times to be proud of. I’m your regular degular neighborhood black girl who happened to go to college. Shortly after, I made a decision to go into college counseling to help young people navigate this murky college world. If I had any advice, this would be it.
Advice for your first year of college:
- The summer before, practice being your full self: in high school, we all had to maneuver around cliques, school administration, arbitrary classroom rules. Lots of those things are things of the past when you get to college. BUT it’s hard to let those lifelong debilitating restrictions go in just a few short months. So my advice: spend the summer practicing being your full self: dressing how you’d like, speaking how you’d like, try some new shit, read some new shit that you picked up because you liked the cover of the book, get lost in a summer romance and love as hard as you’d like. This way, you get to campus having learned some things about yourself and having acquired a different level of confidence in your choices.
- Ask ALL the questions — even if they’re stupid ones: we spend so much of our freshmen year trying to appear to be older, smarter, wiser than we are. Really, what ends up happening: upperclassmen hate you, professors hate you. Get used to the idea that you’re new to campus and everyone knows you’re new. Everyone knows the struggle of being new. Embrace that identity and use it to ask your dumb questions. Don’t worry what you look like trying to find a new building, don’t be a know it all in class, take some time to listen, spend time in spaces where older students frequent and ask them shit. You’ll learn faster if you’re not pretending to already have all the answers.
- Don’t mistake your freshmen year roommates for your best friends: you’re going to want to spend a LOT of time with your roommates because there’s safety in hanging with the person/ people nearest to you. However, freshmen year roommates are like cousins. YOU DIDNT CHOOSE THEM. Some cousins are ride or dies and your original best friends. You can count on them, laugh with them, and can relate bc you share a unique lived experience in your dorm. BUT some cousins are freaking nightmares. They think they have a right to your time because they’re blood related — they think they have a right to your clothes, shoes, friends, school supplies because y’all happen to be near each other. Walk in with the expectation that this is a room arrangement. Be generous of spirit because that’s a good way to be BUT set the ground rules. Hang with other people. Because when you get tired of that roommate, you definitely might, you’re gonna need somewhere else to crash across campus and you can’t do that if you don’t have other friends
- Dive into your classes: this sounds corny but hear me out. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met have been professors. We often forget that, outside of teaching us, they have their own lives and often times whole other careers. Engage in their lectures, spur class discussions (it makes class go by soooo much quicker), read the books they give you, take the kind of notes that feel natural to you. And then when you’re out of class, spend some time with them. Now don’t get me wrong, not all professors want to spend time with you. But some will. And you’ll be a better student and learner for it.
- Ask for help: we all find ourselves in this weird, embarrassing, rut where we feel like we’ve ruined everything. Either you havent been to class in weeks, haven’t handed in assignments, have had to hand in late assignments, or genuinely just don’t understand something that’s going to be on an exam or in a paper. ASK FOR HELP. Be honest about where you are and how you got there with your professor or advisor. The longer you wait to ask for the help, the deeper the grave you dig. It might be easier to express the difficulty you’re having with an advisor first and have them structure a “back on track” plan for you. If your advisor isn’t helpful or is a jerk in general, ask your friends about their advisors and seek help there instead.
- Know that college isn’t the end of the road: while your parents, teachers, community members want you to go to college and forget the worries of the world, know that THIS IS BAD ADVICE. College isn’t the end all be all. It’s a starting place. Yes you want to master your academics, but you also want to always be having your eye to the future. Don’t get so consumed in what’s going on with campus that you detach from reality. Read the news, get a job off campus, visit home, don’t make your college friends your only friends, get an apartment your last year. You’re going to have to graduate one day. It’s easier if you don’t have to reorient yourself to the “real world” after graduation.
Have questions that probably aren’t appropriate to ask your college counselor or parents? Ask me: email@example.com