The start of college is the most anticipated event for teenagers all over the world. The first year of college marks the beginning of independence and freedom. In college you will make great friends, travel the world, study hard, find your passions, talents, hobbies, and ultimately yourself. As a young woman who has recently graduated college, these are some important pieces of advice I would like to share that will put you and keep you emotionally, mentally and spiritually sound during the first chapter of your collegiate journey.
1.Make friends with your roommate(s) and floormates. I lived with three girls to one room. Three different states, three different personalities, three various living habits. Immediately realizing these factors would affect how sane we would successfully cohabitate an entire year, we immediately took the time to learn each other. The first few weeks of school, we shared random stories about our families, our hometowns, boys, what we were studying, what we looked forward to. It brought out each person’s personality, ultimately making the environment more relaxed. Outside of the room, there were 30 other girls on my floor. Getting to live with all these girls was hands down the best of my college experience. We laughed, we celebrated, we cried, we argued, just like one big family. Five years later, we are now alumna and “Remember when…?” stories still get tossed around among us. They are memories I will cherish forever.
2. Be your sister’s keeper- If you cannot bring yourself to be “friends” with your roommate, be human and care about her safety and wellbeing. Yes, college is about being on your own as an “adult” but at the age of 17-18, things can still go very wrong. During the “Red Zone” period, the span of time from the first day on campus until Thanksgiving break, freshmen women are at a higher risk for violence, specifically sexual assault, because they are not acclimated the environment and have yet to learn to adequately look out for themselves. It is important you look out for your roommate because you are both striving for the same end goal: a degree! When my roommate would leave for the weekend, she would make sure to write down or text where she was going, with who, and when she could be expected back. I would do the same. I don’t think I ever asked her to do it, but it was something I truly appreciated it. Despite occasional disagreements, inconveniences, etc. we cared about each other. One time, two floormates had an overnight incident after attending a party. As soon as we found out in the morning, 15 of us set out to see what was going on. That’s how close-knit we were. Never leave someone in your circle to fend for themselves!
3. Have fun, but put please… don’t become “that girl.” While you’re looking out for others, of course don’t neglect looking out for yourself! Many school will have events dedicated solely to freshmen fun. There will be endless parties thrown by the university, campus organizations, and even local night clubs and lounges. These are great events to go to because you get to make friends not only with your classmates, but upperclassman and students from other schools, as well. I loved them all! However, like the saying goes, “First impressions count.” Even if you are the person who typically doesn’t care about how other view you, it is really important to keep this in mind your first few weeks on campus. At these events, it is easy to get a little carried away in many different ways. I went to a school where everyone knew each other, or at some would soon know of each other. During Freshman Week, the latter hit many people hard, thanks to word of mouth and social media i.e. #BlackTwitter. People will take pictures, tweet, and gossip for days (and sometimes years) about you when you are in a vulnerable state even though you are there just to have fun just like them. It’s all fun and games until you become an internet meme. Act accordingly!
4. Join academic, social, religious, academic and community organizations for women. I was blessed to have a great mother and two sisters around me growing up. When I went to college, they were just a phone call away when I needed them. However, as they did have to continue to their own busy lives, I quickly realized that they would not always be able to be there at every moment. This pushed me to seek out other women for support. Throughout my first year, I came in contact with many influential classmates, upperclassmen, club advisors, church members, etc. who I could count on for guidance. If you are not quite that comfortable stepping out that far, I would suggest you start in the classroom. Your professors aren’t terrible people! Your professors are humans they are to not only give you learning material, but can teach you about the career and life ahead of you. I found different female professors to confide in throughout my college experience. Surrogate mother, sisters, cousins, and aunts, one could say. It is a blessing!
5. Get your priorities straight. This is pertinent to both ladies and the men, but seriously. After 17-18 years of living in your parent’s house under surveillance, independence can quickly become “a drug!” I can definitely attest. From realizing that I didn’t have anyone present to force me out of bed come Monday morning, to being out until 2am just hanging out without fear of impending parental doom, I L O V E D being independent. My parents did not send me to college to stay in bed all day and neither did yours! I had to get a grip. How you do your first year sets the foundation for the next 3 years. Classes get increasingly hard along the way and sometimes you will need room for academic casualties, just in case. The motto “C’s and (D’s for some, unfortunately) get degrees” is not applicable yet (and won’t be until junior year). You might see classmates who will not come back the next semester for academic reasons- they lost scholarships, grants, and fellowships because they did not get the necessary GPA, or possibly their parents moved them closer back home. It really hurts to see. Don’t let it be you. You have four years to socialize!
6. Don’t compromise your values. For any one. At any time. For any reason. Just because you are entering a new chapter, does not mean you should disregard everything from the last. It is easy to get to college and do things you wouldn’t think twice about doing because you don’t always have someone breathing down your back. In the classroom, rarely will a professor hound you to straighten up whether in completing your work or studying harder. When it comes to the classroom, like mentioned before, get the work done not only on time, but in an ethical fashion. There were times I slacked on completing an assignment that was due or studying for an exam. This could be an easy opportunity to “finesse” but I never did once. On any given day, you are likely not the only one looking to copy something from the internet, a friend, or getting from other knowledgeable students. It’s not a good way to go about things. Take accountability for your laziness, irresponsibility, forgetfulness, or whatever else and just take the loss. It won’t feel good, but it happens. Welcome to adulting! When it comes to your social life, listen up. Your friends might go to places and engage in some activities that you aren’t down for. Or maybe there’s a guy trying to get you. Making yourself uncomfortable in order to fit in with others isn’t worth it. Even as I got older and had more freedoms such when it came to certain places, people, and certain things, my values were never up for debate. Call me old-fashioned, boring, prude or what have you but guess what? I AIN’T SORRY!
7. Open your eyes, and take it all in because it will end before you know it. I remember moving into my room like it was yesterday. I even remember what exactly I was wearing on move-in day. And now…I’m an alumna?Four years flew by THAT quickly? I don’t understand, but I’m grateful to be older, wiser, and armed with a degree.