Nia’s Freshman School Survival Guide: How To Win Your Freshman Year of College

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Before I get into this, it’s imperative that I make something very clear. Although I’d like to think that I do actually know a little something about some things outside of myself, these tips are completely reflective of my personal experiences and the experiences of those around me. This advice is provided by a female HBCU student having one year of experience out of state thus far. If your stories and opinions of certain things differ from mine, that’s totally fine! I’d love to hear them. We are all constantly learning and teaching. (I just don’t want anyone coming for me, okay?!) I’m here to help, share, and maybe even joke around a little. Or a lot. To Be Determined.

So, you’ve just graduated from high school. Congratulations! You’re feeling like you’re on top of the world having made your family proud and finally escaping that dungeon full of underclassmen peasants, annoying teachers, and mediocre chicken tenders. Or maybe your emotions are the opposite and it crushed you to clean out your locker and leave the boo you were always late to the third period for. Either way, you’re preparing for college and you get to start all over again as a freshman…how exciting. 🙂 While there is no amount of advice that will one thousand percent prepare you for college, (because everyone gets hit with their own curve balls) I developed just a few sections of information that I think can help. 

 

The Preparation

I think this is a step that a lot of incoming freshman underestimate. Then again, I was raised by a mother who was and still is typically over-prepared for everything so that could be it. (No shade, it’s a lot but I am extremely blessed and overly thankful.) There are just a lot of things that students don’t think of until they get on campus and that’s okay but this is my article so here’s my advice. While on summer break, get a bin or a box of sorts and fill it up with snacks/food. I’m not saying go on a shopping spree in the store and spend a stack filling up your cart. I’m just saying anytime you do go to the store or wherever, pick up a box of cereal, bag of chips, or a pack of noodles here and there and watch the bin fill up. This is super helpful and will save your life later! Next, if any friends or family members ask you what you want or need for school, tell them! Helpful items can include gift cards to places like walmart and target, toilet paper, that cool lamp you saw on Amazon, or just plain cash. I don’t suggest waiting until you get to school to purchase all these things on top of moving in but everyone’s circumstances are different and people have done it and were just fine so hey. Be mindful that your needs may differ from others. Girls tend to need and or want more than guys. Find out if your dorm is community or suite style. You may not even be living on campus. It’s these kinds of factors that will play a part in your preparation. Lastly, have fun! It’s the last summer after high school and things probably won’t be as you’re used to come August. If you have/want a job, go for it and stack up. If not, live your best life. And if you’re anything like I was and just ready to go, hang on a little longer, you’re almost there.

 

Homesick

This part was tough for me. I thought I was so ready to leave Atlanta and start over (and I was) but the second my mom and my best friend dropped me off and left me to spend my first night in my dorm room with a stranger, I sunk into an automatic depression…or at least that’s what it felt like and it didn’t stop there. There were several times throughout my freshman year where I missed home terribly. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to scare you guys. I’m just keeping it real. The feeling of being homesick doesn’t happen to everyone but for those who will face it, you’re not alone. It can get hard but sulking in your new bed doesn’t help either. Get off your butt, get dressed, and go explore! That sounds cliche but five minutes of your day is better spent figuring out where your classes are than crying to your cousin on the phone. You can always call the ones you love and even though they might miss you just as much, they want you to be a college student even more! Breathe, pray, and smile. You got this. Find something you like to do, which brings me to my next point.

 

Getting Involved

Some of you are too cool for school (for now) and that is fine, but this is for the people that are interested in getting involved on campus. Some students are already involved due to their sports scholarship or whatever the case may be but if you’re not, getting involved is a great way to get your feet wet. Read the flyers when you’re walking from class and follow your school’s social media pages so you’re always informed of what’s going on. If something sparks your interest, go to the interest meeting. Even if you’re not sure how you feel about it, you never know what you’ll find out or who will be there. Interest meetings will usually give the organization’s background, requirements, and any necessary information you’ll need to know. The flyers for these meetings will typically have the time, place, and dress code as well. Make sure you abide by this dress code and pay attention to the details! The first measure for some orgs. is to see if you can follow directions honestly. Make sure you bring a pen and paper/notebook as well to record information. I know you can take notes on your phone but having a physical record is better. You don’t want to appear to be texting or not being attentive and studies show that actually writing things down helps us remember them better. Don’t be scared. I know it might be intimidating but be yourself. If your organization’s admission process requires an application, follow the instructions and read thoroughly. If  an interview or Q&A is required for consideration, don’t panic. Answer all the questions to the best of your ability and be yourself. If they ask you if you have any questions for them before you leave the interview, never say “No.” Always have at least one or two questions. For example, “About how many candidates are you considering/are applying?” or “What do you think is the most challenging part of being a member of this club?” Everything will be fine. Although there is proper interview etiquette, I think being yourself, once again, is the most important part because you want to be involved in a group that suits who you are or makes you want to grow, not one that you have to try to “fit in” to just because. Don’t allow this truth to stop you from stepping out of your comfort zone though. Whether you’ve never tried it or waited until college to go for it, do it. Why not? Chances are most of these people don’t know you anyway. This is your chance to reinvent who you are if you want to and be busy in the best way. Don’t put too much on your plate but just enough. I’ve always been involved and even though I did some things freshman year, there was way too much free time for my comfort and a lot of unnecessary situations I could’ve avoided had I gone for the things I wanted to do. Get involved.

Meeting People/Making Friends

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This is tricky even though it doesn’t have to be. I say this because there are so many incoming freshmen that want to start a new chapter of their lives and be great but there are others who pretend to be someone they’re not. Then, there are those who have no idea who they are which is perfect if you ask me because I feel like that’s a big part of college: figuring it out. So here’s how we’re going to break this down: I will give separate advice for these three different types of incoming freshman and if you feel like you fit into one or more of the categories, take note and I hope you receive something from this. Dear freshmen seeking new beginnings, I was you. Your optimism and excitement is amazing and you deserve exactly what you’re seeking. When you meet people, keep this same energy. Networking is important and you never know who’s looking for a fresh face that’s eager to learn. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to peers and potentially make friends either; some of the best friends you’ll ever have, you may meet in college. You may even gain a mentor but, protect your peace as much as you can. Don’t let every person into your space and don’t give every person every bit of you; they usually don’t deserve it and unfortunately, it can backfire. Just be observant when making friends, everyone won’t have your best interest at heart and it’s important to keep certain people and energy around you and away from you so that you don’t lose focus. For people pretending to be something they’re not, I’ve been you. It may have worked in high school but there are people from all around the world in college that are going to see right through the facade. If you’re from the suburbs of Chicago and not the slums, that’s actually not a bad thing, can you believe it? People will ultimately respect you a lot more if you’re real. They may not like it but that has nothing to  do with you. If you’re not being yourself and don’t even realize it, it’s alright. Take a step back and ask yourself if that last move you just made was the best choice. How did it make you feel? You will find friends that accept you for exactly who you are (even if it’s not the first year) and whoever doesn’t like it or bullies you for it is not the person you should be around anyway. If you are not sure who you are, don’t be in a rush to find out and develop a personality for yourself. Take your time. Sometimes the people who are pretending are also the people who aren’t sure. Explore. Eat the sushi, go on a date with the girl, whatever. If by fate things don’t work out and something bad happens like betrayal, remove yourself. It’s okay to take a minute and reevaluate the situation. If you are hurt by someone or something, your feelings are valid. You just have to practice putting that energy into something positive or productive. If you are the one doing the hurting, ask God to remove that spirit from you. You may also reevaluate and discover exactly what type of individual you want to be and how you want to make people feel/look at you.

Studying vs. Partying

These two acts really don’t have to be rivals because you can do both but there will be some of you who struggle and can’t seem to balance the two. Here are some tips to help. Let’s start with studying: it’s more important than it was in high school. Why? Because you now have the power to make your own schedule and go to class at any time of the day you want but there are also events happening on and off campus every single day of the week. This can be distracting but it also gives you the independent power to be responsible enough to do what you have to do and what you want to do. You have to think about if you’re a morning person or not and what times of the day you thrive. Most of you have been told to avoid 8am’s but listen, it’s not that bad. Even though me and my bed have a battle every morning, I’d rather have an 8am than a 4pm because that’s probably when the Ques are having a barbecue and I need to get me a piece of chicken, okay? I think it’s better to get your day over with so you can live your life but to each is own. Please Study. If you just dedicate an hour or two after the caf, it will make your life so much easier. I like to go to the library and put in some headphones but I also grew to become very productive in the comfort of my own room and sit at my desk. It just depends on who you are. If you know the bed and the TV is calling your name, get out of that room. The cool thing about campus or an HBCU campus is that there are so many places you can go and there is so much help everywhere. There is no excuse for being successful academically if you ask me, and I can be extremely lazy so that means a lot. 

Partying 101: Go! Have fun. Let’s be real because you’re a college student now, right? You’re going to drink and probably a plethora of other things whether you’ve done it before or not. Just be smart about it. Make sure those friends you met are a quality crew. It’s one thing to be actual friends but truthfully, everyone isn’t built for that. Sometimes you’ll have different friends for different things and a good group to have is your party group. Have each other’s back because people are crazy. If you sit your drink down and look away, don’t drink that! Stick together, especially if there’s only two of you. Take note of what time it is at some point and pay attention to your surroundings. Make sure there is a designated driver. You all know these precautions already, but unfortunate things really do happen all the time, especially in college so be safe. Males, just in case it wasn’t already clear, don’t think that these things can’t happen to you because of your masculinity. Be cautious.

Another Tip: Don’t be the person at every single party unless it’s your job or something. Trust me, there will be more. Probably tomorrow on a Wednesday. Give people a chance to miss you and wonder where you are. I know you want to go but I promise it’s going to be okay if you miss it this one time. If you have a bad feeling at or before the party, trust your intuition! 8 ½ times out of 10, you’re not crazy. There have been times where I knew things weren’t right and I went anyway and ended up ubering home. There is nothing wrong with removing yourself if you’re certain that things are fishy. If you’re hosting the party, that’s great too but if you care about the people in attendance, there are certain things you should know. Have water there in case people get sick or simply just need to hydrate. Also, have trash bags; people don’t have home training. DO NOT play too much violent music back to back or certain songs at all that will get the crowd riled up in the wrong way. People (usually guys) tend to get excited, start flexing, and things usually go left because of the energy shift in the function. We don’t do drama. However, “Knuck if you buck” is absolutely permitted. In closing, the key the balance your academics and your fun is time management. You don’t want to study too much and never have any fun but you also don’t want to party too much and be failing. As students, we sometimes know what we can finesse and what we can’t but we ultimately have to prioritize. 

 Saving your Coins!

Saving money or just wisely spending it can be a challenge. I got carried away with spending at times but there were also times where I spent little to nothing and my mom had to beg me to order myself a pizza because I deserved it. I don’t know if anyone else is like this but I either spend it all or I spend nothing. I know, I’m working on it. Whether or not you’ll get a refund check, you’re working, or whatever the case may be, the most helpful tool I had in managing my money was developing a budget with the supervision of my mother. The budget wasn’t crucial and super organized (if you are super organized, that’s amazing. I just was not.) but it did help and discipline me. I hate math and being a young adult is seriously annoying so if it worked for me, I think that speaks volumes. When I got my refund, I automatically sent some home to my mom. I didn’t understand why I had to do this initially but it ended up helping a lot. I gave her about $700. She used some (she deserves it) and put the rest to the side for emergencies or for when I came home Christmas and summer breaks. You really forget about money when it’s out of sight and it feels so good to know that you have it when you least expect it. I then put $100 in my savings and had to decipher what I would with the rest. This is the part where you would think. What luxuries do you want? What do you want to go out do? You could put money to the side for a spring break trip or just save some for a rainy day after you buy those shoes you’ve been wanting for weeks. It solely depends on you but make sure you still have some to live. For example, if there are five weeks left until Christmas Break and you have $500 left in your account, you know that you have $100 to spend per week. You can go over that amount if you want but just be prepared to have a decreased weekly limit. Money goes fast and you’re going to want waffle house after that party, just sayin’. Eat in the caf and take advantage of campus eateries as well as that snack bin I told you to make over the summer! I’m not perfect with money but having a few guidelines for myself worked really well for me. Don’t be scared to treat yourself or order wings in the club though, it’s okay. The college struggle can actually be fun. A cool tip to try as well is stashing a twenty dollar bill in your phone case as long as it’s not see through. You most likely will forget about this money and it will come in handy when you discover it again. My teacher in high school also advised me to put $100 away somewhere and never touch until the end of each year or semester; I don’t have the discipline for that yet but maybe you will. 

 

I’ve mentioned this more than twice today, but have fun! Make memories and live in the moment. These are some of the best years we’ll ever endure and of course I’m biased when I advise that receiving an HBCU education makes the experience even greater! *wink* I couldn’t give all the advice and share all my stories to an incoming freshman reading this because it might have turned into a book but these are just some things that were helpful to know when I was transitioning. It won’t always be easy or comfortable but you will press on. God didn’t say the weapons wouldn’t form. He didn’t even say you wouldn’t be scared of the weapons, he said they wouldn’t prosper!

 

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