Read the final published article in the 2016-2017 issue of Quitman School District's Panther News magazine.
College: a world of fresh beginnings and a plethora of new experiences. The idea of college may be frightening to some or exhilarating to others, but there is one common theme for both—it is a once in a lifetime learning experience. If I could condense all I have learned about myself after completing my first year at the University of Mississippi into four core pieces of advice, it would be just what you are about to read right now.
Realize that college is nothing like high school.
Sure, you will have to listen to lectures and write lots of papers, but college is so much more than that. In high school, you are in class for seven consecutive hours, five days a week. Your day is made up for you. In college, you are in class for maybe four hours a day. What you do with the other 20 hours is entirely up to you, so time management is a valuable skill to acquire. In high school, you may occasionally goof-around and chat with your friends during class. In college, no one does that. You take notes for the entire class to the point where it feels like your fingers are about to fall off because the professor is lecturing endlessly; furthermore, there are no PowerPoint Presentations to copy notes from. No, I am not trying to scare you; I am simply sharing the truth, so appreciate those “tough” high school classes because they truly prepare you for the rigor of college classes.
College is an investment.
Just like someone may invest in a house or a car, you have to invest in college. Unlike a house or a car, an education is something that no one on Planet Earth can take away from you. Like I always say, if you don’t invest in anything else, invest in yourself—in your education. Apply for as many scholarships as soon as you can! Seek out those scholarship opportunities in the community, in your parents’ workplace, and on the internet. Scour your future college’s website endlessly for scholarship information. Talk to the admissions counselors and financial aid advisors—they can help you find money to pay for college. Take the ACT and/or SAT as many times as you need to until you are satisfied with your score because colleges award scholarships based on those scores. The Federal and State Government have pools of money that are reserved just for students going to college, but you must seek it out. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and if you’re from the state of Mississippi don’t forget to go to riseupms.com/state-aid/ to apply for State Financial Aid. Lastly, avoid the temptation to blow all of your graduation money right away. That money can be used to pay for textbooks and any other expenses, like dorm room necessities or gas money.
Failure is a part of the process.
I am here to tell you firsthand that failures will happen your freshman year. It is how we grow as people, and it is what we all have to endure in order to reach success. I could share a laundry list of my first-year failures with you, but I’ll just spare a few:
- I was not hired for the first job that I applied for on campus.
- I failed my first exam in College Algebra.
- I fell, like actually fell on the ground, while I was modeling in a student-led fashion show.
Was I was disappointed in myself? Of course, but I chose not to pity myself. I used those failures as motivation to work harder and get better. I persistently continued to apply for jobs on campus. I am now employed with the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement on campus. I met with my College Algebra professor to see what study habits I had to develop to be successful in his class. I finished the course with an A. As far as the fashion show was concerned, I used that as a bona fide learning experience: I am not meant to be America’s Next Top Model, and I am, in fact, okay with that. I share this with you so you can see how those failures taught me to be resilient and triumphant. I charge you to embrace your failures and grow from them. “Failure is another stepping stone to greatness” – Oprah Winfrey.
I live by these two words. Use college as a experience for growth, and trust the process. You will never, in your life, be among so many great minds and resources as you will be during college. Embrace it! Join clubs, make friends, and gain new knowledge and experiences. You can learn as much outside the classroom as you do in the classroom. Instead of taking an American History course, try something different by taking a course on African History or Asian History. College offers a wide variety of courses that appeal to everyone’s taste. I opted out of taking Psychology or Sociology because I took those classes in high school. I took Anthropology instead, and I enjoyed it so much that it is now my minor! All I’m saying is try something new. It will broaden your horizons beyond what you have ever known. Above all, do everything with a full and happy heart. Be appreciative of the college experience, and both challenge and allow yourself to thrive in it.
I could continue to share my advice with you, but what’s listed above is what I found most vital. More importantly, the unique thing about college is that it is your experience. I can only share with you what I learned, but each of our experiences is different. In a year’s time, you will have your own list of advice for incoming college freshmen. This is your time. Grasp the bull by the horns, and take charge.