Dear Next Freshman Class,
“Maybe I’m doing this wrong.”
This thought went through my head quite a bit throughout my first semester in college. I’m a plane ride away from home without any family within a 2-hour distance. I felt partially isolated. As you may enter college at the tender ages of 17-18, you may be a little anxious to what college life actually is. Now, looking back on my first semester, I am here to say that as long as you have a a focus you will succeed. I am writing this as an antidote to any thoughts you may have coming into college from an actual college freshman. So you can stop worrying about what it will be like in August when you land on campus. It’s ok, you can stop going on YouTube looking for videos of your college in action (9/10 times those videos aren’t accurate at all).
During my recent spring break back home in Atlanta, I decided to visit some friends at the illustrious Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. I decided to go for a event they have called Hump Wednesday for all of the students at the Atlanta University Center, which consist of Spelman, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University (one of my mother’s alma maters). Essentially, it is a block party for all of the schools to release stress as the weekend is about to begin. After having a wonderful time at the event, we were out on the campus talking. The conversation was directed towards if we were “doing college right." A good friend of mine, who transferred into Spelman after a year at a state university, mentioned “what might be right for your friends might not be for you.” I countered saying, “What if it is the best position for you on paper?” Her response was that “the only papers that matter are your transcripts and diploma. You have to be able to live in college. This is time you can’t get back. If you love it stay, if not there is always a school that will fit you better. Do not clap for the wrong reasons”.
Coming from the south, I had to rely on the experiences from my family and older relatives. Their time in college ranged from the breakthrough of segregation in the 1960’s and 1970’s, to simply 2-1 years ahead of me. These stories constantly filled my mind with so many different thoughts of how college would be. I figured that there would be pressure to do many activities. I was told that parties were usually a priority on the weekend list. I also heard about how you’ll be blindsided by various events on campus. When I first came to campus, I started to experience what they were talking about. I was never much of a party person in high school and that hasn’t changed at all much since I’ve been in college. Yes, I have been to a good share of parties hosted by the Greeks, and other promoters, but something seemed off to me about my experience. The biggest realization I came to understand in college is that what may be fun for someone else may not be for you.
Now this is not me sitting down and bashing you for being a party animal. It’s college; you are going to go to a party somewhere down the road, even if you are not a party type like me. You may like it, you may not. The point is that as a college student, you have three main objectives in my eyes:
1. Your first will ALWAYS be to on the top of your priorities list. That Kappa party the weekend before your major Poli Sci test IS NOT A PRIORITY OVER STUDYING. Like my favorite Canadian of all time, Drake, once said, Thank Me Later.
2. The second is to learn about your new environment. Many of you are leaving home for the first time. Now if you’re a little adventurous, I suggest do what I did during the first semester. Visit a new city, no matter how big or small the trip may be. I traveled throughout the northeast visiting every state except Maine and Vermont for less than 40 bucks a trip. So in other words, you have the choice to go partying for this price or visit a new place for the same cost.
3. Finally, the overall purpose of college is for you to grow as a person. During my time in school, I have learned what I want to do in life and have a better understanding of the world around me that I would have never learned if I did not branch out of my comfort zone. Yes, some of the things I did and still do are very unpopular, such as volunteering at a local elementary school or going to a local theatre performance than a major party. It is about finding what fits you, not a popularity contest like you will find in high school.
The reason why I named this “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons” comes from the title of the short film by a guy I might have a slightly weird obsession over, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. The East Atlanta native and NYU alum had the short film set in Los Angeles where he is contemplating his happiness and life. Yes, he has the money, the girls, and the fame, but is it really what he wants? The story sadly ends being a non-stop cycle where he wakes up in the same way at the end as he did in the beginning.
My gift to the next class is to not clap for what you assume is supposed to be “college”. We all are unique so embrace it and be cautious for what you put your hands together for.
Cover Photo Credits: The New York University Silver School of Social Work