College year one: Staying true to yourself


Radiah Shabazz is a graduate of the School of Communications at Howard University. She earned a degree in print and online journalism with a minor in English language and literature. Radiah currently lives in Maryland and works in marketing and communications at a national nonprofit in downtown Washington, DC.


The first semester in college can be one of the most challenging and nerve-wracking experiences most people ever experience. Not only must one adjust to new environments, new people, and new classes, but one must also grasp the hang of being almost fully independent. No one wakes you up for class, cooks your meals, or takes care of you when you’re sick. Simply put, you’re on your own, walking that fine line between childhood and adulthood.

Common stressors like insomnia and financial strain can often make the adjustment phase worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way.  With the right attitude and careful planning, your first semester in college can be smooth sailing, fun and carefree.

The best advice I can give to any first time college student is to know yourself. I’ve seen many people come and go because they were trying to be like someone else or trying to fit into a crowd that they weren’t meant to be in. Stay true to yourself. Of course, none knows who they are completely, especially as an eighteen year old in what is usually the first time away from home long term, but you should definitely have some idea before you begin your first day of classes.

Whoever said “college is where you find out who you are” is wrong. The saying should go “College is where you find out more about who you are.” You should go into your first year of college having a general idea of what your likes and dislikes are. This will make it easier for you to meet people who share similar interests. Having a support system in the form of friends will be one of the highlights of college career.

So what else should you? Here are a few things that I knew about myself going in and I think they will be helpful to you as you begin your journey into college.

Know what makes you tick, because a lot of things will make you tick. Know what to do when you feel this moments happening. How do you respond to anger? Figure it out and know when to step away.

It sounds trivial, but know how to share. Most college freshmen end up with a roommate and live in a dorm that has community bathrooms. You’re sharing living space and this can be a very difficult adjustment, especially if you haven’t had to share a room before. With this comes the art of compromise. Be fair and work with your roommate(s) to establish mutual respect so that your living arrangement ca be the best possible. Outside of the classroom, your room will be where you spend most of your time, so you don’t want the atmospheres to be dripping with tension and animosity.

Finally, appreciate yourself and your time. Know when to say no. you don’t have to attend every party, help every classmate, let someone borrow every pen, or whatever the case may be. Value yourself enough to be able to respectfully decline whatever sentiments come your way. It’ll save you a lot of headache and in many cases a lot of time!

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