Letter to the HBCU (and any College or University) Freshman Class: Follow These 3 Tips to Graduate

… and I am here for this!

I am a proud graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana and will tell ANYONE about it. My school is amazing, and fostered an integral part of who I am.

But everyone who showed up on the yard with me back in the Fall of 1999 did not walk across that graduation stage with me in the Spring of 2003.

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Or the fall or Spring 2004 for that matter. Some of my former classmates returned home before their time without that degree and not by choice. So before you or your cousin or friend or play-cousin walk onto campus for the first time in a few months, you need to know the common pitfalls. That way you can avoid anything that could result in a lack of the 4 or 5 year degree you pursue.

Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to fail

WHAT? I thought his article was about not failing. It is about not failing OUT of school, but college has a way of setting a new bar. If you are blessed to have made it to college, it means that you are capable and probably used to being at the head of the class. Well, this is a new arena. Academically college is a Level Up. If you find that you are having trouble, don’t just struggle or internalize feelings of inadequacy. Turn that lack of success into new drive.

  • Get tutoring
  • Find a study group of friend to help you focus
  • Talk to the teacher or student services to establish new study habits or new ways to approach the material.

In the end, you will be a better student and more successful in your career if you don’t run from challenges but instead, study them and learn how to overcome. It’s called GRIT!

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Tip #2: Earn your Fun

In high school, many of us had our parents, or teachers, our guidance counselors etc rooting for us AND making us accountable for our work. In college, the cheering section, at least the one in your immediate vicinity, can be a lot smaller. If you don’t do your work, or study for the quiz or test, no one is going to run after you.

You are grown.

That means, you’ll have to be accountable to yourself. And temptation and distractions are around every corner. You have to get your work done and get it done WELL.

Is the solution to NOT party or have fun? No.

Part of what makes undergrad such a memorable experience is the fun you have and the relationships you build. You just can’t have ALL of the fun. You can’t go to every party. You can’t always plan every event. You may not even be able to pledge when you want to. Many a life-path has been changed when a young adult has pledged before they had their study scheduled and possibly work schedule figured out. Even one semester of messed up grades can destroy a WHOLE GPA and the chances for a competitive grad school or career.

So what’s the solution?

Earn your fun. Give yourself deadlines to earn a reward.

This project has to be done before Friday.

I need to understand this chapter by Saturday.

If I go out Friday night, I have to study Saturday night.

No one is going to set your schedule except you, so do it.


Tip# 3: Never forget college is just the beginning, but you are preparing for your entire LIFE.

In 10 years, some stuff you do during college won’t matter and some stuff will. Learn about your friends and embrace new cultures. Even at an HBCU, there are a lot of types of black people. Regional and cultural differences abound.

“Cultural competence is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across culturesCultural competence encompasses. being aware of one’s own world view. developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences. gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views.”

If you foster relationships rather than ignoring or being petty about differences, it will serve you well.

We don’t need to be more divided as people, we need to be less.

More united. If you were friends with someone who joined a different social group than you, try to remain friends. Or you change dorms, stay cool. The world is too small and the stakes are too high. Communities in need can benefit from those with a higher education working together.

You never know where life will take you, but much of it is about to start now. If you embrace challenges, ration and prioritize your time and build meaningful relationships with people who aren’t just like you, you will walk across that stage one day and impact society in a positive way.

Congratulations in advance!

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Thanks for reading Dear My People and please share with someone who needs to know that we’re rooting for them.

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