10 Thoughts for Black Girls Starting College This Year

This post is inspired by the work that @blackgirlproject is doing.

1. Meet with your professor to clarify your first assignment. Every professor is is different and you will get a better idea of what they asking for. They may be busy but this is your education to claim, they have theirs. As the first woman in my family to go to college AND as someone who is being trained to be a college professor. I know the power of such a meeting.

2. Never set your drink down at the party. Even with your best friend. It only takes one minute for someone to put something in your drink that can compromise your faculties. I don’t use the term date rape, because date softens the sexual violence of rape. However, in a rape culture you need to protect yourself and the culture needs to change.

3. If something traumatizes you, if you have a racist or sexist experience, tell someone preferably a professor or a therapist on campus. Keeping stories inside of you is harmful to your mental health. If you do not have your health, you cannot graduate. I had a hard first year with regards to my family during my first year at Mills. I went to a professor and let them know what was going on. Talking about it out loud helped. I had two part-time jobs and STILL earned a 3.5 that semester.

4. Make friends with girls. I know we are socialized to not like women. But your girlfriends will hold you down when your boyfriend/girlfriends/Lovers break your heart.

5. Send thank you notes to all the family members who do nice things for you while you are away. It means a lot to receive a call or a thank you note.

6. Party. I will never forget four of us packing into my homies BRAND NEW sentra and flying across the Bay Bridge to see the De La Soul show. We bonded that night. I did NOT say party all the time. I said party. Notice the distinction.

7. Think about your summer plans. Go to the internship coordinator and ask them for help in November. Then go back in February. These folks are busy, but they have the resources to help you. In my senior year I interned at VH1 because I was persistent and tenacious. Because of this internship and another with a smaller production company I landed my first production assistant job with Beyond the Glory. BTG was/is a documentary show about athletes.

8. When someone offers to help you with your career, thank them and take their card and follow up. I am not saying use people like a rug, because that is wrong. I want you to understand that college exposes you to social capital, which is just as if sometimes not more valuable than money. Access to people means access to relationships. Unfortunately, the world is such that people with institutional power may NOT talk to you if you do not know someone that they know. This is how institutional power works. I want you to understand it and have a language to describe it.

9. Keep a journal. It will help you process mistakes. Remember mistakes are assets.

10. Do not run up your credit card bill. Understand that higher education is a profit oriented system. The fewer loans you have when you graduate the more freedom you will have with choosing a career.

I hope this helps you little bear.

All the best.

To my readers, is there anything else that you would add to this list?

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  1. says

    I couldn’t agree more! Mistakes are a fact of life and journaling has been like therapy for processing the comings and goings and decisions of life for the last 10+ years.

  2. John says

    i can add two (these are from experience):

    1. eschew the nightclubs and go for the alternative outlets. there’s nothing wrong with coordinating with friends to take advantage of the “ladies get in free/ discount drinks”; it’s just that this 5-7 year window of higher learning can be more appreciated by going for the tangents offered like mountain biking or interpretative dance.

    2. there’s a good chance the major you’re focused on now will not be the one you graduate with. there’s nothing wrong with that; just engage with advisors and professors who respect you as a student/ person. also, if the major you stick with isn’t considered a smart investment by those who didn’t put in the hours you did, fall back on the knowledge that the skills you developed in pursuit of that degree can get you into those positions; it’s all about how you apply those skills.

  3. Kyra says

    Loved your list, so so much. Wish someone would have published this list when I entered my freshman year of college. I’d also like to add if that’s ok.

    1. It’s ok to transfer. People poo-poo it, and don’t make the decision lightly, but this is your life, your degree, your future, and your MONEY. If you have the grades and the willpower to go to a school that makes you feel accepted, challenged, and successful, go there.

    2. Listen. Listen first. Take the opportunity to listen to a thousand different voices. If you have the privilege of going to a diverse college (they exist!), sit and talk to everyone and gain different perspectives. It’s that diversity of thought that is essential for the workplace later. ESPECIALLY if you learn how to disagree respectfully and still get the work done (think what could have happened if our political leaders had learned that!). I’m so grateful, every day, for the opportunities I had to talk to, listen to and fight with a million different people in college. It’s been essential to my life.

    Thanks so much, as usual, for your wisdom. I’ve lurked for months and keep posting your thoughts to my facebook page. You are a breath of fresh air!