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The Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Undergrad: 10 College Tips & Mistakes

Where are my collegiate black girls? Here is some tips and advice from a new college grad. Some of these tips I found beneficial while in undergrad and others I learned from my own mistakes. However, I have put together a list that can help you avoid the problems I faced, excel scholastically and graduate in a timely manner.


  1. Let’s start with my first mistake! I did not use Rate My Professor at all throughout my college experience. I give you full permission to judge the crap out of me, right now. I am not sure if it was out of childish pride of a naive, high school valedictorian or just plain laziness, but I would just find out what classes I needed and simply schedule who or whomever was available at a time to my liking. I just figured the chips would fall where they fell, in regards to how well I did with each professor. I didn’t take into consideration their teaching methods nor did I consider how those particular methods would work with how I learn. Fortunately, I only had one incident that made me wish I’d checked the site before scheduling, but that would definitely be my first tidbit of wisdom. Go To RateMyProfessor.Com!
  2. Utilizing a planner is probably one of the greatest tips that I can give you. It does not have to be expensive. You just need one to keep everything organized. When your schedule begins to get hectic with school, extra curricular activities, and work, you will think back to this post and thank me. It is just a collegiate must.
  3. Flashcards! Who would have thought that the young adults still used flashcards? Well, we definitely do. This suggestion simply depends upon your learning style. I operate off of memorization, which is both a blessing and a curse. So, having a visual learning tool helps me with word association. Whether it is buy writing the cards out, using a flash card app, or typing on the flash card template on Word and assembling the cards myself, I definitely incorporate them in my study tactics. If you learn like me, then this is a major key.
  4. Typing my notes on my laptop, as opposed to writing them, is simply a preference. Let me tell you guys why I am such a fan of typing note and feel it was worth mentioning. For the first three years of my college experience, I did not own a laptop. Your eyes are not deceiving you! I did not own a laptop, which was a mistake that I will admit. However, I used my home computer or the university library to do assignments and projects. At that time, I had an iPad, but no solid laptop that was for personal use and it wasn’t that I was financially unable to. It was more of a ‘it isn’t broken, so don’t fix it’ situation. I was getting by and doing well, but I was pen and pad-ing it. Now, I have a MAC Book Pro and I don’t know how I made it that long without it. Do you see why I am stressing the laptop note-taking so much, now?
  5. Books are an obstacle  that you have to learn to navigate on your own. Pricing is outrageous and it is up to you make the right decisions, regarding book purchases, for your finances. My suggestion is to begin the hunt for decently priced books at least one month prior to the first day of semester. You can also begin consulting with friends who may have a book on-hand to sell or make inquiries to previous classmates.
  6. Advising appointments are major, major keys to success in college. You need to meet with your advisor at least once a semester. For my readers that are not quite college ready, your advisor is much like your high school guidance counselor. However, your meeting with them is ten times more important because these people, unlike your guidance counselor, are not going to hunt you down to ensure that you are taking what you need to graduate. They know what you need to graduate. They know where you stand in regards to your degree, but these people are not going to bother you with that information. Therefore, it is your job to become a fixture in their office and a face that they are familiar with. Trust me, this will be vital in college survival.
  7. The early bird catches the worm, right? So, you never want to be late to the party, figuratively speaking, when it comes to your education. You need be ahead of the game. This means knowing what grades you need in each class to stay on target with attaining your degree and keeping a strong GPA. This also means that you want to be taking care of business before class time, when it comes to meeting with advisors, professors, handling financial aid issues, housing issues, etc.
  8. Parent/Teacher conferences no longer require your parents, in college. If you have concerns about your advancement in a course, do not hesitate to contact the professor to meet up so that you can better grasp the information or gain clarity on your issue. Now, I must stress to you the importance of being prepared for these conferences. I have met with my teachers, one-on-one, since elementary school. When I had issues, I would schedule a conference and meet up with them to discuss things. Of course, I am an extremely Type A person when it comes to education and business, so I did that throughout high school. However, I always came prepared with my questions and concerns and I conducted myself with extreme professionalism. I also went to them dressed appropriately. So, just be mindful of those things if and when necessary.
  9. Becoming familiar with your degree plan, which may vary by university, is of the utmost importance and I mistakenly did not do so soon enough. It is just good to have an idea of how much you need to take on each school term, to be on track with your plan.
  10. Keep a copy of each course’s syllabus, on-hand. Whether it is a picture in your phone, a screenshot on your laptop, or a printed copy, you should have one! This is helpful because typically your course schedule for the semester is on there. So, you can reference this to know what you are covering that day. You also can reference it for your instructor’s contact info, if you need to relay information to them. Your grade weights are even on there; it is just a very informative document. So, use it! 


Most importantly, enjoy your undergraduate experience. Don’t forget to have fun while you handle your business.

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