By: Jade Perry
It’s the middle of your first semester or quarter at college. You’ve gotten a few grades in, started the process of finding community in college, and most likely pulled a few all-nighters. This season is a time to consider or re-consider all your academic and social goals, dreams, & plans for college. So, as a professional woman of color who has worked / does work within higher education and student affairs, I want to leave you with some tips for your perseverance and success!
1) Reflect, route, & re-route:
Take inventory of what’s been working well for you! Perhaps you’re really rockin’ it with your time management skills. Perhaps you’ve gotten the course content down for one of your classes. Take some time to celebrate that and all of the areas where you’re experiencing success! Affirm yourself, your work, and your great use of time in college. On the same token, take inventory of what hasn’t been working as well.
Perhaps you’re looking for more community or a tighter knit with your peers. Perhaps you’re stuck in a course and need to know how to access tutoring. Take some time to create a success plan for yourself that will help you get through those obstacles. Do some institutional research: What does your school’s website tell you about tutoring centers or hours? What resources does the library have? What student organizations are out there for you to try as you find community? College is a time where you can route and re-route towards success through proactive celebration and planning.
2) Take advantage of resources:
I can say with confidence that there are many people in colleges & universities who are there to help you succeed! Locate them. Talk with them. Take advantage of the resources. Enlist the help & expertise of academic advisors as you think about what courses you’d like to take next semester. As you discern how you’re doing academically, take advantage of office hours so that you can chat with your professor & gain tips & information. As you figure out the connections between your major & your career goals, see what resources your university’s Career Services / Center can provide you. As you try to find community, see what diversity / multicultural affairs offices are on your campus.
Be sure to talk to your university’s financial aid counselors so that you can understand your financial obligations, awards, and plans for next semester or academic year. I know it can feel a bit odd to ask for help in these kinds of areas, but please know that enlisting the help of others shows your self-efficacy & ability to ask for help when and if you need it. When I graduated from college, I realized that I’d had many resources at my disposal that I either didn’t know of or value until I left that space. Learn from me and explore what your university has available to you!
3) Build your network & ‘village’:
As women of color, there are many things we face both in college and outside of college. We often experience and must learn to navigate microaggressions in these spaces. We must think critically about our identities as competent women of color in fields that may not celebrate us and our brilliance. As you think through these things, know that college is a wonderful time to start connecting with peers, mentors, and professionals that can help you in these processes. Ask yourself the following questions:
a) Is there someone in my direct connections that is ‘living the dream’ or that has experience in the same fields I’d like to explore?
b) Where can I network with other professional women of color to serve as mentors for me along this road? (If I don’t know, what university resources might I use to find out: Alumni mentorship programs? Multicultural Affairs? Professors? Peers? Career Services? If I do know, what has stopped me from reaching out to them?)
c) Have I engaged & contributed to student organizations or university offices that will help me to explore the intersections of race & gender? If not, how can I start this process?
Once you have identified a few people that you’d like to connect with, be sure to come prepared with questions, goals for the meeting, and respect any time they spend with you by being prompt & sending a note of thanks. These things are important, particularly for women of color, because by building networks you can access mentorship and role-modeling that benefits you years down the road.
4) Take care of yourself!
Racial battle fatigue is real and can be defined as “the physical and psychological toll taken due to constant and unceasing discrimination, microagressions, and stereotype threat” . The unfortunate reality is that sometimes, racial battle fatigue can feel very heavy in college, especially if you attend a predominantly White institution.
The daily strains of navigating conversations about American history in college classrooms, the process of finding support from those with shared identities, and consistently de-bunking stereotypes can get to be intense and can affect the way that you experience college. While this is not every Black woman’s experience, there are bodies of literature on the experience of racial battle fatigue for people of color in higher education (Fasching-Varner et al., 2015).
I can remember my own college days. The experiences of discrimination that I’d faced both inside and outside of my residence hall left me very stressed, and this stress left me physically ill many times. So, I must say here… please, please, make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Attend to your mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Get enough rest. Eat well. Meditate or engage in any safe ritual that helps you to clear your mind and get your spirit right. Talk to professionals that can help you work through things. It is of absolute importance that on your way to success, you are taking care of and advocating for yourself, ESPECIALLY if you are experiencing racial battle fatigue.
So you made it to college! Celebrate that and own it: you are in the process of shaping your goals, your dreams, and discovering your authentic self. But don’t forget to take a few pauses to identify where you are and create goals & vision for your next years in college. Most of all, don’t forget to take care of yourself in this process! In closing, I send along with these tips my best wishes for your continued success and thriving!
Resources & Bio below
About the Author: Jade Perry is an artistic soul – a full time higher education professional, working in multicultural student success and access by day, and a writer / contributor / & blogger for a variety of platforms by night & weekend. Her personal mission is to offer information, ideas, & counter-cultural narratives that will empower readers to thrive and to lovingly and creatively challenge systems toward greater levels of inclusion! Feel free to connect with her at her blog, JadeTPerry.com