Keys to a Successful College Journey

By:Mercedes L. Harris

I won’t lie, the pressures of being a successful college student are intense. Especially when they are combined with the societal pressures of being an “ideal” black woman. Between weekly mental breakdown phone calls to my mom, late night study sessions, and YouTube hair tutorials gone wrong, it all seems to be a blur.

I remember one semester in particular when I was working two jobs, had a full load of classes, and was involved in different on campus organizations. I wanted to rip my hair out and hide under my bed. I felt as though I was disappointing someone in the universe by taking on so much and trying to be above average, at best.

I had papers and assignments due, a tight schedule, and very little sleep. I’m thankful for that hard semester. It shaped me in ways that I never would have experienced had I not come to college. It also helped me define the necessary tool(s) to being a better, more efficient student and person. Below are a few of the things that I learned.

1. It’s okay to pause.

I know that sounds impossible, but it’s necessary. When you pause, ask yourself, “Am I happy with who I am and what I am doing?” If the answer is anything but yes, change the circumstances to make your answer yes. Your pause doesn’t need to be a vacation to the Bahamas or anything grand it can be as simple as deep breathing exercise. It’s whatever time you can spare to really remind yourself of your motivation, your goals, and your priorities. College is a serious investment and you want to be secure in your decisions.

2. It’s okay to ask yourself if you’re taking on too much.

The perfect balance between socialite, bookworm, getting 8 hours of sleep, having perfect body, and stacks in the bank does not exist. (I’m sorry!) It is very possible that you may stretch your 24 hours in a day a little too thin without even realizing it! That’s okay, but you have to make a conscious effort to say no to some invitations and realize that you’re only one person. Even Superwoman knew when she was doing too much.

3. It’s okay to question your priorities and change your mind about what is important to you.

What may be a top priority one semester may not be as important the next semester. That is okay. You can change your mind and explore other options or find new passions. That’s kind of the premise of college- finding your niche in the world.

4.It is definitely okay to ditch the idea of being “ideal” and define “ideal” for yourself.

Success doesn’t have to be having a certain wardrobe, hairstyle, GPA, or boyfriend. Success is feeling good about your decisions. Social media doesn’t make it easier, I know. Seeing #Goals down your newsfeed can be hard sometimes especially when the images you see don’t match or look like your situation.

If your situation is anything like mine, I’m a first generation college student, meaning there is no room for error. My entire family is counting on my success. No pressure, right? Forget all of it. Throw out every idea of how you think you should look or act, or the pressures of graduating,unless they line up with what you want for yourself. After all, it is your college journey and it should be unique and special for you.

From my own experiences  I’ve come to see  that none of my goals or happiness was achieved until I felt okay about myself and what I was doing in college. Some stress is necessary and normal but you don’t need to kill yourself in the process of getting your degree. The four years, or more when you’re in school are so crucial and life altering. Set yourself up for great success and happiness!

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