College Survival 101: Thriving in Chaos

Last Updated on May 22, 2023

College Survival 101: Thriving in ChaosSurviving college as HBCU students truly means more than getting your college degree and going out in the world to get a job. It means more than accepting the conditions of the present just to say that you are a college student. What it does represent is the past battles that was began being waged by the “Black Campus Activist”, Stokley Carmichael, and the “Black Student Unions” (who sought to reform and revolutionize their campuses) of the 1960’s. One of the main reasons why your survival is important is because of the legacy that has to be left for future generations. They need to know how you fought for equal education and equal treatment of all individuals of society. They need to know how you would not let opposition destroy all the hardwork of your past forefathers. But what does this all mean? It means that you have been chosen to carry the torch and become the new trailblazers of this “Enlightened Movement” of black college intellectuals (what De Bois coined as the talented tenth); but I am now renaming you the talented 100%. The war that has been waged on your education is still going on whether you can see it or not.  I want to shed light on the big picture of the journey you are now embarking upon. I want to highlight the fact that you have come a long way but still have much work to do; as well as provide some simple truths that can guide you into the success that you seek. Below are three principles that has guided me on my journey and will prove invaluable to your journey as you “Thrive in the midst of Chaos”.

“A school should not be a preparation for life. A school should be life.” — Elbert Hubbard

Focusing on the task at hand

It is easy to lose sight of the tasks that is before us from time to time based on reasons that differ. I know firsthand about straying from specific tasks when I used to get bored, and finding any reason to avoid writing that paper until the last minute. Sometimes, I would drift for a moment but then other times I would totally neglect my work to do something that was completely irrelevant to the task at hand. I can’t stress enough to you the importance of killing all distractions (no headphones), taking a break (a nice walk), and tuning out your peer surroundings (no chit chatting in the library). If you have a Biology exam to study for you better leave your friends alone and handle it; because your survival is depending on these small choices. Collegiate Survival in this 21st century will definitely take you out of your comfort zone; but that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes you have to face reality and adjust accordingly and that can mean only one thing; that you have to “Suck it up” and become a person of destiny. Just focus on one task at a time while keeping your end goals in mind and things will work in your favor.

Acquiring new knowledge

Your educational experiences will not be based on years spent in the classroom; but will be based on your willingness to maintain a natural learning environment as mentioned below. Each and everyday you have to seek to stretch outside of your comfort zone and begin finding new ways in which to understand the world around you. One of the ways I acquire new knowledge is by studying things based on the survival of our planet. I am interested in anything that can improve the welfare of mankind. So, I am constantly stretched to consider new things and understand the world around me. Acquiring new knowledge isn't  only about reading books, gathering information, or writing reports; but about the different experiences (Studying climate change in Zambia or measuring rainfall in the Congo) you allow yourself to be a part of. You have to become a power learner (Independent Study) and that means being able to learn without dependency on your instructors. I am not saying to cut class but to use self-knowledge as a means to enhance the wisdom of your professor. You have to be able to make sense of new information as it comes in and place it in the proper context. Learning should be fun and the more you look at it in this manner the better you will be able to appreciate the fact that it’s the learners who will inherit the earth.

Improving incrementally

Most Division 1 colleges and corporate entities alike stress the importance of continuous improvement; but what is really taking place is incremental improvement. This is done by weekly, monthly, quarterly, and year progress. Don’t assess your performance based only on the grades you are receiving. You have to check your progress all around the board and make sure you are developing the necessary capabilities to continue in your forward progress. Anders Ericsson, the Florida State psychologist whose research on expertise spawned the 10,000 rule of thumb; noted that “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over & over to get closer to your goal”. Slight shifts in your daily activity can mean the difference in graduating in 4, 5, or 6 years your choice. Remember, that improvement is a day to day function and that surviving college; means being able to adjust your objectives as needed in order to keep your focus on point. The journey will be long and arduous but (in Barack Obama’s voice)”Yes we can “. Every step you take will have 7-10 generations of ancestors taking those same steps with you; cheering you on to the finish line. “Improve one step at a time”.

“It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of the truth.” — John Locke

The times have changed in which we live and your survival in this “Information age” will hinge on you being able to adapt to the changes that are presenting themselves; and a fundamental understanding of the truth concerning your journey. You will need to figure out a way to carry parts of your college experience into the real world. You are in the battlefield as we speak preparing for the day when you will have to put to use the things that you are learning now. Napoleon Hill once stated that “all successful people in the higher brackets make it their habit to create circumstances and opportunities favorable to themselves instead of accepting whatever life offers them”. Now, is the time that you begin the shaping process of becoming an adult; and that means understanding the pain, euphoria, confusion, and revelation that comes with this journey. So, if you are ever going to make it through college you must set the circumstances of your experiences; and make it your business to never quit no matter what you do. If you ever feel the urge to give up just remember to keep your focus on the end result (College Degree); versus the struggle (Hardships & Setbacks) and push beyond the pain. You owe it not only to yourself but to all those who came before you; to overcome and go on to make a difference in this world. It is now or never as you must take the necessary actions to aggressively stay committed to this journey of a lifetime.

One Final Thought

I trust that you have been able to gain a little extra perspective on being able to survive the sometimes brutal and vicious journey of becoming a college graduate. Remember that college will be more difficult for some than others; so you have to take the good with the bad. I wish you the best of luck and suggest that you keep in mind a few concepts about overcoming the collegiate gauntlet.

  • Live in the library (make the most of this precious resource)
  • Don’t procrastinate (no last minute assignments)
  • Meet new people (diversify your relationships if possible; Asian, Chinese ect.)
  • Become best friends with your professor (stay connected)
  • Stick to a budget (don’t rob your future to enhance your present)
  • Get some rest (you think more efficient with a well rested mind)
  • Maintain a learning environment (build a library in your room if you have too)
  • Develop a prayer life (you don’t have to be religious but in all things give thanks)
  • See a therapist (College can and will be tough at times Don’t suffer in Silence if you need help)
  • Improve you mental health (Don’t let your thoughts slide into suicide or depression)
  • Get along with your peers (Learn to work with other people)

“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” — Aristotle

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