Six Things to Keep in Mind Your Freshman Year- Part 2

Alaysha Harden

Your grades and going to tutoring is not a reflection of your intelligence, your learning is.

Everyone will tell you that you’ll get a low grade on a test your first year and even though you know it’s coming, it will still hurt a little...or a lot. I remember getting a forty six on my first calculus test and never getting anything higher than a sixty five during the entire class. Curves saved me from failing and even though I went to tutoring two or three times a week, I struggled. I felt terrible about myself, but most of my negative thoughts came from me comparing myself to other students in class. I had to learn to recognize the work I was putting in for myself and to move on to my other class work when calculus wasn’t clicking for me.

High school convinced us that our grades are a reflection of our intelligence, but it is not. Your learning is a reflection of your efforts and work you put in. As the semester goes on, take time to acknowledge how much you have learned. General classes, such as chemistry, calculus, biology, and computer science, are designed to be difficult in order to weed out students. Students often understand material after tests and seeing their mistakes. If you can’t figure out something, go to tutoring. Even if you are doing fine in a class, sign up for tutoring before tests and after tests. This will give you a reliable source outside of office hours to review before tests and to help you correct tests after. This is especially important for classes that have cumulative tests.

When you’re stressed, make a schedule and stick to it.

During stressful times, I have found that making a day to day or hour to hour schedule can help maximize the amount of time you have. Make sure that you give yourself appropriate time for each subject and that you add time in for breaks, meals, snacks, and sleep. It can be unnerving to stick to the schedule, move on to the next subject, or go to sleep knowing that you haven’t finished something. Sometimes it is necessary to lose sleep, but other times you might have to sacrifice one grade for another. For instance, if you have a midterm paper due and a homework assignment in calculus due, you might push calculus to the end of the night and complete it if you have time. Prioritizing means being okay if you get to something and being okay if you don’t. In this instance, the midterm paper holds more weight than the homework assignment.

The order of priority can change frequently. Therefore, you should evaluate your situation each time you make your schedules with respect to the grading system in each class. Make sure you have a good grasp on this before you get too far into the semester. If you need assistance with making schedules for yourself, you can reach out to the Center for Student Wellbeing.

Take an AADS class and utilize the BCC

The African American and Diaspora Studies Department is not only a place where you can see professors that look like you at a predominantly white institution, but it is also a place that provides classes that will expand your understanding of what it means to be black. We all know about how 12.5 million Africans were brought over as slaves, but did you know only 10.7 million survived and out of that under 400,000 were brought to the United States? Most of those slaves were sold in South America and their descendants have dealt with a great deal of racism (Gates Jr.). Did you know about how Abraham Lincoln was always an open racist and freed slaves purely as a financial and political move? There is so much to learn within one semester in an AADS class. Do not be deterred by the amount of reading. Each book and piece is carefully selected and will expose you to another side of history that has been purposefully hidden from us. To be black at a PWI is special and to have a program as exceptional as our AADS department is an anomaly. In order to keep the program alive, it is a necessity to have students in the classes offered.

Another source for black students is the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center (BCC). Located beside Rand and behind Butrick Hall, the BCC is not only a place for black students to be exposed to the history of the black experience at Vanderbilt, but it is also a place to see art, get resources that are needed by black students, study, and attend a variety of events. Dr. Rosevelt Noble, Ms. Nicole Malveaux, and Mrs. Jackie Grant are all individuals who work within the BCC and who make it a welcoming and safe space for black students. They are truly invested in black students and have been present in the lounge while we debated about everything from Cardi B being pregnant, what defines a sandwich, or whether or not the advancement of technology will eliminate the middle class. Additionally, the BCC can only improve if there’s student interest. If there are things we want on campus, such as more black tutors, barbers, hairdressers, etc., then we have to show up. The BCC does not get funding unless they can show student interest to Vanderbilt.

Your first year will be full of many learning experiences and obstacles to overcome. It is essential to take care of yourself and utilize your resources. Although college is hard, try not to get too stressed or think negatively about yourself. Just like high school, this is a short time in your life and there is so much more to live for. Have a great first year.

If you ever find yourself needing someone to reach out to, you can contact me through email- - or Instagram -@alaysha.h

Center for Student Wellbeing-


Gates Jr. Henry Louis. Black In Latin America. New York University Press. 2011

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