Tips to Surviving Going Off to a Big College

Two miles: that was distance between my home, my church and my school. nd I couldn’t wait to leave! Graduation could not come soon enough,  and once it did, I remember standing in the sea of my classmates’ tears feeling guilty that I was not doing the same. For some, high school is the time of their lives, but for me it was an intermission that was dragging away from the main event.

Fast forward to my first day of college. I walked with a skip in my step towards my first college class, Intro to Political Science. For the first time, I was on my own in a big city and as I smelled the crisp morning fog I thought, “this is when my life begins.”

Ten minutes later I found myself walking in circles, the PoliSci building was nowhere to be found. I was lost, and was starting to panic. The campus was huge and I started to feel like a tiny spec. I finally stumbled into the correct building and found my lecture hall. Class had already started: seats were filled, the professor looked annoyed and I could feel one hundred eyes judging me as I made my way to an empty seat.

I had never felt more alone and as my professor continued explaining the class expectations and course syllabus, tears started to roll down my face. I was all alone in a big city with no friends, no familiar places and no idea why I wanted to leave home in the first place.

I left the lecture hall convinced that I had to transfer to a university closer to home where most of my friends had gone.

As much as I begged and pleaded, my parents did not let me transfer to another school and I am so glad they did. The years that followed were the best times of my life and that small-town girl with big dreams turned into a confident, daring young woman who never stopped trying new things.

Here are three tips for students from small communities who are going off to college in a big city:

  1.    Carry a campus map with you.

I know you think it’s dorky, but trust me every campus map that is posted is always out of date. And here’s a secret: those students that you’re embarrassed will see you pull it out of your pocket will never remember you anyway!

  1.    Go to your professor’s office hours by the second week of class.

Introducing yourself to your professor helps you stand out in and shows that

you have promise. Although you don’t like to admit it, you need that one-on-one time with your teachers that you had in high school. Professors want to meet you and are always happy to help. Besides, you’ll never know when you’ll need a letter of recommendation, it beats asking a professor you’ve never met four years later!

  1.    On the first day of each class, find a homework buddy.

Don’t confuse your homework buddy as your bff, although that can certainly end up happening. Your homework buddy is someone you establish an agreement with that you’ll have each other’s back if one of you forgets certain parts of your assignments. Save yourself the stress from trying to remember whether your professor said to write a four or a ten page paper and just ask your buddy. Have a dentist appointment on the day of class that couldn’t be rescheduled? No problem, your homework buddy just emailed you notes from the entire lecture.

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Elisa Perez

Elisa Perez

As a second generation Mexican-American and first generation college graduate, Elisa had to navigate the education system mostly on her own. A fierce advocate for education equity for children of color and their parents, Elisa’s passion for community led her to pursue a career centered around community engagement. As a nonprofit communications professional, Elisa has the privilege of writing and publicizing the outstanding work of nonprofit startups and how they benefit the communities they serve. It is her hope that her work makes it that much easier and more likely for those in need to be connected to resources that they didn’t know existed. Her work has been featured in Alhambra Source, The Hechinger Report and KPCC’s Take Two.

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