PWI School Survival Guide

Welcome to college! Your (hopefully) relaxing and stress-free summer has come to a close and now it’s time to get back to reality. My first year at my Predominately White Institution was an exciting experience that was full of firsts: first time living away from home, first time being able to go anywhere, anytime I pleased, first time not having to adhere to a problematic dress code, and of course my first college party! However, it was also a time of disappointing firsts, like being told that I’m only on campus to fulfill a minority quota…  The firsts are endless, really, and if you are a person of color starting college at a PWI this fall, I’ve compiled 4 tips for you that are sure to make your first year experience the best it can be.

1.     Find people who can relate to you

This is one of my most important pieces of advice. I couldn’t imagine my first year experience without a tight knit group of people who looked like me and understood what I was going through. When you’re a minority at a PWI, it’s very important to build a community with people who remind you that you’re not alone in this. Building your circle of friends on campus can be a stressful process, but I promise you that the trouble is worth it.

2.     Utilize the faculty

Please don’t sleep on these people! Professors, student advisors, hell even the dining hall employees were all hired to help you succeed and have so many resources for you­ to take advantage of! The one thing that I regret is not reaching out to them sooner, so don’t make the same mistake I did.

3.     Find a mentor

Many colleges have an automatic mentor-matching program for minority students, but in case yours doesn’t, go get you one! Mentors teach you things that the faculty won’t, like how to find your classes without looking like a lost freshman (Google Maps was a lifesaver those first few days). Many of them invite you out places and help you feel more comfortable while you make your transition. I’d like to also add that most times, people of color at PWI’s have some sort of group message that they use to stay in touch with one another and pub resources or events that they hear about; your mentor could add you to the message and make sure you’re in the loop. Minority mentors are people that you can feel comfortable going to with any questions you may have and they also double as a great friend.

4.     Be confident

As a minority at a PWI, you may feel out of place sometimes. That’s normal. I remember multiple times feeling like any move I made was being analyzed in my large, overwhelmingly white lectures, or feeling like people were staring right through me as I walked around campus. It’s important to remember that even when you feel like a fly in the milk, be confident. You deserve your place on campus and are there for a reason- which is to prosper. So do just that. Learn to love yourself in an environment that expects you to fail. As long as you own your space, no one can take that away from you.

Shandel Menezes