Congratulations! You’re Off to College, But Read This First.

This reflective piece was written by a Mastery Charter – Shoemaker Campus alumnus, Rodney White. He attended a full time dual enrollment program at the Community College of Philadelphia during his senior year. Rodney had a weighted GPA of 4.24, unweighted GPA of 3.87 by the end of junior year and had an ACT composite of 24.  

His reflections pushes me to think of how we help students work even harder, develop effective time management skills, and know themselves deeply. Rodney also challenges me to continue to pursue resources that enable our students to engage in myriad experiences. Rodney attends Tufts University. #BlackDegreesMatter

There are a few weeks left in the school year, and I am still slowly crawling out from the rubble of my first semester. It was a disaster. I realized math wasn’t for me and I’m no longer a computer science major. Regardless of what grades I got last semester or even this semester, I’m keeping my head up. I understand that being successful in academia is a skill, and I’m still working on honing the skills that get the results I want.

As the class of 2019 heads off to college this fall, here’s some advice from what I’ve learned so far:

1. Time is either your best friend or worst enemy.

Since being in college,  I realize how much time I actually waste doing… literally nothing. I’ve changed many habits in the past six months, one of them being how frequently I use my phone. Last semester, I used to wake up and immediately grab my phone and scroll on social media for about half an hour before I got up to get ready for class.

I realized (very late, unfortunately) that all those “It’s only 30 minutes” excuses add up. In the 2.5 hours a week I spent on a pointless morning routine, I could have spent that time practicing Chinese (I’m taking Chinese, btw), or reviewing other class materials. Recognizing what YOUR time wasters are and replacing them with productive tasks will save you a lot of time and energy. 

2. No really, just ask. You’ll be surprised by what you find.

I would like to preface this by saying that I’m not in any way a shy person. I raise my hand frequently in class, and I don’t have a problem speaking to my professors. What I didn’t understand was the importance of clarifying questions. You’re not going to always know what you don’t understand. For example, when I’m in my Chinese lecture, I understand what my professor is saying, but I have trouble articulating responses. Whenever she introduces a new sentence structure or something is slightly unfamiliar to me, I always ask a clarifying question. Not only does she make sure that I learn what I don’t understand, she helps me understand how to use what I already know to convey a similar message. I’ve learned that language learning isn’t only about the vocabulary, but it’s also finding ways to convey a complex idea into something small and digestible. If I don’t get to ask a question during class, I always go to:

3. Office hours. Who would have thought?

Honestly, who would have thought that office hours would be like finding a golden ticket? I take mainly small classes, so my professors are almost always available. To me, office hours are just as important as lectures. I get 1-on-1 time with the person who is giving me my grades. They’re there to help. You and I know that, but you don’t really know how it feels to walk out of office hours with a firm understanding of course material until you do it yourself. I’ve fallen in love. Now, I go to office hours even if I don’t have burning questions. Just exposure to your subject will help you tremendously. The more you do, the more results you will get. This is why I will urge you to always:

4. Practice learning

It took me a long time to realize that I am a visual learner. I was looking at all my peers with their noses in textbooks and 1,000-page novels in the library for eight hours a day. Admittedly, that ain’t me. I can’t sit and read for more than an hour at a time on a really good day. Textbooks are wordy and boring. Luckily, as a potential film major, I might be able to find all the information I need on the internet.

I learn by watching someone do something and trying it myself. I don’t like long lists of instructions, they confuse me. I had a bit of a breakdown when I literally couldn’t force myself to do the work my peers were doing. Luckily, I go to a college with many types of classes, so I don’t HAVE to read textbooks if I don’t want to.

If you’re struggling in your classes, don’t doubt yourself. You are intelligent, you are worthy, you are capable. Maybe the way you are trying to input information doesn’t work for you. And that’s okay. Just keep swimming. That’s all anyone can ask of you.


  1. Excellent quick read. I have had the pleasure of meeting Rodney white at MC Shoemaker and Paul Robeson Chess CLub. It was a pleasure to see him at CCP where I was in my first year taking classes. Its a pleasure to see how much he has grown, and has learned to do more meaningful things with his time like writing informative articles on his experience here at the college. I hope all is well, bro #BlackExcellence #GentlemanAndScholar #PRCC


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Up Next