Editor's note: This is part of an occasional Pope Center series, "If I Knew Then What I Know Now," about lessons learned in college. Other articles in the series can be found on the Pope Center's Prospective Students page.
I started my college journey at Wingate University, a 2000-student university outside Monroe, North Carolina, where I studied biology and education as a double major. I completed my college career, however, with a major in music performance from Peace College, a women’s school in Raleigh.
Both schools have great strengths. But I can honestly say that I would not have made it through either of them without the tips I offer here.
During my freshman year at Wingate I was having the hardest time in English (never my best subject). I finally decided that I would stop by Professor Beverley Christopher’s office one afternoon and ask if she had time to go over some of my work. That one step turned my world around, changing my life not just at Wingate but also at Peace three years later.
Dr. Christopher was excited that I had stopped by and was eager to go through each paper and exercise to help me correct and understand the mistakes that I had made. This one step broke the façade I had created in which I viewed my professors as existing simply to load us down with work and make our lives miserable. After this visit, I began to meet with Dr. Christopher on a weekly basis and started to see a dramatic improvement in my writing skills.
Once I was feeling more confident, I decided to explore the university to see what other assistance was out there waiting to be uncovered.
First, I found free tutoring. Both Wingate and Peace offered student-led tutoring that was available to all students at no charge. In my second semester, I started attending a group tutoring session once a week for my Western Civilization II class. I had been reading the assignments but performing poorly on the quizzes and weekly test. I found that what I needed was the repetition that the group tutoring discussions provided. I was amazed at how much my grades improved.
I was so grateful that someone had taken time out of a busy schedule to teach me history that I decided to give back. I became a tutor in inferential statistics.
Between tutoring sessions, I started spending more time in the library. I could accomplish more in a one-hour library study session than I could during a two-hour session in my dorm room. This was mainly because the distractions of dorm life were not present (roommates, people stopping by, loud music, etc.), but it was also because I had every resource that I could need at my fingertips. If I needed a source for a research paper, I could simply walk to the library’s computer, search for the right book, and read it right away!
College is more than academics, though. My first few weeks of college were all about classes, studying, and getting enough sleep, and my daily routine quickly became close to boring. I decided I needed something outside of the classroom for relief. I had seen posters for last-minute cheerleading tryouts because someone on the team had been hurt and they needed a replacement. At first, I had no intentions of trying out, but a girl on my hall found out that I had cheered in high school. She dragged me along with her, and I was stunned and grateful when I was chosen to be the newest Bulldog cheerleader.
Not only did I have something outside the classroom to focus on, but it added the social aspect of college that I had been missing. Over a year later, I decided that I was ready to expand my campus involvement a little more. I decided to pledge Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity during my fourth semester, which is where I found like-minded students and life-long friends. I became the philanthropy chair for the sorority, which provided many opportunities to help in the community, and it also helped build my resume for the future.
Halfway through my fifth semester at Wingate I started to have back pain while cheering. Through many doctor visits it was determined that I needed back surgery, which would require extensive recovery time. The surgery was performed in February 2005 and I spent a couple months recovering. When I was ready to return to school I had a choice to make. I could return to Wingate and finish my degrees or I could transfer to a school closer to my home in Durham. I decided to change schools and pursue a degree in music performance—being on stage has always been my passion. I applied and was accepted to Peace College in downtown Raleigh.
Transferring to Peace was quite an adjustment. Peace is a small women’s college. There was no football game to attend on Saturdays and no Greek life. On the other hand, it offered much smaller classes and frequent one-on-one time with my professors, something that I had grown to love. I missed my sorority sisters but felt that I had joined an even bigger sorority by coming to Peace.
The school was small enough that you knew just about everyone, and I joined the dance company as I immersed myself in my degree studies. To this day, I still talk with my music professors from Peace and I probably always will, because we created such a bond while I was in school. It’s amazing how that one step toward better communication that I took as a freshman changed my life.
I don’t have all the answers but these little things helped me through two schools. I hope that they can give you guidance as you start or continue the wonderful journey called college. Just remember to talk to your professors, use the tutoring, find the library, get involved, and enjoy the experience!