Even though more and more Latinxs are attending college, enrollment of Latinx and Black students still lags at top universities and colleges. For example, at Harvard only 13% of students are Latinx while 52% are White according to the New York Times, 2017. So even though there is much to celebrate when it comes to the rising numbers of Latinxs attending college, there are still many struggles Latinxs face such as lack of support, cultural barriers, pressure to succeed for the family, discrimination, a feeling of not belonging, and microagressions.
If you are a person of color or from a historically underrepresented group, here are some important tips to help you not only survive college, but thrive and really enjoy it.
Do not listen to external messages or your own internal messages if they are negative. Life put you where you are, you worked hard and succeeded. The college you are attending wanted you because you are just as good as the next student they admitted. Remember that you are just as capable and deserving to be there as the other students. Similarly, you have the power and ability to succeed in this environment because you were able to overcome other barriers to get where you are in the first place. Talk to yourself in a positive tone and read books to put you in the right mind frame. Read books written by other people of color and learn about your ancestral power. One easy to read book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, can teach you about thinking positively while learning about Toltec philosophy.
Ethnic Studies Course
Reading from authors of your similar experiences and background always helps to empower and to grow. Similarly, taking classes where discussions and assignments revolve around these experiences can be a wonderful way to stay grounded while you are away from your home. These classes will help you find your voice, empower you, and allow you to grow. Many times these courses are taught by professors who can become your counselors and are wonderful allies to have should you have any problems adjusting to college life. They easily become lifetime mentors and can help you find jobs and get recommendations for graduate schools as well as help you navigate through college.
Finding friends that you can relate to will make your time in college fun and relaxing. It is so important, when you are not in class or studying, to have a group of friends you can just relax and be yourself around. Find other Latinxs or people from your hometown. Many colleges publish a book of student contacts especially for students of color. Even friends who are not exactly like you will do the trick, just connecting with people who have similar experiences or interests can help you feel more at home. Join some clubs and make an effort to attend school events. Ethnic studies centers are also great resources to find friends, support counselors, and to learn about cultural events happening on campus. Lastly, seek out psychologist and counselor supports your college may provide free of cost to students. Your mental and emotional health should be a priority throughout your college years.
Joining clubs and organizations is a great way to meet friends. So why not join a team sport or an activity that will keep you active. Exercise is a great way to deal with frustrations and fears. Boosting those serotonin levels will keep you mentally and emotionally balanced. Try to eat well while you’re at it. Your dining choices will vary from fast food to healthier options. Try to maintain a balanced diet even though you are away from home and might be tempted to eat all the fast food and junk food you can eat!
Items in Your Dorm Room
Keep some home reminders near you. Whether it be religious candles, your mom’s home remedies, or your cultural art pieces, having beautiful representations of your home and culture will make you smile on a tough day and bring you great comfort. They can also keep you grounded and remind you of where you came from and where you want to go. Family pictures and some Latinx snacks are just what the doctor ordered after a long day of lectures and homework.
Stay True To Who You Are
Don’t expect anyone to understand your struggles or your experiences, but do expect respect and reciprocate. This is a time in your life where you will form many ideologies and even question some of your current beliefs, but integral to who you are is your ancestral line, your culture, your language, your foods, your family, your religion. Keep in mind that you can redefine your beliefs while maintaining your core. Make those video phone calls back home when you can because seeing and talking to your family is a big part of staying true to who you are.
Lastly, have a blast! The average four years spent in college go by so quickly you will reminisce much about your time there. Study, work hard and succeed academically, but also get out and socialize, study abroad, get to know people from different walks of life, and open your eyes to new perspectives. You won’t ever regret the learning the takes place inside the lectures halls, at the dorms, in the dining halls, and out at social events. All of those make up the true college experience.
Ashkenas, J., Park, H., & Pearce, A. (2017, August 24). Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/24/us/affirmative-action.html