COLLEGE LIFE

American Indian Graduate Center Scholars

College life can be very fast-paced and full of new experiences. Class schedules, study groups, tests, extracurricular activities, and more will quickly fill up your daily schedule and you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed by all of this.

Remember, college is about learning. You are attending to pursue your chosen degree but you will also learn a lot about yourself. The following resources are here to provide some guidance for you during your college experience.   

EXPLORING MAJORS

As easy as this may sound, don’t be worried if you aren’t certain yet.  Determining your major can be quick and easy or it can take time and patience.  Ask anyone who has received their college degree if they had their major in mind when they started and you will get a variety of responses.  Understand that uncertainty is part of the journey and be open-minded when it comes to choosing your major. Most college students will change their major two to three times on average. 

Remember, declaring a major doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it forever.  Take some time during your first years of college to explore and discover new interests.  You might start as a business major and suddenly change to a biology major.  These changes are completely normal and a part of discovering what you truly are passionate about and want to pursue as a career.  

Here are some things to consider when determining your major
1.
What do you like to do? 
2. What careers are trending right now?
3. What subjects do you enjoy?
4. What do you want to do with your career?
5. Can you see yourself five or ten years from now continuing in your field? 

STUDY SMART

College course work is more rigorous and intensive than the coursework you experienced in high school.   When approaching studying for college courses, you need to make sure you are engaging, interacting, and immersing yourself in the coursework.  

The following are study tips & advice as you prepare to transition to college life.


1.
SCHEDULE TIME EVERY WEEK FOR STUDYING.
Studying is very important for you to understand and retain the information you are learning in your classes.

2. READ YOUR SYLLABUS.
Plan your semester accordingly. Most college classes will layout your entire course in the syllabus so consider using a planner to stay on task throughout the semester.

3. UTILIZE TUTORING AND WRITING CENTERS.
College campuses often have study groups and other academic support groups on campus for you to take advantage of.

4. DON’T BE AFRAID OF YOUR PROFESSOR
Utilize their office hours to begin a dialogue with them and build an academic relationship. If the professor knows who you are, they may be open to working with you when you are struggling.

5. GO TO CLASS.
As obvious as this may sound, you must remember that you or your family are paying for you to attend that class.  

6. BE PREPARED FOR CLASS
Make sure that you’re coming to class prepared and you’ve done all the required readings and assignments.  Value the ability to take notes.  You never know what may be reviewed or tested on.  Find a note-taking technique that works for you.  You may record lectures as long as you get permission prior to class.

7. LEARN TO READ ON A COLLEGE TIMELINE. 
You will be doing a lot of reading so make sure to schedule reading time away from distractions. Learn about different reading techniques and find what works for you.  Make sure you read introductions, abstracts, and conclusions and use any study guide resources available. 

8. KNOW YOUR CLASSMATES. 
Knowing your classmates gives you a network of resources to take and compare notes, and build study groups.

9. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STUDY SESSIONS. 
Classes will occasionally hold study sessions before an exam or quiz so take time to attend these sessions. 

10. VALUE EXTRA CREDIT OPPORTUNITIES. 
Not all classes will offer extra credit so take advantage of EVERY opportunity you receive, even if you don’t think you will need it.

DID YOU KNOW?
Most colleges advise three hours of studying per week for every credit hour you are enrolled.  For example, you should be studying 12 hours a week for a three-credit-hour class.

BUILDING & GAINING EXPERIENCE

STUDY ABROAD 

Some colleges offer the chance to study abroad, which traditionally means overseas.  Opportunities like this will vary depending on your chosen major but regardless these opportunities can give you a new perspective.  Check with your college to see if they offer study abroad programs.  Also check with your scholarship providers to see if they offer scholarships to pay for the trip expenses.   

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE

Being involved with as many extracurricular and academic activities as possible can be referenced as research experience.  Remember, college is preparing you for your professional career so take advantage of every opportunity you have to experience a professional-level situation while under the supervision of teachers.

INTERNSHIPS

Businesses will sometimes have internship programs to give work experience to undergraduate students.  Most internships are unpaid but sometimes you can get lucky and find a paid internship.  Make sure you research all the internship opportunities your school offers and those nearby to you so you don’t miss any opportunities to get direct experience in your chosen field.  Your internship provider may find that you are a great employee and offer you a job so make sure you treat any internship you participate in as a full-time job.  

WORK EXPERIENCE 

Acquiring work experience in college is always a possibility depending on the work you are looking to gain experience in.  A lot of campuses offer work-study programs that allow you gain on-the-job experience while also paying for school.  If you have the opportunity to participate in a work-study program, gather as much info as you can and apply!  

LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE

Being on a college campus provides you with a number of opportunities to build and expand your leadership capabilities.  Joining campus-student organizations can help you open doors and build relationships with a number of different people.  Don’t be afraid when positions open up to take the next step and become a leader in the organization. Many times, the skills and experience you gain by being a student leader on campus will better prepare you for life after college.

PREPARING FOR CAMPUS LIFE

LEAVING HOME

Are you READY to leave home?  Have you packed all the necessary items you will need during travel? It’s hard to think about leaving your home and it can be scary to think about going to an unknown place where you may not know anyone but it will be OK.  The summer before you leave, spend time with those you care about and prepare yourself mentally, physically, and culturally for the journey ahead.  

Find time to contact loved ones each week as you are settling in.  Keep an open line of contact with family and friends.

DID YOU KNOW?
While many institutions will push for you to stay on campus for the first couple of weeks, it’s ok for you to go home and participate in your cultural practices.  Plan ahead and make arrangements with your professor or classmates to take notes or schedule time to take tests or quizzes ahead of time while you are on campus.  IF you plan ahead, you’ll stay ahead.

HOUSING & TRANSPORTATION

Research the housing opportunities your campus has to offer and the various dorm room layouts and sizes available.  When looking at housing opportunities on campus, check for a supply list that your school may have available to guide any purchases you may need to make before moving in.  Reach out and introduce yourself to your roommate or roommates you may have and coordinate supplies and appliances beforehand. 

Research services that your institution offers to students traveling from out-of-state.  For example, some institutions may offer a shuttle service to pick you up from the airport so you are not using your own money to pay for cab fares.

DID YOU KNOW?
Your school, tribal office, or tribe may offer assistance with housing fee waivers.

COURSEWORK 

Be smart when building your class schedule.  If you’re not a morning person DON’T schedule your classes at 8 am.  You have control of your schedule and when you go to class.  However, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get from class to class.  Know where your classes are located on campus and how long it takes to travel from class to class.  When building your class schedule, be sure to build in time to eat, study, work, rest, self-care, and FUN!

DID YOU KNOW?
Some classes may not require you to purchase entire textbooks for your course.  There are many options available to access textbooks besides purchasing them through your campus bookstore.  

LIVING ON CAMPUS

DORM LIFE

Once you’ve arrived and settled into your dorm room, get to know your resident advisor (RA).  The RA can be your best friend OR your worst enemy so introduce yourself, be polite, and honor the rules and regulations of your dorm.  If you have a meal plan, USE IT.  You might be tempted to eat out 24/7 but you may not have the budget for it.  It’s fine to treat yourself occasionally but always be aware of your funds and budget accordingly.

Remember, at this stage in your college experience, YOU are your own responsibility.  You must manage your day, week, and month because you hold the reins to your schedule.  You’re responsible for waking yourself up, doing your laundry, keeping your dorm room clean, and many other things that you will discover quickly in your first days of dorm life.  Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it.  

Don’t be a timid turtle and hide in your shell.  Get out and socialize with the people in your floor, in your hall, and all over campus!  While getting to campus may be an overwhelming experience, finding a group to share these experiences with will help you through it.  You are not alone and you will make many friends who feel the same way as you do.

DID YOU KNOW?
Some of the friends you make in college become lifelong friends and may become great resources in your professional careers.

STAYING SAFE ON CAMPUS

While violence on campus is rare, you should familiarize yourself with safety practices and protective services that your institution provides.  Always be aware of your surroundings and know that you should NEVER feel unsafe on campus.

DID YOU KNOW?
You can request campus safe-ride or safe-walk services to escort you safely to wherever you need to go.

GETTING INVOLVED ON CAMPUS

Get to know the financial aid office right away.  These offices are very critical to your college success so definitely make time to build a strong relationship with them.  Your relationship with these offices can affect your scholarship disbursement, your enrollment/dis-enrollment, transcript holds, housing, and meal plan.  Remember, college campuses can be very large and communication between departments can sometimes be difficult to maintain. 

There are a lot of resources on college campuses that are designed to support you as you journey through college. See if your institution provides support services for Native American students or multicultural students. Don’t be afraid to expand your network and get involved with your institution’s office of Student Affairs/Student Life.  This is where you’re going to find a lot of your student organizations, multicultural student services, fraternity and sorority life, and volunteer opportunities.

DID YOU KNOW?
There are currently EIGHT recognized National Native American fraternities and sororities in the United States.

OTHER GREAT RESOURCES & ACTIVITIES:


Resources

  • Gender equality centers
  • LGBTQ+ resource centers
  • Student health and counseling centers
  • Safe Ride or transportation services
  • Career resource centers

Activities

  • Intramural/club sports
  • Academic and Professional seminars
  • Career and internship fairs
  • University sporting events
  • Service, volunteering, activism events
  • Theatre and performance events
  • Student media
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Political organizations

DID YOU KNOW?
Some Native support centers may be able to help you in emergency situations with discretionary funds and services.

CULTURAL PRACTICES

As a student, you are about to begin a part of your life in a place that may not understand who you are as a Native person.  It may be difficult to express your Native identity in a way you are comfortable with but always be confident and never hide who you are.  Many institutions may not understand Native cultural practices but many are beginning to include Native practices in their policies.  When arriving on campus, research if your institution has smudging, tobacco-use, or any other cultural practicing policies.  Vine Deloria Jr. once said, “Certain sets of circumstances lie ahead of us wherein we change the world by the choices we make.”  As you journey through higher education, the choices you make will determine not only your future but the future of your family, your community, and your tribe.

SURVIVING VS THRIVING

LIVING A BALANCED LIFE IN COLLEGE

College life is all about balance.  It’s up to you whether you want to survive college or thrive in college.  Here are some tips to help you decide if you are surviving or thriving.

SURVIVING COLLEGE is not managing your money and having to survive on Ramen for weeks at a time.
THRIVING IN COLLEGE is budgeting, knowing how much you can spend, utilizing your meal plan, and knowing your next meal will be available to you at your discretion.

SURVIVING COLLEGE is barely making it to class and overextending yourself due to extracurricular or cultural activities.
THRIVING IN COLLEGE is managing your time, getting plenty of rest, and knowing when and how to say, “NO”. 

SURVIVING COLLEGE is getting everything done without consideration of your own well-being.
THRIVING IN COLLEGE is practicing self-care while getting everything done.  

SURVIVING COLLEGE is trying to meet the minimum requirements of your degree by attaining as little information as possible.
THRIVING IN COLLEGE is knowing your learning style, utilizing study tips & tools, and working to attain the most knowledge in your degree.

SURVIVING COLLEGE is ignoring signs that you need help.
THRIVING IN COLLEGE is knowing when you need help and seeking the resources you need.

SURVIVING COLLEGE is making it through without finding your community and making connections with others. (Being a timid turtle)
THRIVING IN COLLEGE is getting involved on campus, participating in your community, and building a thriving network. (Being a social butterfly)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Please check out these other great resources for mental health while in school.

Wells Fargo

Student Resources Partner