College Panel 2019: Eight Takeaways

Every June, A Life After School Coordinator Mara O’Day organizes a college panel, where alumni, staff, and friends of New Urban Arts answer questions from college-bound graduates. Didn’t make it to this year’s panel? Curious to hear some insights? We boiled down the afternoon’s discussion into eight takeaways that you can bookmark, here! If you have any questions, feel free to contact

Things to remember?
Mistakes to avoid?

Remember to pace yourself, give yourself time, follow dates, and invite multiple eyes for feedback. Writing an application is weird; it’s a process that asks you to use such a small amount of space to present your voice and future plans. Be this as it may, it’s your process. Own it, use it to celebrate what makes you you, and why college is the best next step.

Are you moving out of state?
Unsure what to bring and how to move it?

Be a minimalist! Pick what you absolutely want/need and identity with your potential roommate who will bring what. Once you’re there, look around for college recycling programs, and shop at thrift stores for forgotten necessities. You’ll likely make friends who can help you store things during the summer, but if not, ask if your school has storage services.

Leaving Home
Feeling out of it?
Curious about ways to stay centered?

Find security in routine! Practice consistency in healthy eating, sleeping (when you can!), studying, and “you” time! This new freedom can be intimidating, but it’s your canvas. Remember that, and if you’re feeling blue or overwhelmed, remind yourself why you’re there, and stay in touch with friends, family, and NUA staff and mentors who care about you!

Who can you talk to about transferring?
Where will your credits—which represent a lot of hard work, not to mention time and money—be accepted?

Practice patience, and do your research! Reach out to a school’s admissions counselors to begin a conversation about what courses could transfer—especially if the school doesn’t have an articulation agreement available on its website. Check in with your faculty advisors and academic deans to make sure you’re on the right track. And always keep copies of your course syllabi!

Culture Shock + Self Care
Will it go away?
Where do you look?
Who can help you?

Take a deep breath, know this is a normal, and remember that you’re here for a reason. Focus upon what makes you special, and surround yourself with resources (e.g. writing center, tutoring center, or counseling center), spaces (e.g. multicultural center, women’s center, anime Club, LGBTQ center, or first generation center), and people who will help you nurture this and bring you joy. Find those people who will recognize you, affirm you, and genuinely support you. They could be friends, mentors, advisors, or even professors.

If you’re feeling a little lost and need an extra hand in beginning this search, feel free to visit these the online resources:

  • The Steve Fund – Mental health resources for students of color
  • ULifeline – An online resource and hotline for college mental health
  • – A resource for identifying your local healthcare resources

PLEASE remember: if faculty, staff or fellow students are making you uncomfortable in any way (mentally or physically) – do NOT keep it to yourself. Talk to people who you trust on campus, or at home, or contact NUA. Your safety and well-being ALWAYS come first.


Where can you get it?

Be social! Be savvy! Event-hop for free food! Join clubs and organizations and encourage facilitators for club events to use their budgets on food. Or, be your own gourmand! Buzzfeed and countless social sites share simple cooking tutorials. If you’re commuting, bring some food and ingredients from home.

If you’re struggling, there are helpful resources. You can always apply for the SNAP program, consult your school’s food pantry, or check out these resources:

Swipe Hunger –  Nonprofit that facilitates college meal share programs
Food Pantries – A food pantry finder

Courses, Workload, and Advising

Struggling to manage large workloads?
Can’t find a way to study?
Not sure how to approach your professor?
Unclear about your requirements?

Building effective academic habits is a lesson in-and-of itself. You will learn not only what you do best, but how you best get things done. You may discover that you study best when listening to thrash-metal, that you have the skills to slay an oral presentation to 200 people, or that scheduling a day off between classes helps you facilitate a good workflow. You may even discover that a year abroad will give you some healthy and exciting space.

Embrace your strengths, and surround yourself with folks (mentors, professors, and friends) who support them. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You just have to look to your resources, and be in control of your experience.

Professors and advisers are human too. Their job is to help you. Don’t be afraid to chat with them (or poke them if need be) when it comes goals and expectations. Deans, counselors, family, and friends can also be of support! As long as you work to maintain motivation, clear communication, and organized plans of action, you can find your rhythm. 

Dorm Drama
How do you nip it in the bud?
Who do you go to?
What is at the heart of a good roommate relationship?

Good communication is everything! Be honest. Be considerate. You can establish clear communication early by introducing yourself to your potential roommate and taking a moment to discuss interests and habitation practices. Your RA will likely share a roommate agreement/preference form that you can use to cement this dialogue. If things get tricky, remember that your RA is there for you. You may be paired with someone who doesn’t share your background or interests, and that’s perfectly okay, but above all, it’s important for you to feel comfortable and safe in your dorm. If you don’t, talk promptly to your RA or an administrator at your school’s office of residential life.