The Freshman Project



A couple of years ago I did a five post series called, College, Ready or Not?, that focused on finances, making friends, going Greek, stress management, and the importance of listening to your instincts in the collegiate environment. This was great foreshadowing for the opportunity I had to contribute to The Freshman Project: A Collection of Practical and Clever Advice About The College Experience. This book is for college students diving into their first-year of college AND for those people in their life who serve as their advocates, allies, mentors, friends, teachers, guidance counselors, mentors, and champions.

After serving as a Student Affairs staff member on the campuses of Duke University and Vanderbilt University for the past 9 years, I know that parents/guardians always want to know, “How do I prepare my student for college?” This book can help you answer that question with pages of expert knowledge that help you have the conversations that matter most with your student.

Gift this book to a student and they can spend some time preparing for their next incredible chapter.

Topics include:

  • Survive Failure
  • Build Healthy Love Relationships
  • Pick a Major
  • Be a Beginner
  • Navigate Depression and Anxiety
  • Discover Leadership Opportunities
  • Honor the Differences
  • Sleep Smart
  • Consider Fraternity/Sorority Life

All of these topics are critical for an incoming college student to discuss with a caring individual in their life AND there are still many more topics in the book. Providing them with this information will provide a strong foundation that will help support them as they navigate their first-year of college.

I’m honored to have a chapter in the book “Discover Leadership Opportunities”. Erin Fischer of The Leadership and Training Studio put together an all-star roster of expert contributors who give you top notch nuggets of wisdom.

If you’re a student or a supporter of a student and you want  deeper insight into the collegiate experience while adding some tools to your toolbox to help you both be successful, then this book is for you.

Want a copy? I’d love to send you some purchase information.

Want to develop a program around the first-year college experience?

Email me at so that I can send you purchase information and we can begin planning something positive for you community.


Want to read my series, College, Ready or Not?

Part 1

Come Back to Calm

Inconvenient Friends

Go With Your Gut

Money, Too Much and Never Enough

The Greek Thing


Thanks for reading.



College Ready or Not?: Come Back to Calm.

How do you rid your life of stress?

I don’t think I really thought about this until I was in college.  However, I was handed stress on a shiny antique silver platter quite swiftly as a first-year student.

To cope, I took “field trips” to Colonial Williamsburg to get away from all the noise. I found that running DOG Street brought me needed happiness and spending time on the elliptical machine and lifting weights made life a bit sweeter.

I can’t neglect sharing that when I was younger,I made my life “calm” by drinking alcohol. Going out and getting beyond the capacity for clear memories seemed to be the easiest way to release it all and to just forget all of my, in hindsight, first-world problems.

No judgment, if that’s where you find yourself at some point this year, but please know that your calm is not at the bottom of a bottle. If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly. Surround yourself with people that care about you. Don’t drive.  Recognize your limits. Work hard to ensure that alcohol does not become your only means of stress relief.

College brings a continuum of angst composed of grades, relationships, rejection, unmet expectations, homesickness, the realization that your professional aspirations ain’t always what they seem, speedy change, roommate woes, time management, financial crises, and peer pressure, etc. I’m not trying to frighten you at all. This is a moment of real talk. Like most things in life, college ain’t all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns.

stress break up

I strongly encourage you as you venture into your first-year of college to begin figuring out those activities/items/people that bring you back to calm and  work to keep those things a part of your burgeoning college schedule.

– If you enjoy the gym, look up the facility hours and block off  time to workout. If you’re a runner, inquire about the best routes on campus or the neighborhood in which your school is located. If you want to run in a group, inquire at the rec center about groups already in existence or chat with your hall mates about starting a group.

– Perhaps you played a sport in high school but aren’t able to or decided not to be a collegiate athlete. Check out intramurals or club sports. This is a great way to keep playing a sport you love but it’ll often be less of a commitment.

– If shopping is your outlet, then please be responsible about it.  I’d advise you to look for things that calm you that are also inexpensive and even better if it’s FREE. You don’t want to replace one stressor with another like money woes. It’s totally not worth it.

– Maybe you’re into “field trips” like me. What are places on/off campus that you can escape? Perhaps there’s an independent movie theatre nearby where you can engage in “escape by cinema”? A local park? A cool coffee shop? A place where you can let your guard down and just enjoy the space. Get off campus. Breathe new oxygen. See what’s popping outside the bubble. 


– Sitting in front of the TV or computer can certainly bring you calm. Stop forcing social. Put on your favorite loungewear, grab some snacks, and chill out with familiar characters.

– Read your favorite book. I know, I know. No one has time to read for pleasure in college BUT when life gets hectic, make the time. Get back to words that make you feel whole.

– Hang with your besties. Be with those that remind you that there’s a bigger story in this world in which you play a critical role.  Having a strong support system can be key to relieving stress.

– Perhaps you’re into playing and/or listening to music. Check out your school’s music department for possible practice spaces. I’ve never been on a college campus that doesn’t have at least 2 public pianos for students to play at their leisure.

– I now know that writing is a great way for me to come back to center. This space helps me release a ton of stuff. Start a blog, public or private, and get yourself a great notebook to journal your thoughts.

– Engage in a life audit. Why are you doing everything that you’re doing? Is it valuable? Do you actually enjoy it? Has it become a burden? Do you really want to spend time in college with this particular group of people? Is this experience adding energy or depleting energy from your life? Sometimes, we just need to get back to the essentials and say a strong “No” to many of the items we have on our to-do list. Remember, the word “no” is a complete sentence. People would rather you give a strong no than a weak yes.

say no

– Go to those that know you best. For me, that’s God and then my family. Speak to Him, read His word, spend time in His house.  Call your family and laugh at all that they are and absorb their love through the phone.

So, how do you come back to calm?  What are those things that give you your wings?

A wonderful part of my job is that I think for some of my students, I’ve become a person that helps them find their calm. We engage in some ultra real talk–like some, get clear, get rid of all that unnecessary crazy talk— and lots of snort filled laughter.  Look for staff members on campus who want to help. Talk to your RA and/or Orientation Leader, student organization advisor, or a faculty member with whom you’ve made a good connection.

Sometimes your stress can become bigger  than a trip to the gym or the local movie theatre can cure. I strongly encourage to seek out your college Counseling Center should you feel that your normal tactics aren’t doing the trick. Never feel alone. If you’re nervous about making an appointment or walking over to the Counseling Center ask a staff member to help you and most of the time they will make a referral and even walk you to the building. I pinkie promise you that students use the Counseling Center on  your college campus. Never feel ashamed. You’re taking care of yourself and that is to be applauded and not maligned. Make yourself a priority. 

Regardless of how you choose to obtain calm, don’t hold stress in and don’t act like it doesn’t exist. You’re human and you get stressed out. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you real.

Lata Y’all! Enjoy the season my first-year friends.

College…Ready or Not? Pt. 1

A whole new lot of first-year students will move into our residence halls on Saturday. I can’t help but flash back to my move-in day with my multiple carloads of crap, family members in tow, and an overwhelming amount of excitement. I had the good fortune of spending 6 weeks at my college prior to the beginning of the fall semester and already had 36  acquaintances/friends/soon to be boyfriend under my belt. I was never nervous about people. I was more nervous about my academics and just figuring out all of that bureaucratic “stuff” that comes with college.

My mom doesn’t do prolonged goodbyes so she told me “we’re going to head back” took my hand and filled it with a folded wad of cash, hugged me, and before I knew it she and the rest of the clan were driving back to Portsmouth which is a whopping 45 minutes away from my college.

find out who you are

When I think back to that first semester and the roller coaster that college can be, I began to wonder what I would have told myself to help me get through it all? What do I wish I would have known as a first-year student?

I had boy woes, a bit of an eating issue that resulted in an iron deficiency, crippling self-doubt when it came to my academics, raging racial/ethnic identity development problems, and a bit too much fun on the weekends. So, what messages might have been helpful to little ol’ me?

1. Take Spanish. A foreign language will be more than helpful to you throughout your life. Don’t place out of it just because you can.

2. Figure out a plan to study abroad. This is my one true regret from college. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and I’ve still never been out of the country.

3.  The rejection you experience this first semester will serve a greater purpose. It’s all going to be okay.

4. Your first love should be yourself and not some boy. If things happened in that order, you both would have been better off in the long run. Sitting around depressed and pining for him is quite a waste of your time. Snap out of it!

5. Sometimes you and your friends grow apart. It is what it is. Just cherish the good times you had with each other.

6. You’re beautiful. You’re enough.

7. STOP with the t-shirts with the ridiculous phrases.

8. Do things that sound cool to you and don’t let the people around you sway you from going on an adventure.

9. Go to church!

10. Invite people to eat meals with you.

11. Yes, this school is really hard BUT the work ethic you’re developing and the skills you’re acquiring not to mention the importance of producing quality work on a daily basis is going to serve you for the rest of your life. You’ll look back and be glad that you chose a pressure cooker for college.

Hmm…all of this stuff still sounds relevant today and I would certainly give this advice to any first-year student I have the privilege of meeting on Saturday.

College, for me, was AMAZING! I loved it to an extreme degree and even when I hated it, you could have never gotten me to leave. It was my home. I knew it like the back of my hand and when I needed to  I figured out just how to escape the “noise”.  I only remember REALLY wanting to escape once and I called my brother and told him to come get me. He, of course, called my mother and it was settled that I would not be leaving campus to go anywhere including home. All of this drama was about a boy. Ick!

future is exciting

What I want for our first-year students is a chance for them to choose their own adventure. I want their journey to be full of learning, growth, fun, taking chances, failure, and moments of brilliant resilience. I want them to make friends by being their authentic self. I want them to own what makes them a unicorn. I want them to grapple with their identities and hard topics. I want them to stay up until 2am chatting with their hall mates about their hopes and dreams. I want them to have an internal sense of freedom that guides them to join or not join a student organization. I want them to love it but not to their detriment.  I want them to love themselves so much that they understand when to say yes, no, I don’t know, and I need help. I want them to find a spot on campus or in the city that when they need it, they can breathe it all out and let it all go. I want them to look in the mirror and be proud of who they are becoming and if for some reason they’re not then I want them to find the strength to start again and to have the wisdom to know that it’s okay. They are coming home to their alma mater but also to themselves.

This may be asking a lot BUT I know they have it all inside of them and like anything else they must find the COURAGE to live it. I enjoy helping them discover that courage.

So, what would you tell your first-year self?

My next few posts will be dedicated to words of wisdom for first-year college students.

Thanks for reading.


Lata Y’all.