No Breaks: Reality of a College Student

On my last day of classes, my aunt and I were discussing my summer plans and what I planned to do in the upcoming days. I just completed my sophomore year at the University of Southern California and have all these plans lined up including my part-time job and another internship. When I informed my aunt of my plans, she told me, “And here I thought you would be able to just relax and read all summer like you wanted to. That doesn’t sound like much of a break.”

Her response caught me off guard because, compared to my workload during the spring semester, I thought I was getting a break. But when I reflected on what I told her I would be doing and the amount of hours I would be spending working each week, my plans did not sound as relaxing as they did before. While I could just call everything off and literally be unproductive throughout my summer break, the goals I have for my future are not just handed to me. I have to make these opportunities available to myself which can’t happen in the comfort of my bed, no matter how tempting that sounds.

While the job market is showing signs of improvement these past few years, college students are still facing an uphill battle in landing a job after graduation.  Because of this, students should work hard throughout their college career to build themselves up not only as future employers but well-rounded individuals.

“Employers are looking for students who have done meaningful work,” says Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution. “They’re not just interested in students who may have devoted a lot of time studying and getting straight A’s. They want students who have shown initiative and are motivated and have pursued interests outside the classroom.”

According to, the top four to-do list for college students during their summer vacations are internships, academic activities, volunteering, and conducting individual projects. As the job market continues to increase in competitiveness every year, more becomes required of us as potential successors in any career path. This means the job as college students is never done whether we are during midterm and finals season or during our summer breaks. There are no breaks for college students. Every day is a step closer to figuring out where we fit in this world and every year is a set of goals accomplished towards the reality that faces us once we graduate. And when we walk that stage, it’s the end of another period and the face of a new chapter, whether it’s the internship that will jumpstart your career or the graduate program that will professionalize your career objectives. This doesn’t mean that you need to rush the process. Spend the time exploring your interests and researching opportunities to cultivate yourself.

While I have two years left, I still cannot help but wonder where I go from here. In reality, yes, I enjoy my three months of academic freedom then start the second half of my undergraduate college career in the fall but even at this point in my education, the only thing that keeps me going is my future. Where am I headed? What does it take from me to achieve the goals I have set for myself? These are the common thoughts of the average college student frequently, especially upperclassmen where time just seems to be running out a bit faster than they thought. With all of this being said, these four years spent trying to find yourself in this world and develop the skills and talents you have been given should not add stress. These four years should challenge and encourage you to think big and set the bar high.

They say that college is the best four years of your life. And they are. Parties and meeting your lifetime friends is an awesome experience but so is discovering who you are and working towards whom you dream to be in the future. Go to the beach, drive to Vegas with your friends, have a great time this summer but remember that every day as a college student is sacred and spend it not only in celebration of early adulthood but also productively.

Shelby White is an intern for Black Is and a student at the University of Southern California. 

Collegiate Corner: Taking Advantage of Opportunities

On Janurary 8th, 2013, the transfer student orientation for the University of Southern California took place. The administrators, advisors, deans, and other presenters spent the entire day explaining to us why students and parents made the right decision to attend their institution. USC is extremely expensive, but what they offer as a university is worth the money parents pay to send their children there. Listening to all of the presenters speak, it was obvious the programs and resources they offer students are beneficial to their academic success; to fully reach one’s potential taking advantage of them is a must. Taking advantage of opportunities opens up doors for students and the college experience would not be complete without it.

Socially, academically, and experientially, there are opportunities and resources to grab while attending college. An article on entitled “Helping your college student “supersize” his college experience” declares that students struggle to find a balance in many areas of their life while attending school. While that is true, the opportunities provided on a college campus cater to students’ need to feel academically and socially strong. Academically, students come to college expecting a new level of schoolwork.  Most rise to the challenge of different types of classes and increased homework.  Many college campuses offer free tutoring, have world class libraries with tremendous resources, have professors willing to help and offer research opportunities, etc. In addition, the social environment on a college campus allows students to seek out people from all walks of life, engage in a variety of cultural experiences, take field trips, and join clubs and organizations. Most colleges provide study abroad prospects, internships, community service, and other leadership roles that give students an opportunity to expand their potential in their field of study.

Now attending USC, the only change for me, aside from the level of course work, is the wider range of opportunities on campus. From the very beginning, the opportunities given to me at El Camino College: Compton Center, I took advantage of which has made me a good student and got me to where I am today. Since my enrollment to USC, the same ideology and practice exists for me on this new campus, especially with the plethora of opportunities that are offered. My advisor sends me emails daily about research opportunities, classes, workshops, and summer study abroad program, which I am currently in the process of applying for. No matter where you are in you academic career, taking advantage of what’s offered will go a long way in making contacts, broadening your experiences, and just having fun.

As a whole, college provides students with countless new experiences and opportunities.   For many students, the college experience will be whatever they make of it.  Students who seek those “value added” opportunities, who push themselves beyond the minimum, will carry away richer, broader experiences when they graduate. You won’t be able to take back a minute you waste, so don’t waste a second. College is the time to grow as an individual and get to know who you are and who you want to become.

Shelby White is a student at the University of Southern California and an editorial intern for Black Is. 

A Disloyalty to my Race

A young African American woman was accepted into the University of Southern California. One thing she does look forward to when she starts at her new school, as any girl would, would be the different market of men on the USC campus. The African American males at her previous college made rude catcalls as she walked across campus, called each other “niggas” and did not attend their classes. What woman wants that? Attending USC will be a game changer simply because she’ll be around guys with a sense of direction and educational focus. The only problem is that these educational driven men at USC aren’t all black. While her preference in men has always been African American, there are only a handful of them that aren’t athletes at USC, the majority being Caucasian and Asian. If she were to walk down to Starbucks with her Caucasian, Asian, or even Hispanic boyfriend she meets at USC, is she being disloyal to her race?
The reality of the situation for African American women in college is that most men in our race are not exactly striving for educational success. Single black women with college degrees outnumber single black men with college degrees almost 3 to 1 in major urban areas such as Washington, according to a 2008 population survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Where does that leave single, educated African American women? Waiting. While young black women continue to excel and hang out with their girlfriends, they are still waiting on the “good” black man to come with the same educational level and marry them.
As African American young woman, I see a problem with this equation. Black women dating interracially should not equal disloyalty. We should not be discouraged from dating interracially if there is not anyone who looks like her with not only goals but the drive and effort to make something out of themselves. Although there are some black males who have an education and there are women who have found those males, this doesn’t mean a woman should be forced to wait for them to appear, especially if there are not a lot to begin with. When 73% of interracial marriages were between black men and white women in the past decade according to the population survey in 2008, black women who decide to date out of their race should not only be culturally accepted but encouraged if the heart desires. Ultimately, it’s about young black women celebrating themselves. When men are not up to our standards, we shouldn’t lower them or compromise, but stay strong. Just like any other women, young, black and educated women deserve men who will love them despite the skin color.
If the young African American woman is walking to Starbucks with her Caucasian boyfriend on the USC campus, is she being disloyal to her race? No, she is not. It’s not like she did not attempt to seek out African American males at either schools. Both pools of African American male college student were either rude, had no home training, or no real aspiration, or were slim to none as far as population is considered. When I start USC in the next couple of months, I am aware of the handful of students that will look like me when I walk across campus. Although the dating market for African American men will be pretty slim, like on most California university campuses, I feel no pressure to date within my race. I celebrate myself as a young black women who deserves someone who respects and likes me despite my complexion.

Where to Draw the Line: Dealing with Stress in College

It is without a doubt that being a college student entails a lot of responsibility. From the load of homework we bring upon ourselves to the extra tasks we take on such as extracurricular activities and a job, being a college student is a job by itself. Day by day, going through the same routine gets harder and harder as you physically and mentally want to shut down; but the only thing that keeps you going is the finish line, that last semester right before you graduate where you will finally receive your diploma. The idea that “I need to graduate no matter what it takes” is a common ideology among dedicated college students whether your parents have money to send you to college or you have to work two jobs in order to stay enrolled. Dedication, jobs, and other activities aside, it is important for students to know their limits and where to draw the line between being a dedicated student and putting too much pressure on oneself.

The most common experience college students go through throughout their educational career is stress. In relation to a higher education, stress is the result of multiple college experiences and situations. From peer pressure to the amount of school work we receive, stress is a major problem for college students across the United States. According to, 80% of college students state that every now and then they experience daily stress. Daily stress can come in the form of the extra paper the professor assigned or even the desire to be socially accepted amongst your colleagues so one doesn’t feel alone. Above all else, it’s that drive to not fail our classes that prepare us for our future, the parents that are investing their own money to send us to college, and more importantly, ourselves, that keep college students under the pressure to finish college strong. But even with the daily stress that college students go through, knowing your own limit and where to draw that line is paramount in order to be successful.

As a college student, it’s easy to get sucked into the social norms of dedicating your life to your education. Each day I find myself as a student wondering if my studies have become the most important factor in my life. Have I drawn a clear line as to where my dedication to school exceeds other responsibilities and my own comfort zone? Pensive about my own life, I still continue to stress about attaining straight A’s but at the same time not being looked upon as uncool because of my “perfectionist” view about college. Even with my own insecurities about my educational direction, I know never to lose myself in the process. Building on social, educational, and organizational strategies assist me in not becoming stressed to the point of self-destruction. When I have piles of homework I have to complete in a short amount of time, I use a planner to write everything down neatly to form a schedule which mentally saves me from destructing. In addition, I try to take breaks and eat so I won’t physically break down. I’ll also sometimes study with classmates so we can bask in our stress together and find relief with encouraging words and hopefully a finished assignment. With these different strategies, the outcome is always one of physical, social and mental contentment.

If nothing is taught to you through the hands-on experience of being stressed in college, one thing you can gain from the college experience is that all students have our unique way of handling our individual situations. Speaking to your advisor or the school psychiatrist will never change that factor. But beneath all that, the question still remains: Where do we draw this line? The separation between dedication and stress? Social acceptance and overwhelming despondency? It’s wherever you feel comfortable. Although you should never settle less than your own personal goals, your own physical and mental health comes before any inflicted pressure to become successful.


Sixth Annual Young African American Males’ Conference

As many of you know, young men in our communities bave many challenges in growing up and finding their way. So the Metropolitan Community Action Services Corporation (MCASC), over the last 9 years, has engaged in bringing positive and effective programs, support resources, and mentorship enabling these young men to gain a healthy perspective concerning their future.

Back by popular demand the Sixth Annual Young African American Males’ Conference is scheduled for, Saturday, September 5,2012, 9:00M to 2:00PM, at PASADENA CITY COLLEGE (PCC). This year’s conference, co-hosted by MCASC and PCC, theme Success by Choice – “Focus on the Future” is geared to prepare attendees to make positive choices that will then enable them to successfully impact everyone they encounter.

MCASC and PCC encourage you to join us and make a donation to help young men in our community prepare to be successful in life. The following conference topics:

  • Developing Good Study Habits
  • Developing a Pathway to Success
  • Making Successful Educational & Career Choices
  • Preparing for College Entrance Exams
  • Transferring Out of or Into a New College
  • What to Expect on the First Day of College
  • What to Do if You are Stopped by the Police

All workshops lead by a great slate of speakers and presenters, all prominent and successful males. Please consider making a donation today by credit or debit card online at

Say “No” to Free Money?

The reality of most college students in today’s society is that we work hard to maintain a good academic standing in college with very little financial assistance. The problem with potential funding such as scholarships is not that they aren’t available, but the lack of research and effort students put in to benefit from them. As an African American college student, I can admit my own efforts have been lacks, regarding going after scholarships that are designed to see me succeed, simply because writing that essay or gathering the few documents I need in order to be eligible seemed like too much work. Essentially, I, who has put forth a lot of time to make sure I do my best in college, have said “no” to free money when all organizations want to do is reward me for my hard work. Which part is more ludicrous: turning down free money, or the lethargic reasoning behind my lack of effort?

For minority students (and all ethnic groups in general), there are scholarships that cater to them, including African Americans. According to the 2010 US Census, 12.6% of the 307.8 million individuals that makes up the US population are African American. These statistics have a huge impact in the amount of money given to African American students in the form of scholarships over the last few years. As the second largest minority group, African Americans are eligible for many minority scholarships such as the “Gates Millennium”, “African American Achievement” and “Jackie Robinson Scholarship” that provide not just partial but full rides to any college you desire to attend. We just do not take advantage of them.

Looking at reality of the typical African American college student, we are considered to be financially unstable to attend college which is why minority scholarships and other merit-based scholarships should have the benefit of encouraging students to not only continue in their education but also put forth the effort to apply for them. When it was time for me to apply for the scholarships and grants for the college I attend, El Camino College, I started off on the right foot. I began my application ahead of time and filled out the basic information quickly. When I reached the essay portion of the application, I procrastinated and ended up missing the deadline, even after it was courteously extended. As the months went on, I saw friends of mine receive scholarships that I know I could have easily gotten if I would have put forth the effort in completing the application. In retrospect, I know never to make this mistake again because with all the hard work I’ve done this past year, it should not go unrewarded.

As for all African American college students, we work hard to make the grades we do in college. We made it to the college level already despite the negative stereotypes against us, so not why attempt to receive recognition for it? With all the organizations designed to help African Americans succeed in college, there should not be any reason to deny the help offered to us. So, when I “google” African American scholarships and find one suited for my academic profile that includes an essay and other documents, that take some effort to acquire, will I say “no” to free money? I encourage all students of color to put forth the research and effort to find the assistance from these scholarships we all deserve.

A Necessary Evil

Now that it is my second year in college, one could say that I’ve gotten the hang of the college life. I’ve managed to keep my GPA at an A- average, get involved in school, and even gain experience in my chosen field of study. This past year has been difficult academically and personally, but college is not meant to be easy; instead it is a time of preparation for the future. But even with all of the new experiences, nothing has been more challenging lately than juggling college and the work force. As of July 2nd, 2012, I received my first job as an “Outreach Ambassador”. An Outreach Ambassador assists new students in registering for classes and reaches out to our community about the benefits of attending El Camino College: Compton Center by visiting churches and local high schools. My first day at work, I realized, by hearing co-workers speak amongst themselves, that working and going to school is not only a privilege for most students, but a responsibility.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2007, nearly half (45%) of “traditional” undergraduates (students between the ages of 16 and 24) worked while attending college full time. In addition, 80% of traditional undergraduates worked while attending school part time. Since 2007, the numbers have increased, full time students working from 45% to 57%. Before I started working, I would have found these numbers to be extremely outrageous. But now that I am, I understand the reasons of stress behind the students and the pressure of attaining jobs during this crucial time of our lives. In today’s society, most college students decide to work while attending school not because they enjoy it, but for economical reasons and the higher expectations of our generation. As my friend Briana told me one day, “for me, working right now is a necessary evil.”

Economically, most college students depend on their part and full time jobs to support them. With the financial aid and loans students have on the community college and university level, the minimum wage jobs we can find close to campus give us some security to provide the basic necessities. Also, working and attending school simultaneously assists us with getting jobs we will attain in the future. My boss always tells us, his student workers, “By working here, I’m helping you develop skills that will be crucial in the future.” Isn’t that what college students need? We plan to get career related jobs once college is done. But the world wants us already “established as a writer” or “have experience working with kids” in order to get hired for the jobs we studied about in college. The expectations for getting hired these days are higher than ever which makes working while being educated a necessity.

Whether it be a big name university or the local community college, working has become the basis of responsibility for college students. Being employed and being educated at the same time is a part of the experience and maturity that will continue to prepare me for the future. Although working these past few weeks has added stress and keeps me going to bed early, it’s important. I take pride in the necessary evil that is being an employed college student.

Why We Quit

The year was 2011 and I had just graduated from high school. I wanted to be prepared for my fall semester of freshman year, so I signed up for summer school. One day a woman by the name of Rebeca Mason walked into one of my classes last summer and introduced the class to the First Year Experience program (FYE). The FYE program is designed to help students be successful in their first year of college by providing a supportive, caring environment of educational and career services.

The 2011 program began with 100 students, but as the year went on, the program participation dwindled, leaving only 35 students to finish the program. All 100 of us had the chance to successfully complete the FYE program; yet only 35% did. Only 25 of the FYE students were African Americans to begin with! Attending the culmination ceremony for FYE, I only saw about four African Americans out of the 35 that completed the program, which is about 11%.

At the program culmination ceremony, all I could do was stare at the empty seats around me and wonder where those students were who once filled them. How do people start off strong and then just stop?  Circumstances? Lack of motivation? Peers? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why. They just quit.

It is disappointing, how African Americans have the highest drop out rate, which is the result in not earning a college degree. According to the website,, the average number of African Americans that have at least a bachelor’s degree increased one percent in a decade. This however is still ten percentage points lower than the national average.  As a college student, I am adamant about finishing school and encouraging others to do the same. In these hard economic times, we should take advantage of opportunities such as the community colleges that give us a chance to be competitive and competent in the work-place and save money as college students. While one part of me is still confused about why African Americans quit school, the other part of me already has a clue.

When the FYE program offered priority tutoring and assigned cohort tutors for each community, there were no African Americans who showed up to receive any assistance throughout the entire school year. Academic help aside, I also witnessed different students of color who made facetious comments about joining the FYE club, designed for FYE students to be more involved in the school and the events the club held as a commitment to the bonding of all FYE cohorts. Even with all the assistance the FYE program gave to us, why do we quit school? Pride. We don’t know how to ask for help. We always want to be seem cool and knowledgeable.

But that’s what college is for! College is about learning about the world and discovering your purpose within it. The uncertainties we have during our college journey are not to be answered alone. But until African Americans understand this, we will continue to miss out on the great opportunities and support within our reach to help us succeed and instead, just quit.

Shelby White is a new intern for Black Is and is on her way to becoming a successful journalist. Check back in for more articles penned by her!

Mental Slavery

The Black community has two big problems on it’s hands:  the blind leading the blind, and those who can see leading the blind into traps.

With the progression of the Internet, misleading information can spread faster than ever.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of great information out there; but, one has to be willing to do thorough research, and then think for themselves on all the information they have gathered.  If nine sites publish a lie, and only one publishes the truth, how can you tell the difference?  Usually there’s some common-sense processes that will make you re-evaluate the article.  You can spot a lot of lies in the news if you pay close attention.

Here’s a perfect example, which brought me to write this.  Someone on Twitter said “There are more black men in prison than were in slavery!”  I have seen this similar tweet a few times.  I asked to the see where they read that.  And here it is.

The title of the post says “More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved”.  In the first sentence of the article they quote law professor Michelle Alexander, from her book on the prison industrial complex, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  Alexander states: “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,”

Let’s compare these two sentences.  Read them a few times out loud.

1. More Black men now in prison than were enslaved.
2. More Black men in jail, prison, probation, or parole than were enslaved in 1850.

So really, Ms. Alexander is saying: there are more Black men in the American criminal system than the amount of Black men during ONE YEAR of slavery in America.

But the title of the post says something completely different.  That more Black men are in prison than all of the 300 plus years of slavery in America!

It wouldn’t make sense to compare the numbers anyway, since I’m sure the entire African American population has increased since 1850.  I also highly doubt that accurate population records were kept back then, especially since Blacks were considered property and not human.  It also doesn’t make sense because slavery is a LIFELONG status.  The men she speaks of could have been imprisoned for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.  But they are all being lumped as “Black men in the prison system”.  The African slave trade occurred in North and South America, The Caribbean, Europe, and Africa itself.  This article is mixing apples and oranges with all kinds of other fruit.  But once someone writes the buzz words “slavery” “Black men” and “prison” in a sentence, we all rush to see the train wreck.

Some people are at least half complicit in this mental slavery, because they don’t take more time to analyze the information.  And some others, such as the writer of the article, mislead people on purpose.  Everyone spreads the information on tweets, Facebook, blogs, emails, and text messages.  The next thing you know we have a state of emergency that seems almost too overwhelming to solve.  This increases the insecurity of the Black identity, as we shake our heads and say “Yet another stain on the Black legacy.”  There is no doubt that Black men are disproportionately imprisoned and arrested.  And much of that disproportion can be linked to poverty and racism, which all tie into slavery and Black history in America.  But misleading comparisons such as this (from a Black “educated” woman I might add) do not paint Black men any better, nor do they serve to properly inform people about reality.

What if I told you there are more Black men that have graduated college than are in prison?  You’d question that I’m sure.  But you can see this video where a man does the math.

It never sat well with me when people would assert that there are more Black men entering prison than are rotating out of a 4 year college institution.  And when something doesn’t sound right, a lot of times it isn’t right.

Before you run with any information, carefully ask yourself who is writing it and why?  Half of the titles alone are to shock you into reading it.   As much as the Information Age can spread teachings and truths, it can just as easily, if not more easily, spread lies.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!
-Bob Marley