Surviving the retention rate

As the second full week of classes comes to an end and new students start to find their place at VCU, I only hope they are not making the same mistakes my peers and I did. Nearly 15 percent of the freshman class will drop out or transfer before the start of the fall 2019 semester, according to data collected by VCU Enterprise Analytic and Advanced Research. With a freshman class of approximately 4,600 students, that means about 700 of them might not return to VCU.  

While freshman year can be a lot of fun, it’s difficult to acclimate to a new environment and that transition often results in significant emotional challenges. To help combat the hardship of freshman year, parents and advisors recommend constantly the same basic tips for success: join a student organization, focus on school work, spend time with friends and don’t party too much. While that’s all good advice, here’s some more specific suggestions VCU freshmen should adhere to.

Illustration by Mai-Phuong Bui

Advice on Shafer

If you’re trying to get breakfast at Shafer dining hall, go before 10:45 a.m. The kitchens transition to lunch around 11 a.m., so if you try to get there after 10:45 a.m., the only things available will be cereal and bananas. I think breakfast is the best thing they serve at Shafer, but that is a hotly debated topic.

Avoid the lines at Christian’s

On a Friday or Saturday night, the line at Christian’s Pizza is often pouring into Harrison Street. For those late nights when you’re craving pizza but don’t want to wait in line, go to Aladdin’s or Extreme Pizza. Aladdin’s is located at the intersection of Laurel and Broad Streets and Extreme Pizza is at the other end of the block at Shafer and Broad Streets. Both places serve good pizza and rarely have lines.

Spend time alone

The transition into college can be extremely overwhelming and it is important to spend some time alone to digest the emotions of freshman year. As a freshman, I always felt I needed to be out doing something because I was afraid of missing out. I can assure you, by staying in and spending a night alone, you are not missing anything. Self-care is a critical part of a successful college experience and it will save you from that third mid-semester breakdown.             

Friends will come and go

Friendships are a big part of college but often they don’t last forever. Really, it’s impressive if they make it through the first year. However, as one friendship fades away, another is about to start. Part of college is getting to know hundreds of people and discovering what kind of crowd you like to be around. Freshman year, the party crowd was my favorite group of people. But now, as a senior, I would rather spend Friday night playing card games with the CT staff than going out to a party. You will change a lot in college. And as a result your friend group will, too. Don’t spend too much time worrying about friendships that will naturally fade.

College is about you

Throughout freshman year, you will see people getting jobs, going to the gym, joining student organizations and working hard in class. But if you don’t want to do any of that, you don’t have to. When we see peers taking on several tasks, it often makes us feel we are not doing enough. The pressure we feel to be doing more is completely self-inflicted. Your college experience is yours. Don’t assume that because someone is taking 17 credits, your 12 are not enough. Don’t take on extra challenges out of a fear of being inadequate. Simply make your college experience what you need it to be.                               


Caitlin Barbieri

Opinions Editor 

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