This month, I returned to Madison, Wis., to begin my second year of college. It's a long way there from Anacostia, the section of Southeast D.C. where I grew up.
When I first arrived at the University of Wisconsin, I did not know what to expect. Leaving home and beginning college life was exciting, and I welcomed this new feeling, but learning to adjust to a new environment and new people took time.
As a young black male growing up in Southeast D.C., when I faced the adversity of gang violence, I remembered the advice of my grandfather, who would remind me that "not everyone is your friend." I arrived in Madison with the same mind-set, only to find that the rules that helped me in my old surroundings weren't as useful in this new place.
One of the first things I did after arriving was to make sure that I felt comfortable walking down the street, at any time of the day. After about a week and half, I realized that it was safe to relax -- that I was guarding against nonexistent threats. The people there were genuinely hospitable. No one was out to get me or to cause trouble. As time progressed, I slowly became accustomed to a city where you could have a conversation with anyone, about anything.
After attending Friendship Public Charter School's Collegiate Academy, which is predominantly African-American, it was a new experience for me to find myself the only person of color in my class. This change in classroom chemistry made me feel somewhat alienated at first. But as time went on, I became more comfortable.
Prior to my first year of school, I had already experienced a college atmosphere through the Young Scholars Program, where I was able to take a college-level course and live on the University of Maryland's College Park campus. I also participated in the DC Achievers Scholarship Program, where I completed summer courses at McDaniel College. And I took part in my high school's Advanced Placement Course and Early College program, which included college visits.
Of course, college preparation is about more than academic study; it is also about preparation to budget money and time and to make use of available support systems. I realize that I could have been more prepared, but I learned during my freshman year the importance of all aspects of college preparation, which makes me feel better prepared as I return as a sophomore.
Fortunately, the teachers at my District high school care about their students and truly understand the hardships and adversities many of us face. I learned I could reach out to caring adults early on. I now understand that one of the most important resources in college is professors' office hours, which have served me well in school so far.
The mentor I acquired by virtue of having earned a Posse Scholarship has been another key resource. These scholarships pay for full tuition for urban students who have demonstrated merit through academic success in high school, and who have shown leadership in their community. I am grateful for the encouragement I received to apply to the Posse program. My Posse mentor helped me deal with my early adjustments to college life -- as did a fellow student from my high school, who also is starting her second year at Madison.
I have reached out and sought the help of others through office hours and study groups, which have helped especially for classes outside my Religious Studies major.
When asked for advice about choosing a college, I respond that you have to live out the decision, so let the choice be yours. Don't choose a college solely because of its reputation, academics or sports. Consider location, majors offered, financial packages and the college's culture. I'm glad and grateful that I did.
Rashad Price is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.