Need tips for navigating college? Ask VCU’s orientation leaders

Share this story

Orientation leaders at Virginia Commonwealth University have a lot of practice giving advice to new students. And they speak from experience, since they are all students themselves. With the school year set to launch next week, we asked a few of them for pointers and tips on how to successfully navigate the college experience.


What’s your No. 1 rule for surviving college?

Drashty Mody.
Drashty Mody.

Make at least one good friend that’s not the same major as you. And call Mom a lot. Or Dad. Or Grandma. Call someone back home a lot. It’s really important to stay in touch with people from home. And admit that you miss home. —Kejdi Abazi

Time management. It’s definitely a valuable weapon not just in college but in life. I use Google Calendar myself but some people use paper planners — whatever works. —Malcolm Richardson

Being stressed is not always a bad thing. There are healthy kinds of stress. —Drashty Mody

Procrastination will get the best of you. You have to know when to do what. Priorities are very important when it comes to school, but you still have to have time for yourself. —Andrea Hoover



Where is the best place to study on campus?

Zachery Villegas.
Zachery Villegas.

My favorite spot is the Life Sciences courtyard down by the gym. I like to go there and sometimes bring my hammock and read. I also like the amphitheater next to Hibbs [Hall]. It’s a nice place to hang out and a lot of people bring their dogs. —Zachary Villegas

I love the engineering building — it’s very quiet. The building itself is really beautiful. Looking around, they have a lot of cool stuff in there just to keep my mind off things when I need a break from studying. —Hoover

My favorite place to study is the library. I just like to go on a quiet floor, put my headphones in and really get in the zone. The library is open 24 hours on weekdays, so if it’s super late and you need a quiet place, you can go there. —Richardson

On the fifth floor of Harris Hall in the Focused Inquiry Learning lounge … that space is kind of like Library 2.0 and there’s one room where the entire wall is a whiteboard. —Mody



Where is the best place to get coffee?

Kejdi Abazi.
Kejdi Abazi.

Frappuccinos and chai tea lattes at Cabell Branch Starbucks, I’m not going to lie, they are really, really good. Or the pumpkin spice lattes. When I used to have dining dollars, that’s where they all went. —Mody

I’ve heard Alchemy on Broad is really good. —Villegas

Sugar and Twine in Carytown; I’ve popped in there a couple times and I realized I loved it. —Schyler Landrum

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Greenbriar Café. You also get student discounts at Einstein’s. —Abazi




What’s the No. 1 thing students should take advantage of at VCU?

Andrea Hoover.
Andrea Hoover.


Career Services. They not only help you while you’re in college but they also help you with your plan for after college. So if you’re not sure what you want to do or you’re looking for an internship or trying to work on your resume, they’ll help you, and those are skills that will transfer into the rest of your life. —Richardson

The dining plan. It’s excellent and you don’t realize how valuable it is until you don’t have it. There are so many different options. A lot of people don’t realize how many places take swipes. —Landrum

The Campus Learning Center — CLC is what they call it. I utilize it all the time. A lot of students think you can only go to the CLC if you’re doing poorly in a class, which is not true. To even stay ahead or keep that A, I go to CLC just to refresh my mind and get someone’s perspective on a certain topic. —Hoover

All the organizations. I came in and felt super lonely, but then I found VSA (the Vietnamese Student Association) and ever since I found them, they were my doorway to my family and friends here on campus …. I’m part of so many orgs now. That’s what really makes VCU home for me. Just find your org. —Villegas


Advice for Students from VCU Orientation Leaders


Favorite cheap, fun thing to do in Richmond?

Malcolm Richardson.
Malcolm Richardson.

Definitely VCU’s Outdoor Adventure Program. They do whitewater rafting, bike tours, hiking trips, camping trips — all year-round. It’s super, super awesome and designed for VCU students who are broke like me. It’s a great way to meet new people, be outdoors and get physically active without paying a lot of money. —Mody

The VMFA. They always switch up their art every couple months. It’s free admission except for certain exhibits — those are $10 for students, but I have a $10 membership that lasts all year, so I get in for free. —Hoover

Mural hunting. You know how Richmond has all these murals? I love to go out on a Saturday or Sunday when I have nothing to do and bring my camera and just walk around and take pictures of them. It’s just interesting. There’s so many around and it’s fun to find them. —Villegas

Belle Isle during summer and spring is always a great place to go. I can’t swim so I just sit on the rocks and watch all the dogs. There’s a lot of dogs on Belle Isle. It’s a great place where you can get your dog fix. —Abazi

If you have a vehicle, or know someone who has a vehicle, I love going to Libby Hill Park or [Chimborazo] Park. The scenery up there is great. You can see all of Richmond, whether it’s the river and factories or the actual city part. Both have great views. You can spend the day up there, with a picnic or something, and just hang out. —Landrum


What’s the craziest question you’ve ever been asked during orientation?

When’s the maid coming to pick up my dishes at Shafer? And how do you do laundry? —Abazi

Can my parents come with me to every single class? —Landrum

Where are the best parties? —Mody


Any final words of advice?

Schyler Landrum.
Schyler Landrum.

Make this your home. It’s going to be your home for the next four years. Take advantage of everything [VCU] offers you. I hope you love it as much as I did. —Villegas

Realize who’s around you. My best friends are from freshmen year…. Never have just one group of friends. It’s fine to have the fun friends but also have the study friends or the work friends. Have a good balance. —Landrum

Have fun. [At first] I was really scared to have fun because I thought grades were everything. As long as you’re learning, that can be in a classroom setting but also outside of the classroom. —Abazi

Get involved …. After your four years here, you’re on your own, so get those connections, friendships and relationships going. —Hoover



Subscribe for free to the VCU News email newsletter at and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Monday and Thursday during the academic year and every Thursday during the summer.