comic graphic of a woman listening to advice
VCU News asked seven recent graduates to share their top advice for the new students.

Advice to new students

Recent alumni offer tips and words of wisdom to VCU’s incoming class.

Share this story

Starting college is a big step. A leap even. For many first-year students, it’s their first time living away from their parents, siblings and other family. It’s often the first time they’ve lived in another city, state or even country. And it’s vastly different from high school.

Above all else, it’s exciting — a time in your life when you don’t know who you’re going to meet or what new experiences are right around the corner. But you know you inevitably are going to meet a lot of new people and have experiences you never imagined. With that excitement, however, comes some nervousness. There are typically some bumps along the way as students transition into college.

There are plenty of people who will offer advice for starting college, but for VCU’s newest students, who better than recent alumni? They’ve been there, done that — and successfully made it through. 

VCU News asked seven recent graduates to share their top advice for the newest Rams, and they had no shortage of pearls of wisdom and practical advice. 

Ben Brooks
Ben Brooks

Ben Brooks, Class of 2018, B.S. in information systems, School of Business, Honors College

College is a journey. How you start, the obstacles you encounter, the pace you move at and where you finish is unique to you.

To that end, my most important pieces of advice are:

- Don’t travel alone. The people you travel with and the relationships you build with them are the most important part of your journey. Start by introducing yourself to your professor, attending an information session for a student org and exchanging numbers with the person beside you. You will quickly find that good things always happen when you invest time and effort into building meaningful relationships. 

- Pack the right equipment. At VCU, you have access to incredible staff and resources that serve to help you reach your destination, no matter what it may be. From professional development, academic advising and community engagement to health and well-being, the VCU community is here to support you on your journey.

- Take the path less traveled. Going outside of your comfort zone is OK, in fact, it is crucial. You will never grow faster than when you put yourself into an unfamiliar situation. For some, that may be taking the GRTC Pulse instead of walking. For others, it may be studying abroad or picking up an extra degree. Whatever your path less traveled may be, don’t be afraid to take it.

- Ask for directions. We all get lost; it is inevitable. Whether you forgot a deadline or picked the wrong area of study, the most effective solution is to reach out and ask for direction. Don’t hesitate, the VCU community is here to help. 

Sophia Booker
Sophia Booker

Sophia Booker, Class of 2018, B.S.W., School of Social Work

As a foster care alum, college was an experience I thought was unattainable. What got me through college was building a support network and getting connected to resources at the university. It was the best thing I could have done because when I needed help, I knew who to turn to for guidance, direction and support! It wasn’t easy for me to get connected at first but I made the effort to step outside my comfort zone because I knew I wasn’t going to survive this journey alone. … I needed a village!

VCU has so many resources and supportive professors, faculty and staff on campus. The likelihood of you not being successful at VCU is slim to none. So get connected! Being a Ram is such an amazing experience, but it’s even better when you have a squad behind you that will only push you toward success. It starts with you! Don’t be shy. Get yourself out there. I mean, you’re paying for it, so you might as well use it!

Isaiah James Harvin
Isaiah James Harvin

Isaiah Harvin, Class of 2018, B.S. in marketing, School of Business

Thinking back on my VCU journey, it was filled with opportunities and experiences. Experiences and opportunities of mine that I’m most grateful for are the Qatar Leadership Exchange program, becoming a resident assistant for VCU Residential Life and Housing, and joining the leadership of various student groups, such as the Activities Programming Board. 

The way that happens is by putting yourself out there, being open to learning and growing and always being yourself. These are the three things I would encourage new students to do. VCU is a great place to be with so many things to do and explore. Being a part of the Ram family is already special, but this time is limited. Always remember you own these years of your life, and that the VCU journey is what you make it! 

Miles Hopkins
Miles Hopkins

Miles Hopkins, Class of 2019, B.S. in mass communications, Robertson School of Media and Culture

- No one can do this alone and that’s OK.

- Want to go fast, go alone. Want to go far, go together.

- You will forever be a broke college student until you learn to be resourceful.

- Being late to class is better than not going.

- Staying interested is more important than staying focused.

Kejdi Abazi
Kejdi Abazi

Kejdi Abazi, Class of 2018, B.S. in health, physical education and exercise science, College of Humanities and Sciences

- Take a deep breath! Everything will fall into place and work out. While grades matter, they aren’t everything. What’s important is learning and challenging yourself!

- Celebrate Qatar Day and then apply to the Qatar Leadership Exchange program. It’s a great way to not only immerse yourself in the Qatari culture but also learn more about VCU’s global outreach. You will be surprised by how much you learn and grow in just about 10 days. You will make friends for life, learn about leadership in the context of Middle Eastern culture, challenge yourself to be more open-minded and eat some of the best food! 

Chandler Iley
Chandler Iley

Chandler Iley, Class of 2018, B.S. in health, physical education and exercise science, College of Humanities and Sciences

While you attend VCU, step into positions that will provide you with learning opportunities that give you the chance to build your competencies and become the best version of yourself. Explore Richmond and travel frequently, but make sure to fuel up with the delicious food and refreshing company at Shafer Dining Hall. 

Roshaan Khan
Roshaan Khan

Roshaan Khan, Class of 2018, B.S. in information systems, School of Business

I would say my biggest piece of advice to new college students is to give it your all. College is a period of your life you’ll only experience once, especially while still young and (kind of) carefree. Go out, try to join clubs, say hi to that random person who sat next to you in class, chase your state of perfection, fall in love, whatever, but don’t forget to set goals and pursue them. Because at the end of the day, college will end. Everyone will move on to the next chapter in their lives. Make sure you have no regrets at the end of this journey by using every day to the fullest. It can be a wonderful four years, but college, like life, is what you make it. 


Terms to know at VCU

It can seem like colleges and universities use a totally different vocabulary, and on top of that, VCU has its own lingo and phrases that take some getting used to. To help, we’ve compiled a short glossary of some VCU words and terminology you might hear your first couple of weeks on campus.

Cabell: Newcomers sometimes struggle with how to pronounce the James Branch Cabell Library. It’s CAH-bel (rhymes with babble). As a student, you will likely find yourself spending time here. Good thing the Starbucks on the first floor is open until 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday during the semester. 

The Compass: At the center of the Monroe Park Campus surrounded by Cabell Library, Shafer Court Dining Center and Hibbs Hall is an outdoor space we call the Compass thanks to the giant compass design in the bricks on the pavement. It’s a popular meeting place, and you’ll often see student organizations and other groups set up tables and booths here.

eServices: This password-protected system allows students to view their VCU records, check the status of financial aid, register for classes, print bills and more. You can log in at

Free Store: The Free Store is a new shop (opening Aug. 19) at 201 N. Belvidere in the RamBikes building. As its name implies, it offers free goods to VCU students and other members of the VCU community. The items are donated and can include art supplies, school/office supplies, small un-upholstered furniture, electronics, sports equipment, books, bikes, cooking supplies and more.

GRTC and GRC: GRTC is the citywide bus system that operates the Pulse and other buses. GRC stands for Gladding Residence Center, located at 711 W. Main St. It is VCU’s newest residence hall and houses first-year students.

myVCU: myVCU is an online portal that provides a one-stop shop where students, faculty and staff can see general VCU information and information tailored to each individual. As a student, the portal will display your VCU email inbox, class schedule, VCU’s academic calendar, announcements and more. It’s customizable so you can choose which information you want the page to display.

The Pulse and Route 5: The Pulse is GRTC’s rapid transit system that runs past VCU’s Monroe Park and MCV campuses as it makes its way downtown along Broad Street. The Pulse runs every 10 minutes during the week from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (and at longer intervals in off hours and weekends). Route 5 is a GRTC bus whose route connects the south side of VCU’s Monroe Park Campus with the MCV Campus. It runs every 15 minutes during weekday hours. VCU students and employees can ride the Pulse as well as all local and express GRTC routes for free. To ride, new students should show their VCU ID to the driver on regular buses or to the fare enforcement officer on the Pulse. (Note that returning students, faculty and staff have GO Passes, which they should continue to use. A mobile pass, which will replace the physical GO Pass, will be available later this semester.) 

RamBucks vs Dining Dollars: Both RamBucks and Dining Dollars allow you to store money on your VCUCard and can be an alternative to using cash or credit/debit cards. One RamBuck or Dining Dollar is equivalent to one dollar. RamBucks can pay for all sorts of things both on and off campus (e.g., laundry in your residence hall, food at VCU dining locations, groceries at the Kroger on Lombardy Street, books at Virginia Book Company). Off-campus merchants who accept RamBucks typically display a RamBucks sticker in their window, but you can find a list here. Dining Dollars can only be used at VCU dining locations and, along with swipes, are part of your dining plan. Dining Dollars do not carry over from one semester to the next, so if you don’t use them, you lose them.

RamSafe: RamSafe is an evening point-to-point shuttle service for VCU students, faculty and staff that provides free transportation to on-campus locations and nearby residences and buildings within defined boundaries on the Monroe Park and MCV campuses. It operates 365 days a year, providing the VCU community a safe alternative to walking after dark.

TelegRAM: This is an email that goes out to the VCU community each weekday morning. The TelegRAM lists that day’s and upcoming events around campus as well as important notices. There is a student version as well as a faculty/staff version.