The Freshman 15

August 20, 2014

As a freshman, you are going to be exposed to more people, places and things than probably ever before in your eighteen or nineteen years on this earth. More exposure typically results in more opportunities to partake in the spoils of college life, such as 24/7 access to food facilitated by the omnipresence of highly addictive and alluring fast food joints.

For first-year students, the consumption of fast food combined with a decrease in physical activity and an increase in academic-related stress may lead to undesirable shifts in body image and weight. Such dramatic shifts among first-year students – though it’s debatable how much actual weight gain occurs during this year – is commonly referred to as the Freshman 15.

But if you are going to gain this first year, then make sure you put it in the right place.

In case you didn’t know, another spoil of college life is the wide array of academic courses and majors available to you during your first year. Yes, as freshmen, you have the power to choose.

Between your freshman and senior years at VCU, you will be afforded roughly 18-credit hours in free or open electives to complement whatever major you have chosen. This amounts to five to six courses at 3-credit hours per course.

Unfortunately, most freshmen don’t put much thought into the course electives they select each semester.

Some course electives taken by students are akin to consuming empty calories – fats, fillers, preservatives and sugars – found in processed foods served primarily at fast food restaurants.

These course electives definitely will get you closer to 120 total credit hours for the bachelors, but similar to empty calories, they are of little or no value in terms of advancing your knowledge specific to a major field of study.

Empty calorie courses contribute significantly to credit gain in all the wrong places.

Your time here at VCU doesn’t have to be that way.

The decisions you make today will have an enormous impact on your life tomorrow. The same way you need to make good decisions about the foods you consume is the perspective you need to take when deciding your course electives and major.

You can take control of your academic career today by devising a menu of course electives that will keep you intellectually fit and will make you look competitive to graduate schools and to potential employers.

By preparing in advance, you can avoid the temptation of taking fast food courses that look good on the course bulletin or menu, but have you feeling less than ideal soon after consumption.

So, how do you plan your course menu?

The Department of African American Studies offers dynamic, interdisciplinary courses that would benefit student majors in Anthropology, the Arts, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, English, Gender Studies, Health and Human Performance, Health Sciences, History, Mass Communications, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology.

The African American Studies courses you incorporate into your current major will not add unnecessarily to your time here and will not slow you down.

Furthermore, student’s who have a primary major in another discipline need 18 or fewer credit hours to be awarded a Bachelors of Arts (B.A.) in African American Studies. That’s six or fewer courses – roughly one course per semester during your four-year matriculation at VCU.

Plus several of the courses you take are directly related or tailored toward your chosen career field.

Thus, the 18-credit hours you gain taking courses in African American Studies are all muscle!

We would love the opportunity to help you devise a menu for success at VCU. Visit our department today to meet with a student adviser in our Academic Success Office located at 816 W. Franklin Street, Room 203.

McKayla and McKenzie Stokes edited this feature story. McKayla is a double major in African American Studies and Criminal Justice. McKenzie is a double major in African American Studies and Psychology. Both students will graduate in May 2017.