At this writing, I am on the steps of the Coleman Library on the campus of Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida. I will be speaking in a couple of churches in the area on Sunday.
Frankly, I wish I had someone to write me like this when I was your age.
Now, on this important matter of getting a good college education: you will have some obstacles, to say the least.
The first obstacle that you will face is yourself. Why? Because the process of truly learning is laborious, monotonous, and at times down right bitter and boring. Therefore, obtaining a truly higher education will require of you a determined mind and a will to stick and stay. In short, it will take discipline. But in the end, it will be worth it all.
Your second obstacle to obtaining a higher education is the ever present lure of immediate money and gratification. This is a temptation. For example, you may have a good paying job right now and you don’t want to leave it to go to college or you don’t want to cut back on your hours so that you can go, at least, part-time. I recall, upon my graduation from high school, my parents wanted me to go on to college at Gardner-Webb College in North Carolina. However, I was too short-sighted, and, frankly, too foolish to take their advice because I had this restaurant job in high school that offered me a new job as trainer and assistant manager for new restaurants that were opening up. In my view, the money was good, so I opted for the fast money and the fast lifestyle of partying, women and drinking — immediate gratification. However, thankfully, by the grace of God, I came to my senses and began the higher learning process, and became a college graduate later.
My friend, you will learn in life that you must postpone gratification to reach for something far more important and valuable. One great preacher of the past put it this way:
You cannot offer up the future on the altar of the immediate.
Of course, he is so right. I hope that you will learn this great lesson early instead of later.
A third obstacle that you will face will be your friends. Just as all men do not have faith, all men do not have knowledge, or wisdom or good sense. Just because your friends appear to be cool and powerful does not mean they have wisdom and good sense. If they are not increasing in knowledge, and if they are not exhorting you to do the same, then you are flying with the wrong birds. Get rid of them. Don’t listen to them. Please don’t let them keep you back from something as valuable as this.
The fourth obstacle will be finding the right college. Every college or university is not necessarily the right institution of higher learning for you. There are some colleges and universities that “teach you why.” Then there are colleges and universities that “teach you how.” And then there are colleges and universities that “teach you why and how.” For the sake of common sense, please try to get into the college or university that can teach you the “why and the how.”
A good way to determine whether or not a college is a “why or how” college is by examining the kind of people the college produces.
The students who come from the “why school” and the students who come from the “how school” will normally have the following characteristics:
They have that locked in, locked down mentality (commonly called the slave mentality.) This mentality is bent on working for somebody for thirty years, retiring, and then dying with nothing. In my opinion, these people do not carry the edge of what I call inside knowledge.
The students from the “why and how” college or university on the other hand, will normally have the following characteristics:
Independent thinkers, innovative, entrepreneurs; they may work for somebody for a little while, but their aim is to be in charge of their own business or what have you. These kind of folks will normally rise to the top more quickly than the rest of the pack. They will have their eyes on being free and doing their own thing. They have the inside scoop — the inside knowledge.
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7
Your fifth obstacle, of course, will be the money. Please do not let the money problem strike fear into your heart because even in these days there are ways in which one can get an education, if he really wants to. Here are a few ways:
2. Work part-time. Many have done it successfully.
3. Well-off family members.
4. External study colleges.
5. Junior or Community Colleges.
6. Scholarships for good grades
7. Financial Aid – Student Loans
And there are other options as well.
All I want to say to you in closing is this: I don’t care what it takes, or how much it costs, please get yourself a good education. You will never regret it.
For a Smarter Young Black Man,
“If you plan for a year, sow a seed;
If you plan for a decade, plant a tree
If you plan for a century, educate the people.”
– Dr. Addie Mitchell, Professor, Morehouse College
“Education is the primary tool of emancipation and liberation for African-Americans in our fight for true equality in this country.” – Earl G. Graves
“Education is your passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – Selected
“In the absence of education, all else fails.” – Governor Douglas Wilder
This chapter is an excerpt from my book, Letters to Young Black Men. Click here to find out more or to purchase the book online.