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How I Turned My Freshman Year Around At XULA

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

My name is Harper Cooper, and I am a rising sophomore at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Initially, my plan after four years of undergrad was to go to medical school and begin the treacherous but worthy journey to becoming a pediatrician.

I had always wanted to work with children, and my family was ecstatic that I wanted to be a practicing physician, but I think it is more for the pay grade.

However, after my first year of college at the illustrious Xavier University of Louisiana, I realized that was no longer a chapter in my life I wanted to write. I tried to follow my real dreams and work towards my broader impact on the Black community. But, to understand my plans, you must know my story.

During my first semester of college, I wasted my intellect and time partying and half-assing my classes. I thought if I crammed before my assessments, I could still pass.

This mindset left me with subpar grades and almost canceled my academic scholarship. The worst part of it all was the consistent burnout.

I had not slept in over two weeks, unconsciously falling asleep, binge eating, and reverting to toxic habits I had during the straining highs of the pandemic. I was sick constantly and began to have suicidal thoughts instead of living with the fact that I had failed my family.

Nobody wants to welcome home a girl who obliterated her first year of college without even putting in an effort. I felt my family would not have accepted my Cs and Ds, and from my caliber, if the Bs outweighed the As, I was in trouble.

When these thoughts had finally consumed me, I buried myself in my duvet, put my head down, and slept for what felt like an eternity. I just wanted to sleep away the grades, responsibilities, and pain of being a designated failure.

When I awoke, after having a complete panic attack, I realized that this pain, my grades, and my supposed responsibility to be this knight in shining degree were not my burden to carry.

I realized that I came to college for me – not for my family, friends, or even the teachers that helped me get there. The late nights of studying, crying, and overruling battles of depression, anxiety, and stress would not matter if I did not commit.

So, by the end of the first semester, when I returned home for the winter break with my dropped calculus class, a D, and two Cs, I began to start living my life for myself. To disable my crippling depression and anxiety and love myself for my mistakes with a desire to change my way of life.

Returning to XULA for the second semester, my outlook was positive. I had begun journaling and meditating regularly, which provided the clarity clouded by doubt and self-hate. I gave myself a new project – to work my dreams into a reality and be consistent.

Why I Chose An HBCU

In March 2022, I created Black Women Do STEAM. Black Women Do STEAM is a community that uplifts Black Women in a male-dominated field, concurrently providing mental and emotional support/resources. I wanted to be the safe space and uplifter for Black women.

With Black Women Do STEAM, I posted scholarships, conducted interviews with my peers about mental health, interviewed students who are business owners (boutiques, nail technicians, hairstylists,) and created the community I always wanted growing up.

Black Women Do STEAM is a positive outlook for our future educators, doctors, PR executives, etc. Black Women Do STEAM also granted me an ambassador position with Niche, giving me the Midas touch.

In such a short period, I had been recognized for my work, igniting a fire in me to press forward.

I also established XULUVSYOU with another student, Kylie Vignaud, where we work to ensure a safe transition from high school to college for Xavier Freshman.

It quickly gained notice. The Class of 2025 was ready to be involved, and the Class of 2026 was relieved they had a support system. We will continue XULUVSYOU after we graduate so that no student will have to go through what I did my first semester.

The plan with XULUVSYOU is to provide studying tips, tutoring, mental health outreach, and a bulletproof support system.

Most importantly, I raised my grades. I ended with two Cs, one in Biology, which was a D in my first semester. The rest were As and Bs, still patting myself on the back for keeping my promise to do better than the first semester. With consistency and dedication, I can have everything I desire.

By the end of the academic year, I knew I no longer had a desire to go to medical school. I understood that it was no longer a passion, and it would not fulfill me.

With the horror stories of the debt and stress that medical school would bring, I knew there was no way I would survive solely on wanting to be a pediatrician. I then took a step back to what I originally had planned for myself when I journaled about my career.

I wanted to work in clinics, concentrating on AIDS/HIV/STD, to educate youth to understand the importance of safe sex and drug use. I felt safe sex is neglectful, even laughed at in the Black community, and shameful if you use condoms because “they take away the feel of sex.”

Under the assumption that those reading are over 15, sex is already a topic amongst peers. STDs exist, and you do not have to have sex multiple times to contract an STD.

People, especially Black youth, need to understand the dangers of unprotected sex and ways to upkeep themselves while practicing safe sex.

I also want to one day open my facility, additionally focusing on mental health resources for Black and LGBTQ+ youth. As someone who struggled with her mental health, I know how it can affect one’s outlook on the world, and it can lead to a life of self-harm and a depreciating self-value. I want to work with LGBTQ+ and Black youth, as I can most relate to these two communities.

My first year at XULA is memorable. Although I felt like XULA tore me down my first semester, I am truly grateful I chose this HBCU for the next four years.

The friends, lessons, and experiences have changed me for the better. I would not be the person I am evolving into if I did not go to XULA.

So, for those thinking about XULA, come, but be ready for a challenge. And if it does not work, find what does.

But, if XULA does, I am waiting with open arms and more stories to tell. P.S.: I still do love my HBCU, XU!

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Author: Harper Cooper

Hi! My name is Harper. I am a rising sophomore at Xavier University of Louisiana, majoring in Biology on a Pre Med track. I live in Atlanta, GA and I enjoy live music, reading, writing, and lifting. I am the founder of Black Women Do STEAM, an organization focused on uplifting and promoting Black Women in the STEAM field. I am also a mental health advocate, with aspirations to open up a sexual and mental health clinic.