The 4:44 College Freshmen Guide
By MrJeffDess
Last week Jay Z dropped his new album all while a new group of students are experiencing college for the first time. If you’re one of those students we’ve got some tips for you inspired by the veteran rapper’s latest project. For my educators out there, understand that many of your new students are not likely listening to 4:44 like you or your colleagues and friends are. Check out this list below and share with your students. This is also a great way for the old (sorry, seasoned) Jay Z fans to bridge the gap with the new listeners. 


As a new college student, you better believe the distractions are coming. From the first parties to the excitement of new roommates, you never know what will throw you off. Focusing on your goals and remaining balanced and humble are the key tips here. Don’t walk around campus as if you run the place. Be sure of yourself but don’t get ahead of yourself while doing so. Jay Z might have been talking about Kanye West here but this line is a great lesson staying grounded. The best schools have amazing retention rates but there remains many factors towards leaving school. Reasons for students dropping out college include, poor grades, disciplinary violations, homesickness, dissatisfaction with the campus experience and more. Stick by the principles that got you to this level of success adn the rest will fall into place.

  • Stay focused by making a list of your first semester goals and posting them on your room wall
  • Get yourself a planner.  Jullien Gordon’s The Guide to Graduation is a great choice!


Be prepared to use your money wisely. Some of you might live on campus and receive some flex dollars to spend at the on campus food establishments. I can’t tell you the amount of students I’ve seen lose all their dollars after a heavy month of Taco Bell and Burger King. This happens less on campuses these days but beware of credit card salespeople who are trying to get you to sign up on site. With the wrong deal you could be locked into a bad situation. Lastly, as tempting as it may be don’t spend all your money on party entrance fees and drinking( hey you shouldn’t be drinking if you’re under 21 and reading this but that’s not my call).  Save your money and spend wisely.

  • Go to any financial literacy workshops offered at the school
  • Create a budget and stick to it
  • Find the best deals on textbooks
  • Check out Ash Cash and MyFabFinace for some amazing Financial help


There are going to be moments where you think you know it all. Believe me when I tell you this, you don’t. Listen, I don’t know it all either. It’s because of this, that mentors are necessary. Jay Z is trying to sell us some Tidal subscriptions but he’s also attempting to provide some advice to those unwilling to listen. Don’t become the student that regrets their college experience because they turned down the opportunity to get involved in a club or organization. Leadership opportunities sometimes sneak up on you. In the classroom some professors are leaving little nuggets for you. Go to those office hours and have conversations with faculty and staff. Be prepared to take advantage of those million dollar opportunities even when they’re hidden behind 9.99 doors.

  • Identify people who are being positive on campus that you admire 
  • Find yourself a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor
  • Take advantage of your professor’s office hours


Harvard University recently canceled offers to admit at least 10 students after it found they exchanged offensive memes social media. I’ve seen Resident Assistants get fired because they were caught violating a policy via a Facebook album. Be very knowledgeable of what you’re posting and who’s posting about you. Google Alerts is a tool that will let you know when your name has been mentioned or if you’ve been tagged in a certain photos. Understand that on campus and off campus employers are looking at your social media accounts. Also never post when you’re feeling a certain type of way. That angry or drunk post could sink you in a second. 

  • Privatize your social media accounts 
  • Set up a Google Alert for your name 


A bad grade might come your way. A messy breakup may occur. You might lose that election for Freshmen class president.  Let’s even say that the school you’re attending isn’t your first choice. Don’t take any of those apparent losses or any type of loss, as the end all, be all. Look at your temporary defeats as lessons and encouragement to fight harder or think differently.  You’ve just started the journey. The moments of temporary defeat will push to places you never thought existed, not to mention it’ll make for great stories one day. Additionally, there are on campus resources for everything. Use places like the tutoring center or counseling center just to name a few, to help you find ways to achieve in spaces you’ve struggled. 

Jay Z described the song during an interview. He states,

“Smile” is just what it is. There are gonna be bad times, and those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you’re stuck in a rut or it can make your future that much better because you experienced these things.” 

He’s absolutely right. Take those bad times he speaks of and take flight with them 

  • Create a list of the on campus resources
  • Listen to some great TED Talks for added motivation. Here’s a great one from my friend and colleague  James Robilotta 

College is often looked at as the place where people begin to feel comfortable about who they are. Jay Z reveals that his mother is a lesbian in the song Smile. You may not be a member of the LGBTQ community but that doesn’t mean you can’t be an ally. Allies come in all shapes and types. In this case address some of the privileges you possess and recognize how they can impact the community around you. If you are a member of the LGBTQ community recognize that you are not alone. There are plenty of resources and other students who fit within the spectrum or are tremendous allies. Always do what makes you feel comfortable but also know that your gender and sexuality are key aspects of your life but not the only one. Enjoy all of campus and don’t limit yourself to LGBTQspaces.

  • Explore campus or community resources
  • Confront your own priviliges and become an active ally
  • Check out The Safe Zone Project for some great resources
  • Recognize that you aren’t alone


My freshmen year in college I met another student during orientation. We immediately became friends. One of the initial bonds came from both of our desires to leave a legacy. We made a pact to leave major marks by the end of our tenure. By graduation we were leaders who had our hands in every aspect of the University.  Legacy was on the brain from the jump. Walk onto campus with intentions of getting great grades all while creating change.  I can’t stress the importance of this tip. You’re likely paying a lot of money to go to school. Even if you aren’t 

  • find a club, organization or leadership position that interests you and start doing research.



IMG_4902MrJeffDess is a the Co Founder of Trill or Not Trill. He’s also a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 5 books of poetry, including his latest, Trill Motivation With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at or