As a freshman, you’ll learn so much at your HBCU, both in and out of the classroom. You’ll meet new people, try new things, and learn new words. You’re proably reading this like “Huh? New words? Why was that in the list?”  Let me explain, there are some words that are that are just imperative to the HBCU dialect that we all speak, It’s really just an HBCU thing. No one else uses them how we do, and we don’t want them to. But, to get you right before you step on campus, below are 5 words you’ll need to add to your vocab before your Freshman year is over.


Defined as well known or respected, as soon as you step foot on campus, this word will be beaten into your head. “Welcome to the illustrious (insert university name here.) It’s like freshman 101 that you use this word anytime you talk about your school. Almost an insult to the HBCU community if illustrious isn’t in your vocabulary, quite sinful if you ask me. You’ll go home on breaks and people will say “Remind me of what school you’re going to? And you better put some “respeck” on your school and put illustrious in front, otherwise you’re doing us all an injustice.


When your professors get angry with your class or your SGA president is trying to drop knowledge on you, they’ll use the word matriculation in some form. “As you matriculate through this university…” Sometimes you’ll meet bourgeois alumni at Homecoming, and they’ll say unnecessary crap like “I received my certificate of matriculation from this school,” and you’ll just want to say “Bye Felicia, just say you graduated!” Nevertheless, you’ll hear it.  Using the word around your professors, makes you look semi cool to them at times too, so try it out.


Short for cafeteria, A.K.A the land of food that doesn’t taste like your mother’s but you have to eat it so you can live.  This will be the main topic of conversation around the end of your afternoon classes. “Man I’m hungry let’s go to the caf.” Or you’ll ask twitter “what’s in the caf?” and then hashtag your school.  Sometimes people will be extra and add an “E.”  You’ll get texts from your new friends that say “aye are you going to the cafe?” please know that the “E” serves no purpose at all! They’re not talking about a quaint little shop that serves coffee and scones, they still mean the caf. You will still need to read it as though the last letter doesn’t exist. Strange, but go with it.


If you’re broke and looking for the come up like the other 99.9% of the student body, your world at the beginning of every semester will revolve around waiting for your refund check. Because no one cares to add check at the end, the term is simply refund. Most of the time they will be late because that’s just what the HBCU run around is all about, but oh when they hit your direct deposit, it’s on out in these ballin’ on a check street. *Cues Commas by Future* In a few weeks everybody will be broke again and waiting on the refund  for next semester but hey, that’s life.


My team and I still aren’t sure which one to really use, but either way it is the “lifeline” in each of your classes. A fancy way to say the packet of papers your professor gives to you on the first day. It contains all assignments for the course, how your teacher grades them, and some other stuff you’ll probably skip over. Classmates will ask to borrow it, and you can either be down for the team and let them, or be smart and say no, because 10 times out of 10 they’ll probably lose it. Either way every week, make sure you add it to your vocab, and your book bag so you don’t end up like the students who always want to borrow it.

Ready for college but not sure what to expect, or even bring? Before you say goodbye to your parents and friends, check out this ultimate guide to surviving your first year in college, and in particular at the country’s 107 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). We created the #HBCUFreshmanBible to help build a bridge for students to make a successful transition from high school to black colleges, you can read more here.