The Freshman Starter Pack: A Guide to Surviving the First-Year Landmine

Think you won't survive college? Guess again.

Dear Freshmen,

It’s that time of the year where the AUC community welcomes its new comers with open arms. You have your orientations that tell you all about the core coursework, FYE that helps you make new friends and tackle fun challenges and, of course, the PAL program that is with you every step of the way. Despite all that, some students find themselves lost, confused or unsure of everything around them. It’s okay.

This happens more often than not and that’s because your surroundings are changing at speed of light and before you know it, you’re on your way to your first drawing course at the SSE.

Because this is a common occurrence, we’ve thought about saving you the confusion and frustration and imparting some hard-learned wisdom so that you wouldn’t fall into a trap in the landmine that is your first year. So, here are five cornerstones that will challenge you during your first semester and some tips on how to conquer them.


Unless you have an excellent sense of direction, you’ll probably lose your way a bunch of times during your first semester. Here’s a couple of tips that will save you the trouble:

  • Actively seek your classes before they start: Don’t just settle for knowing the which building and floor. Go find each class before the semester starts. 100% worth it especially if you’re an engineering or humanities and social sciences major.
  • Keep a map on hand: The FYE crew usually gives you a map with your welcome pack, but in case they don’t, try to seek one or even draw one. By the end of your first week, you’ll have your bearings down perfectly.


Let’s face it: it’s what we’re all here for. You’re getting the education whether you want it or not. It’s how you handle this field that matters. Education can be your own personal hell or a future-securing haven. Here are the tips we offer to help you make the most out of what you pay for.

  • Block the rumors: There are a lot of opinions on which major to choose, which courses to take, and with whom. Keep in mind that these are opinions of each individual and they may or may not apply to you.
  • Go to class: Sounds simple? That’s because it is. The number of people I see missing class and then ending up in a frenzy during finals trying to collect all the info they’ve missed is shocking. Attending class is essential if you want to achieve anything in a course. Besides, you never know when a teacher’s remark or student’s question might come in handy.
  • Dates: If you’re someone who can’t keep up with a dozen due dates (which is natural), set alarms. Whenever a professor mentions a date, set an alarm on your phone at least two days before that due date. That way, it’s not a lost cause if you forget about an important task.
  • Organization: Learn to write dates (or better the number of weeks) on your notes and handouts. It helps you keep track of what you took so far as well as pick up the material you’ve missed easily. Bullet point your notes and organize them by course so you don’t find seminar notes in the middle of calculus!
  • Ask: I can’t stress on how important this is. Ask about anything and everything that you can think of. Ask. Not the person to your right who’s probably more clueless than you are. Ask the TA or Professor during or directly after class. It’s free, you earn brownie points for taking the time to do so and you don’t end up with a bunch of question marks on your page.
  • Stay on track: Info-dumping is poisonous for you and your GPA. Go through your course material at least once a week. One student even voice recorded their notes and listened to them back and another drew mind maps. Whatever works for you, do it so long as you do something.