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Issue of the Week: Advice for freshmen

Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
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Sean Anderson

In case you were wondering, the wide-eyed kids with slightly lost looks on their faces are the newest additions to the UA - this year's freshmen. As exciting as it can be to be out on your own, it can be a cruel world for a freshman at the UA, what with trying to figure out the labyrinthine layout of a dorm or deciding which entrée at Panda Express is the least likely to cause illness. We here at the Wildcat want extend a warm welcome to the class of 2008 (or in some cases 2009 or 2010). To make things easier for you rookies, we've made a list of tips gained from our own experience.

Beware of guys named "Doc"

The best advice I can offer anyone (as received, in part, from Nelson Algren):

Never eat at a place called "Mom's." Never drink at a place where the bartenders call you "honey." Never play cards with a guy called "Doc." Never sleep with someone whose troubles are worse than your own.

Since the only academic distinction I've received in the past couple years is "Student who has taken the most incompletes," I don't feel qualified to offer advice on academic matters. But I would urge all undergraduates to consider taking a class in creative writing if they are inclined to do so.

If you respond to the question "Why do you write?" with "I want to express myself," chances are you have little worth expressing. On top of that, the world has enough stories of prom-night suicides and the vicissitudes of coming out of the closet.

Sean Anderson is a political science junior. He can be reached at

Dan McGuire

Disappear - in the right way

While in the dorms your freshman year, you'll notice two kinds of disappearances in your halls. The first is that of students who join organizations, get involved in activities and positively influence their own lives and the campus.

Then there are the students who party way too much on the weekdays, never go to class and will be changing your oil in two years.

The importance of the first disappearing act - getting involved - is what every freshman needs to realize. In fact, it should almost be a Gen Ed requirement.

Whether you join a fraternity or sorority, volunteer at a local homeless shelter or contribute your time to one of the countless organizations and clubs on campus, you'll be making friends, experiencing new ways of thinking and greatly increasing your chances of success, not just in school, but in life.

There's nothing better than doing something you're passionate about while at the UA. Similarly, there's nothing worse than drinking too much, failing out and living with your parents until your welfare paperwork goes through.

As freshmen, you have four years to make good and bad choices. But in this first year, and especially in your first semester, there's little room for error. Disappear the right way by joining something - anything. Unless, of course, it's the Young Democrats.

Save the slacking off for when you're a sophomore.

Dan McGuire is a political science and journalism senior. He can be reached at

Aaron Okin

As your parents said, stay focused

It's Wednesday, which means that the initial freshman nervousness should have worn off by now.

Every class has been attended (except possibly once-a-week classes) and the campus is probably not as daunting a place as it was on Monday morning.

The time to get settled into the normal college routine has more or less come.

Before getting drudged down in a rote pattern of behavior or wrapped up in too much activity, it's important to know where you're going in your academic career.

To this year's incoming freshmen I have the following piece of advice: Keep yourself well-grounded. Don't have too much fun, but also don't become so stressed that you are incapable of having it.

College should be fun, so take advantage of it, lest you become an embittered, pessimistic senior.

With that said, though, it is vitally important to pick a major early on, as opposed to doing a bunch of random coursework to take up time until you become a sufficiently entertained senior without a real direction, pursuing whichever degree is easiest to get by combining all those classes together.

Perhaps the most important thing is to find something you're really interested and passionate about. Make it the focal point of your educational experience and view the uninteresting, obligatory parts of college as necessary to achieving a greater personal goal. It can mean the difference between success and failure, personal fulfillment or four years (or more) of complete grief.

Aaron Okin is a regional development and political science senior. He can be reached at

Ryan Johnson

Don't take just the first "no"

Getting what you deserve at the UA can often be a matter of persistence and not taking the first "no" as the final answer. Say you're trying to get into a "full" class. There are five empty seats in class, but the professor says at the beginning of class the department won't let her add anybody. The average student, the student that follows the system, gets up and walks out of the class, forced to take Celtic Spirituality instead.

But the successful student knows that there's probably a way. He talks to the teacher after class, saying that he thinks the class sounds really interesting and wants to take it if there's any way. He checks WebReg in between classes to see if someone has dropped the class (it only takes one person). He goes to the department to ask. If those fail, he keeps going to the class like he had a seat all along, doing the assignments and everything. Two weeks later he goes to office hours (probably one of two people that will go the entire semester). The teacher is so impressed that not only does she sign him in, but she starts a conversation, and soon she's putting him on the "in" list for classes the next semester.

Of course, this can sometimes result in a waste of time, but in general, being persistent, asking lots of questions and not acting like a sheep in the herd will improve your experience at UA.

Ryan Johnson is an economics and international studies junior. He can be reached at

Brett Berry

A checklist to avoid freshman foibles

Welcome to the incoming freshman class; you are finally free from the chains of parental supervision. Congratulations.

For most of you, this is the first step into the world in which you actually have to take care of yourself. There's no mommy here to pick up after you or to remind you to brush your teeth. It's up to you now.

Sadly, each year, this new responsibility is too much for many freshmen, and they tend to neglect even the simplest everyday tasks. Don't let yourself fall into this trap!

In order to help you avoid it, here are some tips so as to avoid some of the most common deficiencies of personal responsibility, that plague many freshmen:

Try to eat at least one real meal per week (and pizza does not count as a real meal). This may require you to eat somewhere other than your dorm or the union. Keep in mind, an entire diet based upon Ramen noodles, Pop Tarts and potato chips may be cheap and quick, but it's not healthy.

Don't stay up until 4 a.m. every night just because you can. Mom isn't here to tell you to go to sleep anymore, but that doesn't mean that you don't need to sleep at some point. Inevitably, sleep deprivation will come back and kick you in the ass, and your grades will suffer for it.

Shower daily (or at least every other day). No excuses. If you don't, then you will smell. And when you stink, people won't like you, especially the unfortunate students who get stuck sitting next to the "smelly kid" in class.

Brett Berry is a regional development junior who has experienced the terrible misfortune of being assigned to sit next to a smelly kid for an entire semester. He can be reached at

Laura Keslar

Make showing up a habit

In the excitement of being on your own after 18 years of Draconian rule, parental advice on attending class, not getting arrested and washing your sheets seem easy to disregard. But a time will come when you realize that mom was right: Not attending class can hamper your success.

Now if you think sleeping in class counts as attending lecture, you are wrong. Sure, you might be there physically and hear snippets of the lecture in between snores, but what do you really learn?

Besides, it's not safe, considering that professors have been known to throw chalk at sleeping students.

And while professors say that the class notes are online, typically those notes cover everything but the material presented during your month-long absence. Then, even if you manage to obtain a copy of a classmate's notes, don't be upset with him for writing his biology notes in hieroglyphics.

But if you still decide not to attend class, despite the apparent downfalls, at least familiarize yourself with the syllabus. Don't be the student who accidentally finds out they had an exam after the fact.

Showing up for class might not guarantee an "A," but it's a great way to assuage your mother's wrath over that "D" you got in chemistry - you can honestly say that you took her advice and attended every lecture.

Laura Keslar is pre-pharmacy junior. She can be reached at

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