Freshman Survival Guide: Five Easy Lessons to Get You Started

First years, this way!


It’s the first week of classes, Honorables! If finding your textbooks and figuring out where all of your worldly possessions are going to go (in a room just a tad larger than Harry’s cupboard under the stairs) isn’t stressful enough, you are about to embark on your first year of college. It’s wonderful; it’s adventurous, but it’s also stressful! That’s why we rallied some of the best and brightest of Honors to help acclimate you to campus and teach you a few things that will make this year just a little bit easier. (This might be a good refresher for our returning Honors Hawks, too…)

Lesson Number One: #TreatYo’Self

It is so easy to forget to do things for yourself, but there are ways of incorporating fun into your course schedule thanks to the cool classes offered at UI. Take Sydney’s advice:

“Sometimes as honors students we get sucked into, ‘What does this count for?’ or ‘How do I look good on paper?’ So my advice is to have experiences that are just for you! Whether it is reading a book for fun, going on a walk just to listen to the whole Hamilton soundtrack, or making time to cook yourself a meal, rewarding your body and mind for being amazing is well worth the time. My favorite way of doing this is by taking an HPAS or LLS class (might I recommend Relaxercise, Night Club Dancing, River Canoeing Spring Break Trip, Yoga, or Mindfulness).”

sydney hofferber



-Sydney Hofferber, Senior, Health and Human Physiology: Health Promotion | Engaged Social Innovation | Certificate in Nonprofit Management


Lesson Number Two: Jessica Knows Everything

Here’s just a smorgasbord of advice from the lady who handles a lot:

1. Google is your friend. You’d be amazed what questions you can get answers to:


2. Know your social security number and know where your social security card is. You’re going to need it to get paid for that awesome job you’re going to get!

3. College is the time to do you. Don’t worry about what others say you should do (unless it’s required!). Challenge yourself and go beyond the “minimum” requirement. Future you will thank you for it. I promise.

4. Check your Iowa email regularly and please, please, please read and follow instructions. You’ll make a lot of faculty / administrators’ lives easier if you do.




-Jessica Waldschmidt, Honors Program Coordinator | Communications Specialist



Lesson Number Three: Your Professors Care

Two of our beloved Honors faculty members want to offer their advice for a successful first year. Donna Parsons, among many accomplishments including being our resident Beatles scholar, works closely with honors students in two of our most popular courses, “Harry Potter and the Quest for Enlightenment” and “Issues in Popular Music: Women Who Rock.”

“Welcome to Honors at Iowa. As a member of the Honors faculty, I look forward to meeting you. Honors Primetime gave you a chance to meet faculty and fellow students. Now, let’s consider some tips to help you get the most out of your classes and time as an honors student:

  • Before class begins, please turn your cell phone on mute. I have to do this too as my best friend has a tendency to call while I am teaching.
  • Some professors will allow you to use your laptop in class to take notes. Others will not. If in doubt, ask.
  • Read your syllabus. Many of your questions can be answered by taking another look at it. That said, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
  • Actively participate in small and large group discussions. Your voice is important and needs to be heard. It’s OK to respectfully disagree with someone. Oftentimes, differing viewpoints lead to more intriguing conversations and a deeper understanding of texts.
  • If you find a non-honors class fascinating, ask your teacher if you can designate it as an honors course. You will need to do an extra project to receive honors credit, so come to office hours with some ideas. Also bring a copy of the form (found on the Honors website) as you will need your teacher’s signature.
  • Actively seek a mentor. Honors faculty enjoy working with students. If you want to explore a particular topic in more depth, ask your professor if you can do an Honors Research Practicum or an Undergraduate Research/Creative Project with them. As you move along in your studies, consider working as an ICRU Fellow.
  • Get involved with Honors. Every week you will receive, via The Honorable Messenger, a list of announcements, programs, scholarships, and activities that will enrich your studies. Opportunities are waiting for you. Take advantage of them.


As for details on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child–I have a July 2017 ticket to see the stage production at the Palace Theatre, London, so please check back with me in a year.

Again, welcome to the University of Iowa and Honors at Iowa. Let’s get started!”




-Dr. Donna S. Parsons, Honors Faculty | Lecturer, School of Music




David L. Gould gave the welcome address at Honors Primetime this year and works closely with our Engaged Social Innovation majors. He is also teaching a course this fall titled “The Green Room” that will help honors students make a bigger connection with themselves and their peers.

“While the freedom to build one’s life is electrifying, the plethora of choices can be paralyzing too. Where is one to start? And what if you guess wrong? As former Yale University professor William Deresiewicz concludes, this isn’t ‘a choice between one thing and everything, but one thing and nothing.’ You’re going to be a very different person in four years, so the only pertinent question is what do you want to do right now? What needs are being unmet? What problems demand a solution? What keeps you up at night?

This is often messy work, and you will be encouraged to forsake your open exploration in favor of collecting more tangible workplace skills and credentials. With all of the economic pressures ahead, you might also question dedicating precious time to the study of such topics as literature, history, or theatre. I urge you to leave room. Higher education needs to be a place for dreamers. It must remain a safe house for idealism. What gets lost in all the practicality is the evolutionary trail the humanities provide on how people have come to terms with being human. These are the same questions you are likely to ask yourself one day when you glance up from your profession and see your life. ‘It is through our shared sense of beauty,’ writes Bruce Mau, ‘that we will find not only the solutions that we need to confront the challenges of our future, but perhaps more importantly, the means by which we will inspire, engage and excite each other to care.'”

dave gould



-David Lynn Gould, Honors Faculty | Administrator, Belin-Blank Center



Lesson Number Four: Don’t Be a Machine

“It’s really easy to fall into a routine, especially when you become more involved after your first year. You’re writing scholarship and grant essays, getting jobs, taking harder classes, volunteering, conducting research, and becoming involved in academic or community-based organizations (on top of just, in general, trying to be a person and have a life). My suggestion is to create “me time” or “friend time,” because “me time” and “friend time” do not show up on their own.

I’m the first to be sad when invited to things because I literally have work or class or research or independent studio hours from 9AM until 11PM most days of the week. I’m always worried about falling behind, but it isn’t until I have coffee with my best friend or go out to dinner with my partner that I remember I am not a robot. I need to be social, and I need to relax! So request a day off: meet that friend, eat that food. You’ll thank yourself and find you’ll be recharged and more than capable of handling your challenges later.”

katie admin




-Katie Kiesewetter, Junior, English | Studio Art | Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies




Lesson Number Five: Find Your Niche

We’re an Honors community, so let’s face it: we’re try-hards. Many of us try our best to be the best… sometimes at all costs. While it’s important to be involved, it is also important to involve yourself in something you find meaningful, worthwhile, and that you enjoy doing!


As a great example of getting involved, Kris Yambao (pictured right), an International Relations (Conflict and Foreign Policy) major with a Rhetoric & Persuasion minor, got involved with the campus radio station KRUI-FM early on in college and is now the General Manager at KRUI. He’s had many cool opportunities, including an interview with famous social justice activist Angela Davis, making huge connections and keeping the UI sound alternative and the news up to date.

Other groups that some of our honors students enjoy are:

  • Ink Lit Magazine, exclusively for first-year writers
  • UI Knitting Club (especially 4th Floor Daum in 2014–we remember)
  • UI Student Government
  • UI Students in Design
  • UI Gardeners
  • Ultimate Frisbee (One of our Honors Student Staffers, Anya Kim, was on a women’s team called the Saucy Nancys. Yeah. Her t-shirt was awesome.)

These groups and many more can be found on OrgSync. Get involved and good luck, my young Honorables. Your community is here for you if you need a hand.

Honors Logo for print

Edited by: Katie Kiesewetter, Blog Manager



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