An exclusive excerpt from The Freshman Survival Guide…

College is a time for asking all sorts of questions, from smaller ones like, “How can I cope with a difficult roommate?” to much bigger issues such as, “What should I be doing with my life?” Busted Halo’s Freshman Survival Guide is the first college guide to offer a holistic look into the lives of college students by combining practical advice on student life — academics, relationships and lifestyle — with guidance on coping with the emotional and spiritual issues college students face. Our Freshman Guide is an essential companion for the countless number of students facing this range of questions for the first time.

Tens of thousands of readers have benefited from our Guide online in these last few years (and many more have downloaded and handed out our one-sheet PDF). We’ve provided an exclusive chapter excerpt below from our Freshman Survival Guide book (published by Center Street Press). The book represents the culmination of years of research, interviews and surveys with hundreds of students, administrators, professors, education experts, psychologists and campus ministers from across the country. The reactions to advance copies of the book from some of the nation’s top experts in the field have been nothing short of incredible — you can read them here.

Bulk Discounts!

A number of Colleges and Universities have already begun the process of ordering bulk copies at a significant discount for their entire incoming freshman classes. We’ve also had inquiries from donors and administrators interested in getting copies for classes of high school seniors preparing to graduate. For more information on ordering, contact us.


“There are options.”


It’s been well over a decade since we first discovered that bit of insight from a twenty-two-year-old University of Iowa senior. It arrived on a single piece of paper in a thick stack of student surveys we received when compiling research for the original edition of The Freshman Survival Guide in 2011. Those words—neatly printed in the empty space under question number four—stuck out vividly among the dashed-off handwritten responses we tried to decipher that day, all in answer to the question: “What was the best advice you got as a freshman?”

An awful lot has happened both on campus and in the world at large in the intervening years since the last updated edition of our book came out in 2016. The global pandemic disrupted life as we knew it for most of the planet for a few years. Life on campus as well was impacted as students, professors, administrators, parents, etc. were forced to figure out how to carry on even though every possible aspect of “normal” life had been turned upside down. It was a massive act of improvisation around the globe and on campus in the face of extraordinary circumstances. As of spring of 2023, the full extent of the impact of the pandemic on college life—or life in general, for that matter—is not yet entirely clear and probably won’t be for quite some time.

But in spite of all the questions that remain, it is abundantly clear that the pandemic underscored a central value that is at the core of the Freshman Survival Guide: the key to flourishing is grounded in our ability to successfully navigate difficult circumstances and adapt to the unpredictable but inevitable changes that life presents us. That skill transcends college life. It is a skill for life in general and it is the difference between surviving and thriving.


In a sense “there are options” is not so much an answer to a question as it is an invitation. You will be faced with more choices in the next few years than you’ve ever imagined. Those choices will be accompanied by seemingly endless questions, ranging from small issues like how to get along with a difficult roommate to the big existential questions college is famous for inspiring: Who am I? Why am I here? What do I believe? What should I do with my life? Asking questions is an essential part of what college is all about.

The Freshman Survival Guide is your invitation to look at those questions and consider all the options available to you to answer them.

That University of Iowa undergrad had unwittingly offered us a Zen koan–like bit of wisdom that got to the heart of what we wanted to offer college students. You have options during your college career. Not just academic, social, or lifestyle options but options in every sense. The Freshman Survival Guide brings together the advice and experiences of college students, professors, administrators, counseling staffs, campus ministers, and other professionals to help you deal with the big questions, the small questions, and all the countless questions in between.

Check out our “16 Second Survival” video contest that challenges current college students to offer their favorite piece of advice to incoming freshman (the best video will win a $100 gift certificate from Bed, Bath and Beyond… see details and more videos here).

There are many guides for getting into college, choosing a college, paying for college, and getting good grades in college, but this is the first to offer a holistic look into the lives of college students and life on campus.

What does that mean? Our version of holistic simply means that we’re approaching your life as a student on every level by combining up-to-date practical advice on academics, student life, and physical health with guidance on coping with the intangible emotional, spiritual, and values issues that college students encounter every day but that are rarely talked about.

“The Freshman Survival Guide is an invaluable resource for a first-year student. Grounded in experience and a discerning approach to education, it will equip you with the resources, tips and powerful insights you need to embark upon a successful first year.” 

Conor O’Kane
Assistant Dean for First Year Students, Fordham University

“If I had been handed this book prior to the beginning of my first semester in [college], I would have had an advantage. For a new college student, feeling a sense of community and understanding can be the difference between staying in the shadows and breaking into the light.” 

Haley Sherif,
Educational Advocates College Consulting

There’s no doubt that your experience in college will force you to grow intellectually, but it would be a mistake to think that is the only area in which you’ll develop over these years. Your mind is accompanied on this journey by your body and your spirit—none of these three are simply along for the ride; they’re all active participants that need to be integrated and in balance.

The world is filled with lots of competing ideas and approaches that can be difficult to make sense of. Sometimes you may be tempted to resist that complexity so you can settle for simple answers instead, but that really isn’t much of an option. Your time at college is supposed to be a period of questions and exploration. That’s the only way any real learning takes place. “The test of a first-rate intelligence,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote in his book The Crack-Up decades ago, “is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” We have no doubt that you will come across a lot more than two opposing ideas during your college career; our goal isn’t simply to help you function, but to help you actually flourish during these years.

The Freshman Survival Guide treats the issues of mind, body, and spirit as overlapping and recognizes them as intimately connected instead of distinct.


All too often, advice about college life presumes that students are just a collection of brains, hormones, and appetites entering some sort of ivy-clad educational pressure cooker that will help their brains grow bigger, hopefully without the side effects of letting their hormones and appetites get too out of control at the same time. The fact is, a lot of the stories you’ve heard about college are true. There will be tons of challenging information offered to you over the next few years to enhance your knowledge and intellect; there will also be plenty of opportunities to indulge your appetite and let your hormones run wild (we’re guessing those are the opportunities you’ve heard most of the stories about). Within these pages you’ll get the most honest, current information possible on the reality of college life today.

Bulk Discounts!

Whether it’s academics, dating, sex, drinking, drugs, roommate problems, dorm life, sexual or gender identity, safety, mental health, nutrition, or any number of other issues you’re liable to come across in college, you will find the information and advice you need inside these pages.

And if for some reason it’s not here, you’ll be able to find it at our website: http://TheFreshmanSurvivalGuide.com. We’ve added additional information online as well as numerous interactive features like the Interactive Resident Assistant (iRA) where you can email us with questions you might not yet feel comfortable enough sharing with your local RA.

Along with this dose of reality, we will also offer you options. Without your parents watching over you, you’ll be in a position to make a lot of decisions that will have an enormous impact on your college career.

  • Can you stay out all night drinking and sleep in without getting in trouble?
  • Can you skip your classes without somebody reporting you to your mother?
  • Can you spend all of your time on social media or in training to become the greatest League of Legends player your dorm has ever seen?

The answer, of course, to all of the above is yes, and we have little doubt you will come across people who seem determined to do all of those things and more during college.

This book offers you the tools and accumulated wisdom of hundreds of students, administrators, professors, counselors, and campus ministers to help you take advantage of the options in front of you and make good decisions in the years ahead. We’ve surveyed hundreds of students and recent grads from small private colleges and huge public universities in every region of the United States to give you as complete a picture as possible of what life on campus is truly like. We’ve also interviewed professors, resident assistants working in college dorms, administrators, and health professionals to get a sense of what you should expect when you arrive.

We’ve spoken to campus ministers from the Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Protestant, Jain, and Buddhist faith traditions not because we are interested in preaching, converting, or debating whose religion is “right” or “true” but because we want to get their sense of what’s going on in the spiritual lives of students. They have a unique perspective on campus life and the sometimes hotly debated intersections of faith and reason as well as religion and culture.

In a pluralistic and diverse society these topics can’t be ignored. “[Religion and spirituality are] a deeply important part of how people identities are shaped,” says Chelsea Garbell, associate director of New York University’s Global Spiritual Life Center, a national leader for how campuses are now dealing with issues of religion and spirituality. “But for so long, people have been told that you bracket that off, and you keep it in private. And when you show up to a university space, we want to think about all aspects of your multicultural identity, but not that one. So then we’re telling people not to show up as their full selves? We do a big push that if you’re talking about DEI work, you have to include religion in it as well.”

The insights into the spiritual, religious, and intellectual lives of college students from these campus ministers are revealing, to say the least, and are among the book’s most provocative and compelling passages. They were also the source of one of the most surprising—and welcome—discoveries we came across during the research for this book. Regardless of their religious beliefs, it was remarkable how much these campus ministers—representing a wide range of faith traditions—harmonized with one another in terms of their interest in and experiences with students, not to mention the wisdom and counsel they offered countless undergrads on their spiritual journeys.

Ultimately, however, The Freshman Survival Guide has been generated for students by students. The upperclassmen and recent graduates who helped make this book possible were once in the same position you’re in now. With more than 165,000 copies in print there have been an extraordinary number of students who used the book to make the successful transition to college on their own or through orientation programs, first-year experience classes, etc. Some of them have added their own wisdom to this third edition. Not that long ago, they were incoming freshmen with the same sense of anticipation, anxiety, exhilaration, and fear that you’re now experiencing. They’ve made the transition to college and have lived to tell the tale. We hope that, once you’ve survived, you’ll come back and tell your tale to the freshmen who come after.

We’re always looking for feedback and insights that could help new batches of incoming college students. If you would like to see other issues addressed or learn about things that might be helpful to you, please be sure to email us at feedback@thefreshmansurvivalguide.com.