First-Year Guide

Welcome to your first year at UT — a great time to build connection.

Connections & Foundations

We encourage you to spend some time this year thinking about your transition from high school to college. There are lots of things to acclimate to: a new schedule, autonomy, expectations, and more. Here are some things to help you navigate as you think about where you are coming from and where you would like to go, one step at a time.

Students in a crowd
College culture

As a College of Natural Sciences student, you will be taking some tough courses. Our college culture prides itself on strong academics. We also pride ourselves on our student support. This college is full of staff, faculty, and students who want to help you and see you succeed. Below are some things to think about and people to contact as you begin your journey in the College of Natural Sciences.

Academic advising

Your academic advisor is here to help you progress in your degree or help you find a major that's better suited to your future plans. You'll meet with your advisor each semester to decide your courses for the next semester, but feel free to meet with them to talk about other degree and major-related issues.

Your advisors are a valuable resource during your time at UT. They have expertise to share in planning your schedules and planning your four years at UT. Meet with them early and often to be sure you are on track!

We strongly encourage you to start sketching out your four-year plan early on. Doing so will help you to determine how best to organize your courses, and how best to fit in all of the other things you want to do while you are here.

Download your degree plan, run an Interactive Degree Audit, and work with the course schedule to find course corequisites and prerequisites. Then start mapping! Make an appointment with your advisor to review your plan and make sure everything is where it needs to be for you to take full advantage of your time and opportunities at UT.

Non-academic advising

CNS Non-Academic Counselors help students navigate when life events and academics collide. So when situations in your life arise that could interfere with your studies, be sure to talk to a non-academic advisor. Appointments can be set up with a non-academic counselor in the CNS Student Wellness Center in PAI 3.04. 


College is more formal than high school was. Here are some tips to make a great first impression. You're going to need recommendations from your professors for graduate school, jobs, and scholarships, so be sure to always start and continue the right impression that will land you a glowing letter of rec. 

  • Facebook is not for asking for recommendations or poking your professor.  Don't do it.
  • Not sure exactly how to approach or interact with your professors? Here are some tips to get you started!
  • Ready to ask for that letter of recommendation? Here are some tips on how to start the conversation and get the letter that's going to help you get the job/admission you want.
Social media checkup

Google your name and see what comes up. Are you comfortable with potential employers seeing everything? If not, now's the time to start some cleanup of your social media presence, and the chance to start building a professional online presence. 45% of employers admitted to searching social media when making hiring decisions so start your clean up now

Tutoring & collaborative studies

As a College of Natural Sciences student, you will be taking rigorous courses at UT. Our most successful students take full advantage of every tutoring and group study opportunity. In fact, there are very few students who wouldn't benefit from tutoring or joining a study group. So plan on including tutoring and study groups in your weekly schedule to take advantage of the full benefit of UT's academic supports. 

  • Sanger Center Learning Center: Offers one-on-one tutoring, drop-in tutoring, learning coaches, peer academic coaching, and many free classes and workshops.
  • Residential Hall Study Groups: Meet others in your class to study and get answers from tutors when needed. A relaxed, helpful enviornment.
Discover yourself and supports

Not sure what you want to do? Had a plan and discovered it’s not for you? This happens to lots of students and is very normal during your first year. Here are some tools you can use to discover some other options to try.


Wayfinder has information on every major at UT, along with stories from students and alums about deciding on majors and the (very often) non-linear paths you might take to end up in your career choice. 

The Vick Center

Feeling unsure about your major? Feeling unsure about science? Feeling unsure about...well...everything? The Vick Center offers services if you are feeling stuck or just need some help figuring out where to go with your current major.

Office of Financial Aid

College costs money. During your time at UT, you may be working with the Office of Financial Aid to pay for your tuition. You may need to fill out a FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid (if you're not sure, check with the Office of Financial Aid). 


In addition to financial aid, you may also be interested in applying for (or you are already managing) grants and/or scholarships. There are scholarships available just to CNS students and some for anyone at UT.


Living on campus can provide lots of advantages, especially for first-year students. You are surrounded by other students dealing with many of the same challenges as you, there is great opportunity to make new friends and, of course, you are very close to your classes (so you can roll out of bed and make it to your 8 a.m. class, right?)

Thinking about living off campus instead but not sure where to start? Or thinking ahead to move off campus later? There are tips to keep you safe and help ensure that you are renting in a good location.

Broaden your horizons

College, and especially the first year, is a time to try new things and discover what you do and don't like. You may think you already know what you do and don’t like, but getting outside your comfort zone and trying new things is a big part of transitioning into adulthood. So don't be afraid to try something new! As you progress in your college career you'll come across many opportunities, but here are some ideas to kickstart your adventures.

Research: FRI & ARI

Some of you are already part of FRI (the Freshman Research Initiative), but did you know you can also apply to begin reserach after your first year? Check out the Accelerated Research Initiative! If you weren't in FRI, but you want to get involved in research and can commit to a 6-8 week research internship over summer, you can start your second year in ARI!


Eureka is a database that houses information on all kinds of research happening across campus. Explore some areas of interest and see what's out there!


Service Learning is a great way to help your community, build your resume, and experience new things. If you are interested in helping our UT community or the greater Austin community, there are lots of ways to get involved. Here are a couple of places to start your search: 

  • HornsLink offers ways to connect with organizations campus-wide that are making a difference at UT, in Austin, and beyond. 
  • Visit Volunteer UT for more ideas and to meet others who make service a priority during their time at UT
Involvement and leadership
  • Party on the Plaza is exactly what it sounds like—a giant party on Gregory Plaza. It happens every September and includes a student org fair where you can meet officers and members of organizations from across campus. These are current leaders at UT, so find out more about how they got to where they are and find organizations that you'd like to get involved in! It can be very tempting to join all the orgs, but we recommend selecting one or two that you can get deeply involved in rather than being tangentially involved in many orgs. 
  • Living the Longhorn Life is a series of events that introduce you to inclusive, free and fun opportunities to get involved on campus. Events focus on mental and physical wellness, sustainability, making connections and building community.
Internships & job opportunities

It's never too soon to start thinking about internships and job possibilities. Connect with CNS Career Services or the Health Professions Office to learn more about and apply for job and internship possibilities.

Study abroad

If you know or think that you'd like to study abroad during your time at UT, start exploring programs now. Not sure you'll pay for it? The Study Abroad Office has lots of great information about scholarships and calculators to help you figure out how much it will cost for you to go abroad.

You will also want to work with your academic advisor to find your best time to go abroad. Remember that four-year plan you put together and had your advisor review? Revisit your plan to see which year, semester, or summer would be your best fit to go abroad.

Health & mental health

Mental Health

Every student encounters something that does not go as planned while in college. So when your turn comes, know there is a whole campus here to support you and get you back on track. Here are some resources to know

  • CMHC: UT has an amazing Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) located in the Student Services Building (SSB). Whether you want to be preventative ("I've got 4 tests in one day!"), you're homesick, you just helped someone go through a mental crisis (self-care is important too!) or you're the one in crisis, help is just a visit away. 
  • BCAL: The Behavior Concerns and Advice Line (BCAL) is open 24/7 and answered by trained staff.  When in doubt, call!  (512) 232-5050 or online at
  • Students in Crisis: Need to talk to a licensed counselor right away? Call the CMHC Crisis Line: (512) 471-CALL (2255). There is someone available 24/7 to help you out.
  • CNS has its own counselors called CARE Counselors you can call with concerns or to schedule an appointment. 


  • Student Health Services offers opportunities for doctor visits, vaccinations and care when you are unwell.
  • UT Rec Sports and its Gregory Gym offer classes, equipment, a rock-climbing wall and loan-outs like camping gear. Explore the extensive offerings to keep you healthy and active in your time at UT Austin.
Non-academic counselors
  • Different from mental health counselors, the CNS Non-Academic Counselors help students navigate when life events and academics collide.
  • Be sure to speak with them at the beginning of the crisis if possible to start the documentation trail if it's needed. 

When you find yourself in a financial emergency check out these resources:

Make a plan B

Consider your parallel paths for career/graduate school/professional school goals. Never put all of your eggs in one basket. Visit these resources to find your Plan B: