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How to Survive Your Freshman Year (Part 1)

We’re pleased to have with us Yadin Kaufmann, co-editor of the best-selling college life guide How to Survive Your Freshman Year. In part onne of this interview we’ll talk about the contributors to this best-selling college life guide, now in its thirrd edition, and get a glimpse into what readers can expect to find out about college life.

Q: Thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your co-editor, Mark Bernstein?
A: I’ve been in the venture capital business for the past twenty years—investing in, and helping to build, high-tech startups. I’m a lawyer by training. But I’ve also enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I think I sold some poems I wrote when I was about eight. In college, my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I spent a summer in France and came back and wrote a book about it. Then in grad school, the two of us (we’re big ice cream addicts) wrote a book called The Boston Ice Cream Lover’s Guide—which was as much fun to research as it was to write. Addison-Wesley published that one.

My co-publisher, Mark Bernstein, is also an ex-lawyer who went into the business and media worlds. He was part of the team that started CNN.com and ended up running that business for Turner. He then ran another high-flying start-up on the West Coast, and was happily “retired” when I pulled him away to run this venture.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: A few years ago, I was thinking about how best to help my oldest son, Dov, prepare for college. My own college experience (at Princeton) was a bit stale … and Dov wasn’t likely to listen to his father anyhow! Sure, I could introduce Dov to my circle of friends and acquaintances—but that’s a narrow group too.

It occurred to me that it would be great to find a way to give Dov—and everyone else who’s about to start college—input about what college life is really like, from thousands of kids who are in college today, and have something interesting to say about it.

So, Mark and I put together a team of journalists whom we call “headhunters.” These headhunters went out and interviewed many hundreds of students at over 120 colleges all across the country—big schools, small schools, Ivies, and state universities; Greeks, geeks, and jocks. They spoke with students at the college newspapers, kids hanging out in the library or in the rec center, kids on their way to class or lounging around in the dorm. One headhunter in Pennsylvania offered free pizza for students willing to share their advice. The interviewers asked the students questions about every aspect of college life— about what they would advise incoming freshmen, and why. We also collected tips at our web site, hundredsofheads.com.

We then compiled the best material that we felt gives our readers direct, informative and humorous advice they might not get, even from their best friends.


We also recruited a terrific special editor for the book: academic advisor and instructor Frances Northcutt, adds expert advice, guidance and insightful commentary. Fran is an academic advisor in the Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York at Hunter College. She has advised students at Wesleyan University, the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where she also taught classes on college skills and professional development. Frances is active in the National Academic Advising Association, and was selected as the Outstanding Advisor (Primary Role) for the Mid-Atlantic region in 2006.

The resulting book, How to Survive Your Freshman Year, has become the sort of “bible” of college life for entering freshmen, and we just published its third edition. The book offers hundreds of the best practical tips and fun stories to help entering freshmen better navigate their way through this challenging period.

How to Survive Your Freshman Year gives students great advice on:

  • Getting off to a great start in college
  • What to take
  • Where to live
  • How to get a good roommate
  • Dorm life
  • Choosing classes
  • When and where to study
  • Exams secrets
  • Filling free time
  • The dating and party scene
  • Finances, and
  • Choosing a major 

The book reflects today’s new freshman lifestyle and experiences, with new chapters covering:

  • Social networking and Facebook
  • Wireless and digital devices
  • Student expectations vs. reality
  • Changing the world and environmentalism
  • Diversity
  • Food, fashion, the party scene and much more

A new appendix provides useful checklists for incoming freshmen.

Q: How did you end up collaborating on How to Survive Your Freshman Year?
A: I’ve known Mark for many years—in fact, he and my wife, Lori, were in a summer camp together when they were about fifteen. As I mentioned, Mark had recently left a gig running an Internet company, and came to visit us—I told him my idea for Hundreds of Heads and he got excited about the idea of building this business together.

We quickly realized that the idea was much broader than a book about Freshman Year, rather, the idea of learning and benefiting from the experience and advice of hundreds of people is something that can be of great value when you’re going through any of life’s transition points or challenges.

This college life guide brings readers through every aspect of college life: from what to take to college to where to live and from creating study habits to how to spend your free time. How did you pack so much great advice into 240 pages?

Actually, the new third edition has bulked up to 320 pages! It has lots of new advice from students, plus terrific expert content from our new Special Editor, Fran Northcutt. One of the things college kids like so much about the book is that it doesn’t “lecture” to them—each page contains three or four short snippets of hard-won wisdom about a particular aspect of freshman year life.

Read Part 2

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