The Freshman’s Ultimate Guide to the University of Texas at Austin

Want to be a real Longhorn? Pen and Prep has got your back! With admissions decisions upon us, we decided to get the inside scoop from the UT grads in the Cram Crew family. With these tips, you’ll be able to live your first day on campus with all the confidence and expertise that we learned through our combined 12 years as students attending the University of Texas at Austin.

Quick Links:
Essential Vocabulary
Campus Life
Academic Tips

Roll call:

Haley C., Psychology, Class of 2013
Position at Cram Crew: Verbal Consultant

Brandon G., Mathematics and Philosophy, Class of 2008
Position at Cram Crew: Systems Analyst

Emma L., English and Theatre, Class of 2010

Position at Cram Crew: Verbal Consultant and College Readiness Consultant in Austin

Essential Vocabulary

The Six Pack – Refers collectively to Parlin Hall, Calhoun Hall, Homer Rainey Hall, Batts Hall, Mezes Hall, and Benedict Hall. This collection of near-identical buildings just south of the main tower is often used as a landmark when describing other parts of campus.

The Drag – The nickname for Guadalupe Street as it runs along the Western edge of campus. It’s one of the major bus stops on campus and is also home to an ever-changing array of restaurants and shopping which caters to undergrads.

The Tower – The Main building, one of the original buildings on campus, and the highest point on campus. It’s a recognizable landmark, which shines in burnt orange light when the Longhorns win a football game. All of the Malls (East, West, South, and North) are green spaces surrounding the Tower.

Forty Acres Refers to the original size of the UT campus, which was centered on the Tower, the borders of which consisted of 21st, Speedway, Guadalupe and 24th Streets.

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Campus Life


"UT architecture library" by Jr1038 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“UT architecture library” by Jr1038 – Own work.

Best Libraries
Brandon: Everyone thinks the Life Science and Architecture Libraries are beautiful. You can always find a seat in the Main Library, but nobody thinks it is the prettiest. The Kuehne Math and Physics Library has a great upper-level space, and you can fill your dreams with lovely math, physics, and astronomy. The Fine Arts Library has a relaxing mix of cozy and quiet.

Quiet Spaces
Haley: There are relaxation rooms on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. You can relax between classes in a quiet room with dim lighting, while listening to calm music on a provided iPod.

Emma: The Fine Arts Building has some nice places to sit outside, and it’s a great quiet place to wander through- the visual arts area is full of ever-changing exhibitions of students’ new work.

Emma: Everybody goes to Gregory to work out, but if you’re into team sports or dance, the Anna Hiss Gym is where it’s at! It has a dance studio and courts where people play basketball, volleyball, and dodge ball all the time. They have table tennis, too.

Auto Services
Emma: Put 512-471-4441 in your speed dial immediately- it’s the number for the Longhorn Auto Assistance Program, which is offered by Campus Police – If you lock your keys in your car or get a dead battery on campus, UT has got you covered! Campus police will open your car or give you a battery jump for free, 24/7.

Haley: The Holi festival of love is a celebration that hails from India. Students throw different colored powders in celebration of love.

Emma: The Cohen New Works Festival happens every other year in the Department of Theater and Dance. Dozens of new plays and performance art projects are developed and performed (for free) all around campus for a week as part of the festival. You don’t need to be a theatre major to participate!

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Haley: You can get everything you need around campus, and if you want to stick to the area, you should invest in a good bike. It’s often the fastest (and cheapest) way to get around.

Emma: Street parking on campus is strictly regulated (if you park in a space without the right permit, even if it’s just a few minutes, you will get a hefty ticket, a boot on your car, or they may tow it.), but the streets which border campus have paid street parking.

UT has a campus shuttle line which is free for everyone! It extends beyond the borders of campus, so you can park several blocks out and then take a quick bus right to where you need to be. These busses also have extremely cold air conditioning, which is a godsend in the warmer months.

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On Campus
Emma: Texas Expresso, the Texas Exes café across the street from the stadium. It’s part of the alumni center. The menu changes frequently, the coffee is fantastic, and they have the best cakes ever. And it’s pretty cheap, to boot!

Hoa Hoa. Technically, the Dobie isn’t “on campus”, but it may as well be.  Hoa Hoa has a great selection of Chinese and Vietnamese staples and a great lunch special.  It’s the cheapest place to get your veggies/tofu on within walking distance of campus.

Haley: Fuzzy’s Tacos. The food is delicious and affordably priced. It is located close to campus. Try the grilled shrimp taco and don’t forget to use their Fuzzy’s signature hot sauce.

East Side King (located behind the Hole in the Wall). The owner is a former Chopped winner and creates delicious Asian fusion dishes. Their kimchi pork ramen cannot be beat!

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"Hamilton pool" by Enoch Lai
“Hamilton pool” by Enoch Lai

On/Near Campus
Brandon: There is a great little arcade north of campus called Arcade UFO. Go and observe some real nerds play till their fingers bleed!

Emma: All of the museums at UT are free for students. The Blanton Museum of Art, just west of Jester Center, is probably the best Fine Art museum in the city!

The Harry Ransom Center has frequently-rotating, odd, pop-culture exhibits and comfortable sitting areas.

If you’re more interested in science and natural history, the smaller Texas Memorial Museum is just north of the stadium. You can find extensive fossil and wildlife specimen collections there- and just out front, there are dinosaur footprints!

Road Tripping
Haley: Enchanted Rock is a beautiful and scenic spot close to Austin but far enough away to feel like you are “away from it all”. A trip to Wimberley, TX is absolutely worth the drive. Hiking and scenic views are a perfect escape.

Brandon: Check out Hamilton Pool down in Dripping Springs it really makes a great trip and swim. Deep Eddy is also a fun little swimming hole.

Free Entertainment
Emma: The Austin Chronicle comes out on Wednesdays and is the go-to place to find all the best shows, movies, and events of the week.

Haley: Free music at the Whip In. They have free music every night of the week and delicious Indian food.


Emma: Austin has a rich and active arts scene! You can find classes in any visual art at the Dougherty Arts Center, or improve classes at Coldtowne Theater.

Brandon: For a more active experience, scuba diving in Town Lake is a great experience!

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Academic Tips

Haley: The University Writing Center is an amazing resource. Staff can give you valuable, grade-saving support on how to write papers for college, avoid plagiarism, and how to manage your time. They won’t edit individual papers, but they will review them and offer advice.

Emma: The Office of Undergraduate Research exists to team up undergrads with professors and grad students who need help with their books, projects, and papers. If you are considering any kind of post-grad education, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit early and often. You will learn amazing things!

One of the best things about going to UT are the foreign language options. You don’t have to stick with whatever you took in high school.  In fact, you have a choice of 34 language to complete your foreign language requirements!

If you ever need help in any of your classes, Cram Crew Austin has your back! Just like in Houston and Katy, we have consultants ready to be at your dorm-step to help you succeed and get the most out of your UT experience.

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Now get on up there and be a Longhorn!

Aggies, don’t despair! We’ve got tips for you coming in just a couple of weeks!

Think we missed something? Share your advice in the comments!