Emma Cieslik is a third-year Honors student. She is a history and biology double-major, with anthropology and Spanish minors. As a peer mentor, Emma teaches a section of Honors 100. She hopes to help Honors freshmen adjust to life at Ball State. 

By Emma Cieslik

When I first started at Ball State, I struggled with navigating the MITS bus system and North Quad building. Treading through the jungle of Cardinal Cash, Dining Plus, and dinner meal swipes made every day was an adventure.

Since then, I’ve learned all sorts of skills that I use every day here. From renting games and kitchen utensils from DeHority’s front desk, to finding volunteer opportunities through SVS, and reserving study tables at Bracken, it took me a long time to learn everything I needed to be successful.

After countless times getting lost, calling the library, and pestering upperclassman with questions, I finally started to understand “being a college student.” Along the way, I made sure to keep notes on everything that I learned and found helpful, which is what I share here. This is the product of my exploration, my road map and field journal to life at Ball State.

Emma Cieslik


Emma’s Freshman Survival Guide

Meal swipe: You all have a meal plan with a certain number of swipes per week. You can use a breakfast swipe, equivalent to $5.25, until 11 am. After 11 am, you can use both your lunch and dinner swipe. Each lunch and dinner swipe is equivalent to $8.80. Remember, if you don’t have the 21-meal plan, you will have to plan when you use these 10, 14, or 18 swipes per week. I recommend using your swipes for lunch and dinner since the price value of lunch and dinner is higher. You also receive a certain amount of dining plus at the beginning of the semester, which can be used for meals outside of swipes or overcharges or swipes or for the convenient store in the dining hall. This is different from Cardinal Cash that can be loaded on your ID.


Being/having a guest: All residents halls have a 24-hour/7-day visiting for the academic year. Guests must be escorted by the resident at all times in any area other than the downstairs main lobby. A maximum of one guest per room resident may sleep in a room, and you must get the approval of your roommate before housing a guest. For younger siblings, guests between the ages of 13 and under 18 must have a parent permission for stays after midnight. Guests age 12 and under may not stay overnight in the residence halls. Guests may stay 3 consecutive days in a week. The form for parent permission for 13-18 age guests can be found here


Rentals: You can rent dishes, board games, vacuum cleaners, and much more. You present the front desk with your ID and then “check out” the item under your name. You are usually able to keep it until 11:30 pm, and they will email you or call you towards the deadline. Also, if you have any packages or mail that won’t fit in your mailbox, you will receive an email from the front desk with a package number. Once you present the number at the front desk, you show the desk worker your ID, sign, and get your package.


Achievement App: If you are active on campus and want to get free stuff for it, then the Ball State Achievements app is for you. If you turn on location services, your phone will mark down when you attend an event based on where the event is held. Lots of things – like Quad Bash, studying in the library, going to Late Nite – can get you points, which can be cashed in for everything from water bottles to Beats headphones.


Cooper/North Quad Building: These buildings are a little bit confusing, but once you figure them out you will be fine. Cooper is the science building and is split into three sections, Cooper Physical (Chemistry and Physics) which is closest to the David Owsley Museum of Art, Cooper Nursing which is in the middle of the building), and Cooper Life (Biology, Biotechnology, Health Sciences) which is closest to the Brown Planetarium.

North Quad has a confusing basement. When you are trying to go downstairs to visit teacher’s offices or classrooms, always go down the flight of the stairs on the side of the basement you are trying to reach.


Real Time MITS Bus Information: Need to get off-campus to pick up a carton of milk from Walmart or need to stop by Target for a craft emergency? Look no further than the MITS bus. It’s free for Ball State students to ride, simply show your Ball State ID when you board the bus. This site below shows you real time bus information. MITS also has an app.


Campus Shuttle Service: Need to get between Sursa Hall and Carmichael Hall in 10 minutes? Look no further than the Campus Shuttle Service which usually picks up in front of campus dorms. Use this link to find out more information about the buses running across campus.


Minnetrista Cultural Center: Minnetrista is within walking distance of campus if you just head east on Nelly and cross Wheeling Avenue. Some attractions include the houses of the Ball family, a garden, a museum, and a great gift shop. I would recommend the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings; that’s where my foodie roommate goes to get ingredients.


Religious Services: Many religious organizations on campus offer Bible study groups and weekend retreats. Find groups on BennyLink.


Friday Night Filmworks: Do you like watching recently released movies and not paying any money? Students can watch recently-released movies every Friday night at Pruis Hall (or at the Student Center, depending on space). You can even bring a non-BSU guest for $1. They have more information here!


The Village: A number of shops and restaurants are located just south of Campus on or near University Ave. I would recommend The Cup and White Rabbit Used Books (make sure to check out their second floor). TIS Bookstore is also located closer to the Student Center. Just as a warning, the village can get a little rowdy on Friday and Saturday nights.


Student Voluntary Services: Need a service activity for HONR 100 or volunteer experience for a killer scholarship or internship? SVS organizes volunteers for one-time or semester-long opportunities, such as Living Lightly Fair, White River Clean Up, and more. Visit the SVS office on the first floor of the Student Center. If you register for SVS online, you can sign up for events and get time, location, and date for the service activity.


Learning Center: I know that we tend to avoid admitting we need help, especially Honors College students, but it takes a big person to sit down and ask for help. Located in North Quad 350, this center offers tutoring in subjects that are part of the University Core Curriculum (and much more). I recommend joining a study group or just meeting with a tutor to make sure you are ready for that first round of finals. To make an appointment, visit North Quad 350, call (765) 285-1006, or use this link.


Writing Center: Part of the Department of English, this center provides free one-on-one tutoring for any writing projects. Pro Tip: Dr. Stedman cannot assist you with on-campus scholarships, particularly those for the Study Abroad Office, so I approached the Writing Center for help. You can meet you tutor in person at the Writing Center or schedule an online appointment using Google Docs. Simply call (765) 285-8387 to make an appointment or visit the Writing Center in Robert Bell 291.


Reserve a Study Table or Room at Bracken: This one is top secret, okay. Most freshman don’t know how to reserve a room at Bracken. If you need a quiet place to meet for a group project or just need a space to get some homework done, click on the link below and schedule a room. There is a limit though; you can only rent a certain amount of minutes per week, so if you are working on a group project, just rotate who reserves the room. Also, you can get a room with a TV monitor to practice presentations.


Other “bear” necessities

Campus Map – so you don’t get lost like I did…

Important Locations on Campus – buildings you may visit for classes or on-campus clubs

Office Contact Information – front desk phone numbers for Honors House, Health Center, etc.

BennyLink – tells you about organizations on campus