INTRODUCTION: A number of years ago, a colleague and I presented at a High School student leadership conference in Canada on the differences between college and high school.  We developed a short introductory activity to help students get an idea of the experiences they may have in college and how their decisions could affect their success.  Now as a student counselor at a college in the Middle East , I work closely with the Student Affairs team to assist with the development of activities such as orientation, where I again use this activity.

Many students entering college for the first time do not have a realistic perception of what to expect or how their choices may ultimately affect their path and success. This has been especially evident in the Arab culture where post secondary education within the country is in its infancy. Due to the challenges of culture and environment (extreme heat) most of the orientation for new students has been done indoors in traditional lecture presentation format.  I have introduced this activity and others to make the sessions more interactive. It takes only about 15 minutes.


  • To introduce students to some of the possible experiences of college life

  • To help students understand how their choices may affect their success in college


*Prepare Game Cards representing each category; for example, Welcome to College, Library, Class, Pub, Counseling, Cafeteria (Appendices 1-6) Have as many cards in a set as students in the group.

*Print one 8 ½ x 11 Category Sheet for each category title (Library, Class, Pub, Counseling, Cafeteria) in large letters in the center of page. Tape these sheets around room on walls above a table on which you place the corresponding Game Cards.

*Chime or buzzer

MODIFICATION:  The cards provided are intended for generic use for a typical North American college experience.  I would recommend that additional cards or categories be added to reflect the institution where the activity will be used.  For example, if your college has an active sports and recreation department, you might want to add a GYM or RECREATION CENTER category of cards.


1. Pre-Assessment (1-2 minutes): Ask students, “How many of you have been to college before?”  If a couple of students indicate they have previously been to college, ask, “Did you complete your previous program? If not, why?”

2. Bridge-In (1 minute): “What makes college challenging for many students is finding balance and making wise choices. This next activity demonstrates some of the different experiences you will likely have in college and how the decisions you make affect your success.”

3. Directions (1 minute): “You will each be given a Welcome Card.  When told to start, read the card and then do exactly what it tells you to do on the card.  For example, if your card says, “Go to Class,” proceed to the section of the room (point to sign) where the Class sign is and then take a card from the pile in that area. Follow the directions on the new card. Hold on to all of the cards you collect and keep them in the order that you pick them.  When you hear the chime, take all of your cards, still in order, back to your seat.” Do a quick demonstration if you think it is necessary.

4. Give each student a “Welcome to College” category card. When all students have received a card, tell them to start. After reading the “Welcome to College” category card, students follow the directions on the cards until told by the instructor to stop.  Allow students 4-5 minutes to complete the activity or until at least three or four students sit down.

5. Ring the chime and wait for students to return to their seats.

6. Discussion (6-7 minutes):  Potential questions to guide the discussion:

  •    What was your college experience in this game?

  •    I noticed that a number of you sat down; what happened to you at college?

  •    How do you think that the choices you made affected your success at college?

  •    How did you feel about your college experience?

  •    What choices did you make that affected your success? 

  •    Can anyone give some examples?”

  •    What did you learn from participating in this activity? 

7. Summary (1 minute): “As you can see from this activity, everyone experiences college differently.  The choices you make will significantly impact your success at college.  Making poor choices, such as socializing too much or spending too much time at the Internet Café (Pub) may cause you to fail out. Making good choices such as going to class, asking for help when needed, and getting work done on time will aid in your success.  As you can also see from the different experiences, even when you don’t always make the best choices there is still a chance for you to get back on track.”


Students at a recent orientation seemed to enjoy the activity.  During the discussion there was laughter as the students described their college experience, especially those students who described how they ended up failing out.  One student reported that he must have been really hungry because he spent most of his time in the cafeteria and not much time at the library or in class, so he wasn’t surprised that he failed out.  Another student said that all he did was go to class and to the library so he didn’t have much fun at all at college, but he didn’t fail out.  Surprisingly, one student commented that he didn’t realize that the counselor could help with study skills; he joked that it was good that the counselor did help because in the majority of his cards he was struggling in some way.  He said he figured that he was close to failing out.  Most of the students seemed to gain some understanding of how college is not necessarily all study and that often the “other stuff” could have a significant impact on their academic success. Most recognized that if they made more good choices than bad their success would be more likely. 

There were two things which were unexpected for me in this activity.   One was the student’s comment about not realizing the counselor could help with study skills, which provided a good segue into our orientation session on services available.  The other was another student’s surprise at his unexpected “college experience.”  He reported that he was doing really well, going mostly to the class and library, but he went to the Internet Café (Pub) once and on his way home got into a car accident and had to drop out.  I used this as a teachable moment to briefly talk about how sometimes (though rare) we are thrown an unexpected curve ball that is beyond our control.

Having completed this activity with both Western and Middle Eastern students, I realized that as different as students are who are worlds apart, in many ways the same basic issues exist: difficulty learning how to balance time, make wise choices, how to study, how to problem solve, etc. What is different is how the different cultural upbringings and beliefs seem to make such issues an even bigger challenge to deal with here in Qatar .  For example, women in this culture can not go out in public alone unless accompanied by a senior male family member (i.e. father or older brother); thus, male students may have to miss classes to take a mother or sister to medical or other appointments which sometimes may even be out of the country.  Similarly, young people in Qatar have a responsibility to assist their father with work commitments.  In our Western culture we often view these situations as choices, while here these are viewed as responsibilities that must take precedence over everything else.

Another significant difference is the fact that Middle Eastern Cultures were typically a verbal culture with much of their history and culture passed by word of mouth from generation to generation.  This has led to their exceptional ability to memorize large amounts of material.  This combined with their strong belief that what happens to them in life is ‘god’s will’ creates many counseling and academic challenges.  Western students, while they may not have greatly developed personal responsibility and the skill of making wise choices, have a foundation and understanding that these beliefs and skills exist.  However, in the Middle East , these attitudes and skills are less known and, thus, more difficult to instill.


The goal of introducing students to the realization that college is not only study, classes and books but a combination of these and many other social activities seemed to be met.  It was evident from the discussion and comments that students began to realize that they have to be careful to find a balance of all college activities in order to be successful.  One student pointed out that he did go to the Internet Café (Pub) a number of times and he seemed to still be doing well. Further prompting about his experience revealed that much time was also spent in class and at the library.  He even mentioned that he had to see a counselor once.  I jokingly said that maybe he actually did some studying at the Café while drinking coffee.

Students also seemed to gain a better understanding about how choices can ultimately impact their success.  A number of students noted during the discussion that the more positive choices they made, the longer they got to stay in the game (the more cards they collected).  This outcome was made particularly evident by the student who had the largest number of cards and stated that he spent virtually all of his time in class or in the library.

While there was no formal feedback completed for this specific activity, the results from the orientation survey did indicate that the majority of students did enjoy the participatory activities (this game being one of only two).  In the comments on the survey a number of students indicated that the ‘Welcome to College’ activity was the best part of orientation. There were no negative comments reported.


During the planning for this activity I recognized that the original PUB cards that had been developed for North American use would be culturally inappropriate at my college in Qatar. Therefore, I did modify this category to INTERNET CAFÉ cards which depicted similar non alcoholic descriptors. Since completing the activity I have been adding to the cards and exploring ways to change the activity.  One idea I have is to provide students with two choices on the cards (kind of like the “choose your own adventure” books) to give them more of a feeling that they are making the choices. In addition, I have decided to add additional categories that better reflect our college and the services available.  For example, we have a Learning Commons where the math, language and English help centers are located as well as a Career Center for students who may be misplaced in a program.  This idea came from the student’s comment that he didn’t realize the counselor could help with study skills. Providing more college specific information may broaden the activities used to help student realize what services are available to assist them.


 *Appendix 1 – WELCOME CARDS

Welcome to College! During the next 8 months you will experience the many aspects of College life: Going to classes, going to the pub, studying, meeting new friends and ultimately having many new and exciting experiences. Now that your wait is over it’s time to go to class. Go to Class!

*Appendix 2 – CAFETERIA CARDS [one statement per card]

You had a nutritious lunch. It’s time for class. Go to Class!

You ate your lunch while reviewing your notes from previous class. Go to Class!

You review your weekly schedule during lunch in cafeteria. You have scheduled 3 hours of research time in the library. Go to Library!

You find friends playing cards in the cafeteria. You decide to skip your next class and stay in the cafeteria.  Stay in the cafeteria!

You skipped class again and hung at the cafeteria with friends. Your instructor refers you to the college counselor. Go to Counselor!

You spent too much time this semester socializing with friends in the cafeteria. You failed! Please sit down!

You spent more time in the cafeteria than in class this semester.  You failed! Please sit down!

You only attended half of your classes this semester. You failed! Please sit down!

*Appendix 3 – LIBRARY CARDS [one statement per card]

You spend 3 hours in study group at the library. Go back to Class!

You spent 2 hours researching for your assignment and you are still not done. Go back to the Library!

While studying in the library, you begin to get the munchies. Go to the Cafeteria!

You meet up with your buddies in the library. They are finished studying and are going to the Pub. Go to the Pub!

You meet up with your buddies in the library who are making plans for a huge party. Go to the Pub!

You spend 2 hour studying in the library for your test. It is time to go home and get ready for tomorrow’s class.  Go back to Class!

You spent 2 hours researching for your take home exam and you are not even close to done. Go back to the Library!

While studying in the library, you get a serious craving for fries and dressing. Go to the Cafeteria!

*Appendix 4- COUNSELOR CARDS [one statement per card]

You got the help you needed from the Counselor.  Go to Class!

You put off getting help for too long, consequently you were unsuccessful. Please sit down!

Your session with the Counselor went very well.  You are making progress. Go to Class!

The Counselor is setting you up with a peer tutor so that you can catch up with your work this semester. Go to Class!

Your session with the Counselor went very well.  You are making progress.  Go to Class!

The Counselor is setting you up with a peer tutor so that you can catch up on your work for this semester. Go to Class!

The Counselor is helping you with your time management skills. You are scheduling in more study time. Go to Library!

The Counselor has provided you with some information on study tips. You decide to go to the library. Go to Library!

*Appendix 5- PUB CARDS [one statement per card]

You spend a nice evening with your friends at the pub to celebrate your friend’s birthday. Go to Class!

Your hot date turned out to be a real “loser.” You made an excuse to leave early. Go to the Library!

You have spent all your money at the pub. You can’t pay next months rent so you have to drop out and go home. Please sit down!

Your hot date did not show up. Go to Library!

An intoxicated person became violent and you get hit by mistake.  You are hospitalized and can’t complete the semester. Please sit down!

While in the pub you are introduced to a person in your history class, who offers to tutor you when she’s available. Go to Class!

You received a $4000 student loan in September.  Most of the money is gone because you treated your friends in the pub too many times. Go to Counselor!

When you go to the pub you can’t find any of your friends.  They all went to class instead. Go to Class!  

*Appendix 6 –CLASS CARDS [one statement per card]

You really enjoyed today’s class.  You can’t wait until tomorrow class. Go to Class!

Today’s class was really interesting.  You look forward to learning more about astronomy. Go to Class!

You have an assignment due next week. You decide to go to the library to do research. Go to the Library!

You have a test in two weeks.  You decide to go to the library to study. Go to the Library!

You have an assignment due.  You need to go to library to do some research on the Internet. Go to the Library!

Nothing made sense in class today.  After talking with your instructor, he recommended you go to the Guidance Office/Student Services. Go to Counselor!

Your class is a total bore. You decide to skip off and go to the cafeteria. Go to the Cafeteria!

You have an assignment due 4th period. You decide to skip class and go work on your assignment in the library. Go to the Library!

–Allison Lomond, Counselor, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar,

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NOTE: Robin Middleton and Kaye Young, educators at Jamestown Community College, have created the On Course Board Game. Click HERE to access their site to learn about the game and other supplies they have created to supplement your On Course class.

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