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Draughn alumnus publishes book on college life
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Draughn alumnus publishes book on college life

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A Valdese native and 2012 graduate of Draughn High School decided while in his freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to record his thoughts and experiences throughout college, which now has led him to publishing his first book.

Austin Helms, author of Orientation to Graduation: Stories & Advice From A Real College Student released his new book on Monday that gives high school students planning to go to college and even current college students a unique look at how to make the most of their college experience.

The four-part book touches on topics such as finances, exercise and sleep, time management, faith, networking, the party scene, relationships and hookups, sporting events and much more.

The book “peels back a layer of uncertainty from the life of a college student to guide future students and their parents through the zany, difficult years facing young students,” said a press release from Helms.

In June of 2012, he started writing an online blog to express what all he was going through as he was preparing to leave for college and he continued as he entered in as a freshman at the UNC- Chapel Hill.

“I was very surprised because students started reaching out saying ‘Hey this is helping me … keep writing,’” Helms said.

He continued to write, and nearing his graduation a year ago, he ended up with 58 chapters on topics such as temptations, alcohol use, studying abroad, getting a job, failing exams and internships, but had to narrow it down when it came to publishing the work.

“The first draft has 80,000 words and when it was published it had (approximately) 30,000 words,” he said.

One reason he wrote the book was due to what he believes to be an educational gap of how students deal with college life when they officially arrive on campus.

“You have all these people pushing students to go to college … once students get to college they are thrown into this wildfire of ‘what the heck am I doing now,’” Helms said.

He says that some students may not be prepared for the various scenarios that college presents such as having seven exams in one day that could be up to 50 percent of their grade or making right decisions when it comes to studying, he said.

“When I got to college , there was a whole lot of temptation and if it was not for the people I made myself be around , I probably would have gone down a different path,” Helms said.

There is a lack of resources once students arrive to college on how to deal with the transition of dealing with partying, time management and stress, he said.

“When you are from a small town, college seems really cool and maybe all you think about is people just partying,” he said. “I learned really quickly that if you want to (party) that’s fine, but that is not what college is for and that is what I try to portray in the book.”

Helms touches on every corner of the college experience and doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable or taboo topics such as finances and the "hook up" culture, the release said.

“I did not want to be scared to tell students about what college is really about, the good the bad and the ugly all of it,” Helms said.

“That is why I got more and more excited as I was putting this through because it was written in real time,” he said. “The stories were written while it was going on and while the experience was happening to me.”

He believes that book would be a good read for high school seniors because Helm’s believes he, as a recent college grad, offers good advice to those who are thinking about taking the same steps he has.

There are a lot of students who may be unsure about college and whether or not they want to attend, he said.

“This may give them a little exposure (to the fact that) ‘Yes you can go to college and here is what is there,’” Helms said. “You have to make the most of all of what college has to offer, don’t make the most of just the partying or don’t make the most of just getting a great education … make the most of all the pieces of it.”

Being a part of DHS and living in Burke County helped to prepare Helms for the next step he was going to take after high school, he said

“It wasn’t that I wanted to run and leave (Burke County), but it was (the fact) I have seen what was here, but wondered what is next,” Helms said. “The world is much bigger than I ever thought.”

Before college he never had a passport, traveled west of Tennessee or south of Florida, but now, after college, he has experienced all that.

Valdese will be mentioned in the book multiple times “on the back, the front, the inside and outside” and so will Draughn, he said.

When he received the final book cover from the designer, he said that he teared up because it actually was coming together.

“It didn’t seem real,” he said. “I would always tell people that I was writing a book, but when you see it outlined like it is supposed to be and not in a Word document anymore … it was pretty neat to see that.”

He is not sure now whether or not that he will publish a second book, but is waiting to see where life takes him.

“Maybe the bug will bite me,” he said.

Those who are interested in purchasing Orientation to Graduation: Stories & Advice From A Real College Student , can visit the Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites and search for the book or visit where the book can be purchased for $11.95.

For more information about Helms and his book, visit

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at or 828-432-8907.

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