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Special Feature


Common Freshman Pitfalls - (and how to avoid them)

ALTHOUGH THERE’S NO SUCH THING as the "perfect" college experience, there are ways to increase your chances of getting off on the right foot.

Of course, any measurement of your experience is subjective, but for the sake of argument, let’s aim for happy, healthy and academically successful. Here are some common pitfalls and tips on how to sidestep them.

MISSING CLASS: This is especially common among freshmen who are enjoying new-found independence. Without Mom to wake you up and Dad to enforce curfew, it’s easy to party like a rock star then hit the snooze button. If possible, schedule your larger classes for later in the day.The temptation to sleep through an auditorium-style course can be strong if you think the professor won’t notice your absence. If you’re not a morning person, avoid the 8 a.m. classes! And it should go without saying that weeknight all-nighters should be reserved for cram sessions, not jam sessions.

GETTING SICK: This one is a bit harder to avoid, especially in the close living quarters and shared bathrooms of a dorm, but there are things you can control. Eat healthy, take vitamins (especially vitamin C to keep your immune system strong), get plenty of sleep, exercise and wash your hands frequently. Avoid any party games that entail sharing cups or putting shared items (like quarters or ping pong balls) in your drink.

STRUGGLING ACADEMICALLY: Professors are known for giving pop quizzes and the best way to be prepared is to stay caught up on your studies. Think about scheduling a time to study. You might also want to consider hiring a tutor or joining a study group.

OVERSCHEDULING: Eager freshmen can be quick to sign up for every activity under the sun as a means of making friends, avoiding homesickness or getting to know the campus. Give yourself some breathing room during your first semester by limiting your commitment to only one club, sport or activity. Also, don’t try to max out on the number of credit hours you can take. A regular course load will be tough enough as you navigate the campus, dorm life and new relationships.

STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY: Eating out with your new friends, buying college paraphernalia, and chowing down on late-night pizza can quickly drain your financial reserves. Create a budget for your first semester, leaving plenty of room for "unexpected" expenses (like when your best friend from home pays a surprise visit). Don’t let that mailbox full of credit card offers tempt you into bad spending habits. One card might help you establish credit; four might get you into trouble.

WORRYING ABOUT PICKING THE RIGHT MAJOR: Sure, you’ve wanted to be a veterinarian since you were 8, but there’s no need to declare a major before your parents drive away! Unpack your boxes, try out a few courses and stay awhile. It’s unlikely you’ll have to pick a major during your freshman year, so work hard on your basic core classes and enjoy the college experience!

Learn more on the freshman experience at by typing in "freshman year."

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