9 Freshman Mistakes
You don’t need to be in college to procrastinate on that 10-page paper. Putting off a much-dreaded project despite a looming deadline is a bad habit that can be found in high school, college applications, the workplace and everything in between. But there are plenty of other issues that seem to correlate specifically with first-year students’ success across the globe. We asked college officials to share some of the most common mistakes they see freshmen make. Some of their answers may surprise you!
1. TRYING TO MAINTAIN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL RELATIONSHIP.
No one is telling you to break up with your high school sweetheart, but consider yourself warned that most long-distance college relationships don’t end well. The problem? Students tend to put too much time and energy into maintaining the relationship, and they don’t get as involved in the college experience. To truly make the most of the next four years, spend as much time as possible focused on your surroundings, your education and your new friends.
2. MISSING CLASS.
This is a big one, especially for freshmen who are getting their first taste of independence and are used to a lighter course load.
Karen M. Violanti, Ph.D., associate dean for first-year students at McDaniel College (MD), says that in her experience working with first-year students, attending class is one of the biggest challenges. “This is a foundational piece and a basic key to success,” she explains. “If students miss class, they are missing opportunities to learn, connect with the faculty members and peers, as well as the overall experience of the college learning environment. Being in class is a basic and controllable choice and action that will support student success in a highly impactful way.”
Of course, one of the biggest reasons for missing class—especially the early-morning classes—is oversleeping. For freshmen, that’s often due to staying up too late to hang out with friends or attend a party. Sure, there are some who were up in wee hours studying, but if we’re being honest, those are the freshmen who don’t miss class.
4. CHOOSING A MAJOR BASED ON PAY, NOT PASSION.
Yes, certain careers tend to have better starting salaries than others. But if you’re passionate about teaching English to kids, why would you pursue electrical engineering? Money never trumps happiness!
“[We see freshmen choose] a major or degree that they think will lead to a career, as opposed to studying something that they are really passionate about,” says Greg Augspurger, director of advising and orientation at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS). “We also see some studying a field that their parents want them to, as opposed to a degree that they want. There are tons of careers out there that do not require a specific degree; they just require a bachelor’s degree.” In other words, just enjoy your first year of college and see what inspires you before you lock in to a major.
5. RELYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO MAKE IMPORTANT DECISIONS.
“We see many of our first-years [assume] that quick glances at a Facebook profile will tell the entire story of who their roommate is or who other classmates will be,” says Charlie Potts, director of residential life at Gustavus Adolphus College (MN). “It’s easy to make assumptions about people based on social media, but we encourage students to make face-to-face connections and have conversations about values before assuming the worst. The power of social media is incredible in building community, but having conversations is still the best way to get to know who your roommate truly is.”
6. NOT USING ALL THE COLLEGE’S RESOURCES.
“A mistake I see a lot of freshmen make is not making use of all the resources UCCS offers early in the semester,” says Stacy Vogel, success coach in the Office of First-Year Experience at UCCS. “The more comfortable they feel in going to the tutoring sessions … [and] making study groups with friends in their classes … the more likely they are to do it when they are really in need. The solution is for students to recognize the benefit of using these resources, and trying them out early in the semester can help them stay caught up in their classes instead of only using them by the time it might be too late.”
7. NOT ORGANIZING YOUR TIME
to include study time, work and/or volunteering, class and leisure time. Janell Campbell, UCCS success coach in the office of first-year experience, suggests that students use either a paper or electronic planner to plot out all their activities.
“I often see students that are overly stressed and feel they do not have time to accomplish everything they need to,” she says, “but when they sit down and look at their day planned out on a planner, they often see they have more time than they thought and are less likely to procrastinate.”
8. NOT ASKING FOR HELP.
“[A] challenge I often see is that students are not communicating with professors/faculty and not using office hours,” says Violanti. “Office hours and professor support are the most underutilized resources on campus. I have had frequent conversations with first-year students about talking to faculty and using office hours for academic connections and support. Developing a relationship with the faculty member also allows for greater success in the class overall. The faculty member then knows who the student is, knows he/she is engaged in the class and knows the student is invested in his/her own success.”
9. NOT GETTING INVOLVED
. Although all college experts will encourage you to make plenty of time to study, none of them will tell you to stay in your room when you’re not in class. “Get involved in campus clubs, organizations and student events!” says Brad Bayer, executive director of student life and leadership at UCCS. “Those that do get involved tend to demonstrate strong student achievement in the classroom.”
Whether you’re interested in sports, theater, the college newspaper or Greek life, there’s something out there that will help you blow off steam, stay in shape, fight depression, make friends and just have fun!
Heed the advice of those in know—they’ve seen countless freshmen repeat the same mistakes year after year—and you’ll be on your way to a great experience right off the bat!
Wendy Burt-Thomas is the editor of My College Guide.