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’s found in high schools, college applications, workplaces and everywhere in between. But there are plenty of issues other than procrastination that correlate with first-year college 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. NOT ORGANIZING YOUR TIME WELL
Be sure to include study time, work and/or volunteering, class and leisure time in your schedule.
“The biggest mistake I made freshman year was not getting organized from the beginning,” says Baylor University (TX) Associate Director of Admissions Counseling and Recruitment Veronicka Smith. “There was a free planner in my dorm room on move-in day, but I just threw it in my bottom drawer because I’d never needed a planner before. A few weeks into school I realized that I needed that planner so I pulled it out, wrote down every project, paper and exam for each of my classes and it worked so well that I did that the rest of college. It’s always better to be too organized, than not organized enough.”
Lee Ann Backlund, dean of admission and financial aid at The University of the South (TN) is quick to point out that there are plenty of apps, programs and other electronic resources to make life easier for college students. “Use technology to take class notes, organize your class schedule or organize your life in general,” she says.
2. 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!
“Choose a major based on your interests, passions and also your abilities,” advises Smith. “Don’t know what those things are that would be a good fit for you? Colleges usually have staff who are trained to help you identify a major and even a potential career field. Utilize those resources!”
3. NOT ASKING FOR HELP
The professors and college staff are there to help you. You’re not bugging them when you ask questions! “Introduce yourself to college professors in the first week,” advises Lisa Burns, associate dean of admission at The University of the South (also called Sewanee). “Drop by during office hours just to check in.”
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.
“Understand that going to bed at a reasonable hour is not a bad thing!” says Burns. You can also put your alarm clock across the room to force you to get out of bed.
5. CLINGING TO PEOPLE FROM HOME
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. The same is true for relationships with friends and family members.
“The reality is that if a student is truly going away for college, the likelihood of seeing the same group of peers that they are accustomed to is rare,” explains Texas Tech University Assistant Director for Marketing Julián Olivas. “As we tell many high school students that are considering our university, having a sense of connectedness and belonging from the beginning will only ease the transition to the university environment.”
“Make a plan to stay connected at home,” says Burns, “but don’t let your parents call the campus office unless you’re dying. Also, be open to the possibilities of new things and new people.”
6. 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.”
7. NOT USING ALL OF THE COLLEGE’S RESOURCES
“[Students] become very resourceful the more they engage with the campus community because they’re awakened to the tremendous amounts of resources that are out there,” says Olivas. “Whether it’s seeking out tutoring or simply visiting the financial aid office to try and identify additional sources of funding, the inability of some students to ask for support when in crisis can be detrimental. Students that are highly involved know where to go for help.”
Sewanee’s Backlund points out that being a freshman may mean not even knowing what to ask about. “Walk into a resource center on campus to introduce yourself,” she advises, “and just ask what opportunities they offer to students.”
8. 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.
“A lot of professors cover material in their lectures that doesn’t show up in the textbooks, so going to class is critical,” says Smith. “If you read all your textbooks, but miss class often, then you’re going to miss important information. It’s tempting to skip class when all your friends have a break and are going to lunch when you’re supposed to be in British Literature, but in the end you’ll be the one who pays if you miss class, not them.”
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.
“Campus involvement is one of the No. 1 retention factors for new students; students who are involved outside of the classroom are more likely to persist to the next year than those not involved,” says Florida Southern College Dean of Admissions Erin R. Ervin. “Perhaps you are not an all-star athlete or interested in Greek life; consider joining your school’s debate team or a service club, such as Circle K International. If you don’t find a club that sparks your interest, start one!”
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!