They say that hindsight is 20/20. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone through their freshman year of college with regrets and wishes and dreams of what could have been, what they should have done. But that only means that there is greater hope for current college freshmen if they are only willing to listen and trust the people who have been there. Compiled from the thoughts and opinions of dozens of undergraduate sophomores, juniors, and seniors, this list is comprised of the most common mistakes that freshmen make their first year of school.
You’re finally in college. No parents, no teachers looking over your shoulder. You’re free! We all know this feeling and the urge to experience a party life we’ve seen in movies and on television for the past few years of high school. It looks fantastic and fun, with no one to stop you. However, if you’re not careful, partying early on and taking it too far can irreversibly damage your entire college experience. Yes, the partying scene in college can be vital to making friends and is a large part of university social life. Don’t avoid it completely due to a fear of overdoing it. But it’s also very important to trust yourself and your limits and not to give in to what you see around you if you feel uncomfortable.
I have seen firsthand many individuals immediately jump into the party scene head on, staying up late and drinking alcohol night after night. Sure, it looks like they’re having a great time without a care in the world but pretty soon, the other aspects of their lives invariably suffer.
Grades will drop; it will become almost impossible to catch up on classes. Remember, you and/or your parents are paying for an education, not for a social life. Go to class and take advantage of the thousands of dollars being spent on these four years. Save the partying for the weekends and know your limits. Work hard so that when the opportunity arises, you can have fun without feeling guilty.
Many of us are used to being able to scrape by academically in high school, especially during senior year. You’re focused on the future; you’re accepted into college, you’ve conquered the entire high school curriculum. Procrastination runs rampant in most of us by the end of our high school career. It is sometimes very easy to save studying until the last minute or to complete a project in just a few days, a few hours. We arrive on campus and have the misconception that we can continue the same bad habits. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. College professors have high standards. Assignments and tests are much more complex and difficult. You can no longer study the night before and expect to achieve a passing grade. College courses are fast-paced and cover much more material than high school courses. If you’ve taken a few AP classes, this is more comparable to the university level.
Instead of falling behind the first few months trying to get acclimated to the new work and study-load, expect to spend time each day going over new material and give yourself at least a week to work on a project or paper. It’s tempting to procrastinate. Just say no. Your GPA freshman year will set the tone for the rest of your college career.
The “Food is Free!” Perception
This is probably the first time you have to feed yourself. No mom to cook you dinner or have your breakfast on the table for you, no ½ hour lunch scheduled in the middle of your day. You are on your own. This means that you make your own dietary decisions now.
You also probably have a meal plan. You swipe your student ID card and all of a sudden it’s an All You Can Eat buffet in the cafeteria. Late night snacks, extra hash browns in the morning, dessert with dinner. A lot of people have unused money on their meal plans that doesn’t roll over to the next semester, so they fill up on as much food as possible so as not to waste it.
This can quickly become detrimental to your health and eating habits. We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15”, the fifteen pounds that many kids find themselves gaining in the first few months of school. Come up with a dietary plan before leaving for school. It’s not a bad idea to start planning your own meals a few months before orientation. Otherwise, you may come home for Thanksgiving looking a little heftier than when you left.
Neglecting University Resources
It may seem overwhelming at first; the amount of resources open to you at a university: the career center, your advisor, peer advisors, student groups, and activities’ fairs. Don’t be overwhelmed. Take advantage of it. Visit your professors, see your advisor, and talk to the upperclassmen about everything and anything. It can only help you find your way in a world with infinite possibilities, problems, and solutions. Don’t be afraid to seek help.
Not Taking Advantage of Internships
Many freshmen make the mistake of disregarding internships, allocating them to junior and senior year of college. However, especially in our current job market, you need to begin amassing experience as soon as possible. Even if you are not one hundred percent sure what you want to major in or do with your life, experience in any field will increase your value in a future corporation or occupation. Looking for internships freshman year allows you to make contacts and increase your cover letter writing and professional interaction skills without the added pressure of impending graduation. Although multiple internship opportunities will be limited to upperclassmen, with some digging and career office assistance, you can find an organization to enhance your resume.
Refusing to Stop and Smell the Roses
Whether you’re going to college far away or staying in the area, there will be new places and sights to visit and explore. Don’t forget that life is an adventure. When you go to a new place, it’s a chance to see and experience things you never previously had an opportunity to. If you’re in a big city, escape that university campus bubble and venture out into the unknown (safely, of course). If you’re in the middle of nowhere, get to know your campus and the local eateries and hangouts. Every college is equipped with its own ecosystem. Make it a goal to master it and the surrounding area by the end of freshman year.
Trust us. We’ve been there. We know what we wish we would have done and achieved. As upperclassmen, we come with knowledge college freshmen have no way of being in possession of. Take note of our advice and in just a few short years, you’ll be ready to pass your own expertise down to millions of slightly confused and potentially misguided incoming college students.