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Top Six Freshmen Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Top Six Freshmen Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • Student Tips
Joanna HughesJul 15, 2016

Ah, freshmen. They don’t exactly have the best rap when it comes to judgment and decision-making. However, just because you’re new to the college scene doesn’t mean you have to make the same mistakes as your predecessors. In fact, by understanding the obstacles ahead, you can transform avoidable slip-ups into learning opportunities. Which is why we’re counting down six of the most common “rookie” mistakes made by college freshman, along with tips and tricks for avoiding them.

1. Missing class
The first year of college represents a thrilling taste of independence for most students. This can be a heady time, but can also quickly get out of hand -- particularly for students who fail to keep in mind why they’re at college in the first place.

Young exhausted man in the office late at night sleeping on his desk on a book, restlessness and overwork concept

The truth is that attending classes is a foundational part of university -- not just as a key academic component, but also in terms of your overall experience. While skipping a class or two may not seem like a big deal in the short run, doing so can quickly become a habit -- particularly if you fall into the dangerous party-all-night-sleep-until-noon pattern.

Avoiding this scenario is actually simple: don’t make skipping class an option. Meanwhile, if you already know that the call of partying will be too strong, avoid signing up for early morning classes to begin with. After all, dragging yourself out of bed to make it to your 8am Monday class isn’t going to get any easier as the semester continues.

2. Buying all of the books on your reading list
The average college course comes accompanied by a mile-long “required reading” list. Even if you have endless cash to lay out for piles of textbooks, do you really need every single one of them cluttering up your dorm room or apartment?

stylish nerd girl with many books

Any conversation with a been-there-done-that upperclassman is likely to reveal regrets about unnecessary textbook purchases. Before heading to the bookstore and laying down some plastic, thoroughly review the syllabus. Rather than blindly buying every book on the list, determine which tomes are truly worth investing in and owning, and which can be borrowed from the library or a friend.

And speaking of the bookstore, buying retail is also a newbie mistake. Plenty of cheaper options exist, including buying secondhand through a campus bulletin board, scouting out used books online, and even renting.

3. Using a fake ID
Having a fake ID may seem like part of the college experience, but unless you also consider getting arrested to be a rite of passage, fake IDs are definitely “think twice” territory. No matter how awesome you think your ID is, there’s still a chance of you getting caught...which can lead to a number of different unappealing consequences. Not to mention that there are plenty of ways to have fun without committing a felony. You’ll be 21 soon enough. Wouldn’t you like to reach that milestone without a record?

US Driver License with Copy Space Isolated on White Background.

4. Not setting a budget
According to the results of a recent survey by EverFi and Higher One, today’s students are less financially responsible than their predecessors. However, failure to take control of your finances -- even in your first year of college -- can continue to haunt you throughout life.

Shocked Woman Sitting On Sofa Looking At Her Purse

Says Higher Once Vice President of Financial Literacy and Student Aid Policy Mary Johnson, "I don't think they realize establishing those kinds of behaviors are so important when you're young because if you mess up, that can really stick with you for a long time. It really affects your credit and your ability to make other life choices down the road."

You don’t have to fulfill the “starving student” stereotype to assume financial responsibility during your freshman year. The mere act of setting a budget and sticking to it can set you on the path to a lifetime of solid financial management.

5. Procrastination
To say that student life is busy is a massive understatement. If your instinct in the face of overwhelming demands is to bury your head in the sand until the storm passes, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Because while procrastination may be the modus operandi of many college students, it can also be the kiss of death.

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Rather than putting off for tomorrow what you can do today, embrace the lifelong art of time management and its five key principles: planning, prioritizing, goal setting, establishing boundaries, and making the most efficient use of your time. In doing so, you’ll get the best of your commitments -- as opposed to the other way around.

6. Neglecting Balance
From managing new and old relationships to juggling academic and extracurricular instincts, the first year of college can be a balancing act. The more you’re aware of these competing forces, the better you’ll be prepared to adjust to them.

Peaceful teenage girl sitting with book on head and meditating

From designating a set time each week to check in with your parents to establishing a realistic daily schedule to limiting extracurricular involvement to just one or two activities, you can get a true sense of what your life as a college student will look like, then gradually add on from there.

If you stop and think about it, freshman year can kind of seem like a series of mistakes just waiting to happen. The good news? You’re supposed to mess up every now and then in college. However, this doesn’t mean you have to stumble into every problem along the way. Avoiding these six mistakes from the get-go can help you skillfully navigate your first year of college. But what can you do if you happen to fall prey to these pitfalls? You’re in college; why not do what college students do best? Learn from them.

Joanna Hughes

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.