10 Freshman Mistakes & How to
Avoid Them

Meet the Expert

Dr. Todd Lidh Provost and Dean of Faculty, Lees-McRae College Read bio

Written by...

Shelley Zansler Read bio

The first year of college can be an exciting time full of wonderful new experiences. But these new experiences can come with a serious learning curve if you’re not prepared. Here are common freshmen mistakes with expert tips on how to fix them when things go awry.

Common Academic Mistakes

Freshmen in college will have to navigate a completely new way of attending class and tackling assignments, making it easy to get tripped up along the way. Knowing common academic mistakes to look out for and ways to fix them can smooth the transition from high school to college.

Mistake #1: Missing too many classes

You stayed up too late the night before and slept through your 9 am class … again. But it’s not a big deal because you read the textbook, right? Wrong! Poor attendance can have major consequences in college.

Imagine skipping class on a day when a professor introduces a new topic, announces a quiz during the next class or assigns groups for a project due the following week. It’s easy to fall behind. And missing more than a certain number of classes can mean an automatic fail for some courses.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #2: Not taking advantage of your resources

You’re finally out on your own, and you’re determined to prove you can handle it without asking for help. But with these increased responsibilities can come additional stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and missed opportunities.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #3: Not managing your credits

There are so many interesting classes to take, you’ve sped through your first couple of years only to discover junior year that 80 percent of the classes you took were lower-division and don’t meet graduation requirements. Now you’re looking at an extra semester or two before graduation.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #4: Taking too many classes

Music theory, archaeology, intro to physics—yes please! But 20 credits later, you realize you may be in over your head. What started out as an exciting journey of knowledge has quickly turned into a stressful juggling act with little time for extracurricular activities.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #5: Picking your major too soon

You’ve wanted to be a lawyer for as long as you can remember, so you happily jumped on the pre-law track from day one. Now you’re in your junior year and would rather spend your time composing sonnets than drafting legal briefs. But you’re worried you’ve gone too far to turn back.

How to Avoid It

College Life Mishaps

“Being new at college is a wondrous experience. Everything and everyone is exciting. And so it’s easy to say yes to every party, yes to going out to eat or to a concert or to a movie. But what then becomes hard is what you are in college for in the first place,” says Dr. Lidh. “If you don’t get enough sleep or don’t study or start overspending, you’ll be taking away your greatest chance at lifelong success: an education.”

Mistake #1: Not getting enough sleep

Between attending classes, going to rowing practice and going to parties at the fraternity you’re considering joining, you’re burning the midnight oil every night to squeeze in studying. When your alarm goes off for your first class, you’re barely able to make it out of bed.

According to a 2014 study, 50 percent of college students report daytime sleepiness, and 70 percent admit to not getting enough sleep. This can lead to lower GPAs; worsened mood; higher risk of dropped classes; poor overall health, including weight gain and compromised immune system; increased mental health issues, like anxiety, depression and stress; and higher risk of car-related accidents.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #2: Not getting out enough

You’re so focused on acing your classes that you realize half way through the semester you’ve barely left your dorm room. Once you come up for air, homesickness hits hard as you start to feel isolated from your college peers.

While college is certainly a time for students to increase their knowledge and understanding of their world and gain new skills, social interaction is an important part of the college experience. Students who focus solely on academics can miss out on creating meaningful relationships and are prone to feelings of loneliness.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #3: Not keeping track of your spending

After a semester of eating out with new friends, stocking up on books and decorating your dorm room, you realize you’ve blown through your budget for the entire year. Now you reach for your student credit card to cover pizza and avoid looking at your balance.

Debt can pile up quickly, but it doesn’t go away nearly as fast. Money mistakes in college can haunt you long after graduation, so it’s important to start smart spending habits your freshman year.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #4: Not being careful about social media

Your social life is bustling and you love tagging your friends in post-party pics. But when you go to your much-anticipated interview for a competitive internship, the hiring manager lets you know your partying ways aren’t compatible with their company’s culture.

How to Avoid It

Mistake #5: Cutting off friends or family

In your excitement to meet new people, you’ve forgotten your high school best friend’s birthday and haven’t called home in weeks. But now you’re struggling to make some big personal choices and you’re not sure where to go for advice.

How to Avoid It

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