When college starts, what are the most common mistakes freshman make that I can avoid?

College Experience

Our counselors answered:

When college starts, what are the most common mistakes freshman make that I can avoid?

Enid Arbelo
Editor in Chief NextStepU

All play and no work? Find balance as a frosh...

You’re on your own during freshman year. Sure you have support from counselors, professors, parents and friends – but your approach to this newfound freedom will make or break your first year. You have to be disciplined! College classes are not an extension of high school. It’s going to be tough. So be sure you prioritize study time and “play time.” Plan ahead and stick to your schedule. Playing video games, going to parties, and staying up late will definitely eat into your study and homework time – which is the reason you went to college in the first place, right?

James Maroney
Director First Choice College Placement

Get to know your professors...

I think one of the biggest mistakes freshmen make is not getting to know their professors.  Students should make a concerted effort each semester to get to know at least one faculty member.  Simply go to office hours, or ask questions in class.  The goal is to have at least one faculty member know you well. This will help you to become more engaged in your college experience and also has the added benefit of giving you options if you apply to graduate school and need a letter of recommendation, as you will have several faculty members who know you well enough to write a glowing letter for you.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

Don’t rush into an overwhelming freshman year...

Planning to rush a fraternity or pledge a sorority your freshman year? Then avoid the mistake of taking too hard a course load or early morning classes during the process. While it’s great to rush or pledge, the process takes so much time and goes so late into the night that many freshmen tell me they wish they hadn’t taken a hard science or math class first semester and that they had “slept” through many morning classes. So pick classes that are a nice mix of science/math and humanities and that start in the late morning or early afternoon.

Susan Sykes
President SS Advisor

Mom was right!...

The key to success is “healthy body, healthy mind.” Manage temptation: fast food; late-night conversations; last-minute cramming for exams; sacrificing exercise to sleep in; it’s easy for you to get off track. Team up with a friend, committing to eating healthy fruits and vegetables; working out together; and taking time to have fun. Self-discipline = time to participate in those exciting extracurricular activities. But try not to over-schedule. Start slowly because college activities are more demanding than high school. Keep first semester light: one new activity and one you know you like from before college is a good balance.

Mabel Freeman
Asst. VP for Undergraduate Admissions Ohio State University

Successfully navigating your first year requires more than a map!...

Enjoy the excitement of your first college year!  Use your time between classes to frequently study during the day; you will have more options for your evenings and weekends. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.  Faculty and advisors are not mind-readers, but they have a lot of answers. Your new independence is a good thing, but you’re going to have this independence for the rest of your life; don’t mess it up at the beginning.  Make new friendships with students who don’t look like you, think like you, or have the same background as you.  Appreciate the value of differences.

Jeannie Borin
Founder & President College Connections

Just what is college freedom all about?...

Freshmen sometimes have difficulty managing their time. College course curriculums often allow students to plan timing in their course of study. Professors may give students a semester’s work on one sheet of paper and it is up to the student to pace their time well. Coming from high school with daily or weekly assignments, these long term college assignments are a wakeup call to many freshmen. The best thing is to use a calendar that works best for you – digital or otherwise. Self-discipline is crucial. Plan your time well – make time for social activities but don’t let your work pile up on you.

Marilyn Emerson
President Emerson Educational Consulting

Don't keep your door closed!...

Starting college can be a wonderful experience if you keep in mind a few things.  If you want a good schedule don't wait until the last minute to sign up for classes.  If you like to sleep in, don't sign up for early morning classes.  If you want to know about your classes read the syllabi; they contain important information and dates.  If you don't want to gain the freshman 15, don't live off junk food.  If you want college to be a rewarding experience, get involved. And, if you want to make friends, don't keep your door closed.

Jane Hoffman
Founder, College Advice 101 College Advice 101

Avail yourself of the resource that faculty members represent...

Even as a freshman, you should begin to avail yourself of the tremendous resource that faculty members at your school represent. Faculty members designate and post regular office hours in which they are available to meet with undergraduate students. To ensure that students can reach them with questions as they arise, many also share their home email address and cell phone number. Begin by introducing yourself to those faculty members who share your academic interests or to your pre major advisor. The best ones are committed to mentoring undergraduate students and to supporting your academic and intellectual growth.

Joan Bress
Director and Certified Educational Planner College Resource Associates

Want to succeed in college? Become an expert time manager!...

“Wow, I’ve only got fifteen hours of class a week! There’s plenty of time to hang with my friends!” Does that sound like something you might say? Actually, it’s a recipe for disaster. College professors expect students to spend two hours studying for each hour in class. Smart students make every hour count. Plan your day carefully. Be prepared to study between classes. Know when you will fit in lunch and don’t let your meal last longer than you’ve planned. At the end of the day, review your progress toward becoming an expert time manager and plan for an even better day tomorrow.

Hannah Serota
College Counselor/Idependent Educational Consultant McLean School/Creative College Connections

Starting college is exciting!  New environment, new people, new approach to learning...

One thing you’ll want to do is establish a balance between the fun part of college and the academic part of college.  Many colleges run their freshman orientation programs just a few days prior to the start of classes.  While orientation provides a great opportunity to meet new people, you’ll need to refocus on academics as soon as classes begin. Some students don’t get serious about the school part of college because the social part has been so great.  But, often those students don’t make it to the second semester.  In college you’ll find greater expectation for independent learning and far fewer assessments.  Once you fall behind, it’s much harder to catch up than it was in high school.