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?

Rachel Winston
President Educators with a Vision, College Counseling Center

Success – When preparation meets opportunity!...

Be excited! Transitioning into this phase opens doors and windows to new opportunities – clubs, sports, fraternities/sororities, activities, hobbies, and spiritual connectedness. You’re no longer protected by parents and a familiar environment. Walk around campus with someone you know. You’re not an imposter. The college accepted you; you belong there. Students often forget that classes require discipline. Manage your time. Before you know it, time has evaporated and there’s none left. Professors expect students to be on time, pay attention, read assignments, finish homework, and participate actively in class discussions.

Jill Greenbaum
Founder, Independent College Counselor Major In You

Learning happens everywhere...

One new aspect to learn about college (and a mistake to avoid) is to be aware that learning happens throughout the day and in various venues.   In high school, learning usually takes place in class, in a study group, and at home, often with some time and place boundaries.  In college, learning often happens at least as much in the classroom as outside of it... whether it’s cooperative/team projects, internships, getting together for study sessions or grabbing coffee after a class to keep talking about the reading, the class or questions... learning is around you all the time at college.

Shelley Krause
Co-Director of College Counseling Rutgers Preparatory School

Self-awareness is a fantastic first step....

What structures have worked for you in the past, as you’ve tried not to let your excitement get in your way? Do you keep a datebook? If you’re tech-savvy, have you tried some of the great productivity tools out there (e.g. the Boomerang extension for Gmail)? If you’re less technically inclined, what kinds of old fashioned human support systems can you put in place to help keep you focused and on track? Can you and a friend figure out ways to support each other? Try it all, see what works, rinse, lather, and repeat. Everyone’s learning in college, so don’t worry; you’ll fit right in.

David Hamilton
Director of College Advising St. Mary's Ryken High School

Perception vs. Reality  ...

Are professors aloof? Administrators that care not a whiff about students? Some may argue that this is the state of higher education. I would argue that it is far from the truth. Students are advised to start making connections with assistant professors, academic advisors, and others that form the heart, soul, and body of an institution of higher learning. There are people to help you grow as an individual, but you must also take the initiative to make that connection. Everybody that works for a college or university is a person who contributes significantly in one way or another.

Julie Manhan
Founder College Navigation

College classes move quickly, so don’t get left in the dust!...

One of the things that often catch freshmen by surprise is how quickly the term passes. The paper that was assigned the first week of class will be due before you know it. Because classes tend to move more quickly than in high school, it’s easy to get behind. So don’t put things off. Seek tutoring right away if you’re struggling. Get your reading done and work on that paper. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours to get additional help or deepen your understanding of the subject. Doing all this will make your freshman year go much more smoothly.

Farron Peatross
Educational Consultant EduCPlanner.com

Secrets for freshman year success...

The most important tip for your freshman year is good time management. It is very easy to get behind in your studies with the new freedom and independence of being a college student. The majority of your homework is reading and it may seem inconsequential to skip it for a class. However, if it is not completed as assigned, it becomes impossible to play catch up before an exam.  You may want to set up a “study / homework” calendar and prioritize your academic responsibilities. Do not put off for tomorrow the homework that needs to be done today!

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.