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?

Helen Cella

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

Try to meet as many people as possible. Get involved with activities that are important to you. Try new things.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Avoiding Freshman Mistakes

Everyone knows the saying about learning from one's mistakes, and that's true. But freshman year is filled with unknowns, so students should heed advice. Students are wise to take care of their health. That starts with decent, healthy eating and enough sleep, because your world will have many temptations. Money management is an area to watch from the start. You may be new to budgeting and living on your own with a set amount of money. Remember that group outings and dinners out can literally eat into your budget. Concerning, activities, students should not get too involved too soon. Courses come first, so pick extracurriculars carefully. Regarding courses, be sure to adhere closely to registration guidelines and meet with an adviser if necessary. You don't want to be shut out from courses you need or that really interest you. How and when you get to know your peers is a major part of college life. There will be many cliques and crowds, and there is nothing wrong with finding out what these are all about. However, be very cautious about partying and drinking. Your stay on campus depends on it!

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Keep a Schedule

You should stay on a schedule. Go ahead and take some late weekend nights, but go to bed on Sunday to be ready for class. Be serious about attending class. Schedule a visit with your academic advisor at least once a month to check in. Use the academic writing lab or writing center which is available to all students. Even professional writers have editors so use the resources. Find your quite study place and block out scheduled study blocks that you keep a commitment to.

Laurie Favaro
Independent College Counselor Marin County, SF Bay Area

Congratulations as you head off to college! ...

The next four years will provide an incredible opportunity to pursue your interests and to also explore new ideas and experiences. Choose some courses that may not be familiar to you, but sound intriguing. Build relationships with your professors by attending their office hours or volunteering for research. Keep in mind that the independence that comes from being a college student means that you have the sole responsibility to make college life exciting, rewarding and successful. Keep an open mind to make the most of your experience – attend seminars, join student organizations, get involved!

Rene Bickley
Director of College Counseling The Hammond School

College is fun...and it should be!...

First and foremost, go to class.  Even if your professor says attendance doesn't count, don't be fooled.  Attendance always matters.  Homework is another issue.  In college homework is no longer what you do after class.  It's designed to get you ready for class the next day, and it helps to know ahead of time that the optional reading your professor casually tosses your way—really isn't optional.  Get a planner.  Block off class time as well as study hours in advance.  Stay on track and you can have time for fun and enjoy yourself without the stress of unfinished work hanging over your head.

Patricia Tamborello
College Counselor Plymouth Whitemarsh High School

Food court follies!...

Food services on most college campuses are more like a large food court in the center of a mall. Everyone jokes about the freshman fifteen but it is actually something that happens to a number of students. So, right from the start be aware of your choices in the "food court". Desserts and that fabulous ice cream machine shouldn't be a part of every meal. Portion control and remembering the salad bar can keep you from weighing in too much in your sophomore year

Candy Cushing
Associate Director of College Counseling King Low Heywood Thomas

That coffee cost you WHAT?!!!?...

Freshmen often overlook that there is a difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Starting today, make note of where your money goes. Is it the $5.00 macchiato, the $100.00 shoes? Or is it gas to get you to your job? Now is the time to put yourself on a budget. Whether you get an allowance or work part-time, commit to a set amount of spending money each week and stick to it. Understand what your parents expect to contribute to your living expenses – will they cover a daily macchiato? Learn now to decide your weekly priorities and map out how you will spend or save your money. 

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. 

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.

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.