Common Mistakes Students Make During Their First Semester

Updated  October 20, 2017 |
Common Mistakes Students Make During Their First Semester
When you first start college you may be overwhelmed by the newness of it. But keep these common mistakes in mind as you go through your first year to make sure that you are properly setup for the rest of your college career and your life thereafter.

College is a time of learning and self-discovery. It is exciting to finally be out in the world on your own – you don’t have to answer to anyone and you can do whatever you want, more or less. But just because you have more freedom in your life doesn’t mean that you can abuse it. Learn from the example of some college students who didn’t take college quite as seriously as they should have, and now they are paying the price.

Top Academic Mistakes You Want to Avoid

College is where you will learn the information and skills you need to succeed in the “real world” as an adult. You will pick a major and then take all of the classes you need to graduate with a degree in that major which will (hopefully) get you a job after graduation. There is no need to pack your class schedule with all of the hardest classes the school has to offer – you aren’t really trying to impress anyone. But there are some common academic mistakes you want to avoid. Here are a few of the most common academic mistakes first-year college students make:

Believing that college is just like high school. In high school, your teachers hold you accountable for doing your classwork and for showing up on time. Once you get to college, however, it is on you to keep up with your classwork and homework and to show up for class. This requires a certain degree of self-discipline which some first-year students fail to develop – this sets them up for failing grades and lots of headaches.

Skipping class too often. Cutting class in high school doesn’t seem like a big deal but, in college, it could have some serious repercussions. Many professors include attendance in their grading scale and you have to keep in mind that you are still paying for any classes you don’t show up for. The cost of missing a single class could be $100 or more, depending which school you go to.

Overloading their class schedule. Sure, you might have time to take four or five classes a day, but when are you going to find time to do all of that homework? During your first year, you should take it easy on your class schedule (but not TOO easy) while you figure out how much work is required outside of class and how much time you want to leave open for extracurriculars.  

Failing to ask for help. In college, no one is going to do your work for you. If you don’t understand an assignment or need help with the class material, talk to your professor or teaching assistant! Most professors have office hours where students are allowed to come talk about the class or their assignments. You can also take advantage of study groups if you need some extra help.

Choosing a major based on money. While it may seem like a practical idea to choose your major based on what will get you the highest-paying job, this strategy often doesn’t work out. If you aren’t interested in or passionate about what you are studying, you will only be setting yourself up for a future of disappointment. There is no harm in being practical, to a certain degree, but that practicality shouldn’t come at the expense of your happiness.

Another common mistake that many beginning college students make is trying to do it on their own. While you shouldn’t rely on borrowing notes from classmates or hire someone else to write your papers, don’t forget that your college offers plenty of resources to help you. Take advantage of the library, your student advisor, your professors’ office hours, and the college career center.

Avoid These Common Extracurricular Mistakes in College

One thing you need to remember is that college isn’t all about the classes – it is about the entire experience. For many students, college is the first time that they get to live on their own and have control over their daily lives. College is the time to try new things and to make new friends – you can’t do that if you are entirely focused on your classes and classwork. Instead, try to achieve a balance between academics and extracurriculars by avoiding these common mistakes:

Don’t hide out in your dorm room. While many college students end up going to the same school as some of their friends or high school classmates, many do not. It can be tempting to hide out in your dorm instead of tackling the challenge of making new friends, but the friends you make in college will likely be your friends for life. Get out there and do something!

Picking just one extracurricular or sport. College is a world of new opportunities, so there is no reason why you should only pick one extracurricular activity. Don’t overload yourself because you still need time to do your classwork, but feel free to explore your interests with different clubs, volunteer groups, and sports or intramurals.

Wasting too much time on social media. Social media is a great way to stay in touch with your high school friends, but don’t let it keep you from making and spending time with new friends in college. You also need to be careful about letting your Facebook time cut into your study time – school work comes first!

Procrastinating on school work. There is always something happening at college whether it is a sporting event, a social event, or just a get-together with friends. But don’t let your social life eclipse your academic life too much – you need to prioritize school work and then enjoy free time as a reward. Get your classwork done on time so you don’t have to do it all at the last minute.

Partying too hard or too often. College students are notorious for being party animals, but there is no rule that says you have to be irresponsible in college. If you choose to drink, do so safely and don’t drive – you should also make sure that your friends stay safe when they are drinking. If you attend a party or off-campus event, make sure to bring a buddy with you.

Putting on the “Freshman 15”. When you are on your own with the freedom to do pretty much whatever you want, it is easy to fall into bad habits – especially when it comes to food. There is no harm in occasional indulgence, but try to keep your new eating habits in check and don’t forget to get some exercise!

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do college – it is all about your individual experience. You get out of your college experience what you put into it, so things that work for one student might not necessarily work for you. But, if you want to enter the “real world” fully prepared and ready to go, take into consideration the common mistakes discussed in this article and make an effort to avoid them.

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