Make the most of freshman year.
Starting a new life as a college freshman can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. As new students try to get their footing, many are likely to make a few mistakes along the way. U.S. News rounded up tips from Twitter followers, students and experts on common first-year blunders to avoid.
Ignoring college health guidelines
A student’s freshman experiences are exciting, but don’t ignore a college’s heath guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Many colleges are asking that students practice social distancing measures and wear face masks to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. Freshmen can keep up to date on the latest recommendations to stay safe on campus by checking their college’s website and reviewing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Trying to do it all alone
Need help with a class? Talk to your professor or see a tutor. Stressed out? Speak with a counselor. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help even before you need it,” Twitter user Student Success from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute says. Schools often offer academic, health and social resources specifically tailored to freshman students, and more colleges are working to address mental health issues through counseling. Learn more about how to access mental health services as well as other resources earlier rather than later.
Not attending class
Showing up on test day isn’t enough. It’s hard to make the grades if students don’t attend class to learn the material. Just one year of college can cost more than $10,000 in tuition and fees for in-state students at public schools, and students pay whether they attend lectures or not. “Go to class! Attendance is highly correlated with grades,” Twitter user S. Turgeson writes.
Procrastination can lead to missed or late assignments, cramming, stress and poor eating. But it’s also a bad habit for students who are building skills to enter the workforce. “I fell behind in many of my courses due to waiting til last minute,” Twitter user Mary Walters says.
Pulling all-nighters frequently
Go to sleep. Bingeing on energy drinks or coffee to stay awake to cram for an exam can lead to bad grades, as the brain’s ability to recall and reason is better when bodies are well rested. Learn more about how to sleep well in college.
Taking on too much
Students shouldn’t become hermits, but overloading their schedules with courses and extracurriculars is a bad idea. Megan Wampler, a University of Michigan–Ann Arbor graduate, says her excitement for college quickly faded when she took on too many classes freshman year and wasn’t sleeping. “I was spending all of my time either in class or doing homework. I wasn’t hanging out with friends because I was so overwhelmed with my academic and professional responsibilities. I was so excited to get started, I forgot to make sure I was actually enjoying myself,” she wrote in a blog post. Instead, try to find balance and focus on managing current responsibilities well, experts say.
Watching too many shows online
Students who are studying properly, exercising, participating in extracurriculars or working probably don’t have much time to binge-watch Netflix shows or spend hours looking at videos on YouTube. “In high school, you have a structured schedule — you wake up at the same time every morning, switch classes at the same time every day, and dismiss to head home or go to extra curricular activities when the school day ends. In college, that isn’t quite the case,” Jess Casimir, a former admissions ambassador and graduate of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, wrote in an email. Time management is “key to making sure you can practice a healthy school/life balance,” she says.
Excessive drinking while in college is a common but unsafe practice. Research shows the early weeks of freshman year are a particularly vulnerable time for students, who may be exposed to many opportunities to consume alcohol combined with social pressures to do so. Students should consider the health and legal consequences of drinking heavily while underage, and make safe choices about social gatherings — especially as medical experts worry about a possible second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
Considering that most students graduate with student debt, managing student loans correctly, understanding their financial aid package and avoiding credit card debt can help them leave college with less of a financial burden. Experts say students can seek help from their college’s financial aid office, look into personal finance classes or research online to learn financial tips to help them build good money habits in college and after graduation.
Being overwhelmed by the pressure
The first year of college is a time of transition, growth and change. As Kalina MacKay, a graduate of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, wrote in a blog post to incoming freshmen, “You’ll probably make a lot of mistakes and fall on your face a couple of times. But it’s okay because it’s your first-year and you’re still getting the hang of the whole college thing. You’re not expected to have your life together or start planning your future yet, your main priority is yourself and learning how to function on your own.”
Prepare for freshman year.
Need more tips? Consider these ways to prepare for freshman year of college. Follow U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter for more advice on getting ready for college.
Common college freshman mistakes
— Ignoring college health guidelines.
— Trying to do it all alone.
— Not attending class.
— Pulling all-nighters frequently.
— Taking on too much.
— Watching too many shows online.
— Partying hard.
— Mismanaging money.
— Being overwhelmed by the pressure.
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