Top Freshman Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Whether you’re starting out in high school or college, being a brand-new freshman can be awkward and intimidating. Navigating your new academic environment as a freshman can be challenging, and it is not uncommon to make mistakes that can take you some time to recover from. However,  it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can adapt to your new school and avoid those errors that make life on campus difficult and put you into an academic bind. Here are some of the most common mistakes students make in their freshman year, and some good advice to help you avoid them.

Falling Behind

Many freshmen get caught up in the social life and athletics at school, often at the expense of their classwork. If you stop attending classes consistently it can be tough to catch back up; concepts often build upon one another, so if you miss several key seminars, it can be difficult to understand the subject material in the follow-on classes.

How to avoid: Right from the start, try to build your schedule so that you are set up for success. If it takes time for you to get your act together each day, don’t schedule classes in the morning. Check your schedule and syllabi every evening to make sure you know where you have to be. Additionally, if you do end up missing some seminars, schedule time with your teacher or professor as soon as possible to review the course material you missed, too.

Cramming Homework

When you enter high school or college, the homework load can often become intense. If you don’t pay close enough attention, you can find yourself with too many assignments due at once and not nearly enough time to complete them. Much like missing classes, failing to complete homework assignments on time can chip away at what would otherwise be excellent grades, and damage your academic standing.

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How to avoid: Don’t try to manage when your assignments are due in your head. Instead, use a written planner or an app, such as Google Calendar, so you’re aware of all your assignments and when they are due. You should also allocate time in your planner for actually doing your homework assignments as well (or turn to our team when you feel overwhelmed with your deadlines). If you happen to miss a due date on a key assignment, ensure you are proactive about rectifying it; approach your instructor, explain why you missed the assignment and then see if it is still possible to make up the work and recover your grade.

Trying Too Hard

It is not unusual to see freshmen go “all in” and try to do everything possible at their new school. These seemingly type A personalities sign up for multiple extracurricular activities, join the student government, and are the life of every student party. While you may shine bright for a while as a super-involved freshman, you will more than likely burn out over time. Trying to keep up a hyper-active schedule can leave little time for study or rest, and your grades may suffer.

How to avoid: You shouldn’t have to work super hard to enjoy your first year at a new school. While you should definitely put yourself out there and be involved, don’t take on more activities than you can handle. Try to find a healthy balance between being active and spending some quality time on your own to recharge. Finally, don’t ever let your social life or other activities come between you, a healthy rest, and keeping up on all of your academic responsibilities as well

Poor Sleep

Along with burnout, inadequate sleep is another mistake that many students mention when talking about their freshman year regrets. Anyone who has been in a tough academic program can recall marathon study sessions and “all-nighters” cramming for a tough exam. However, if your academic work keeps you from getting a decent amount of rest, it can start affecting your mood, health, and memory. In fact, if you’re fatigued when it comes time to take a big test, you may end up doing worse on it than if you’d studied less and rested more.

How to avoid: Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. If possible, try to sleep at least 7-8 hours per night. You should also try to stick to a normal schedule – going to bed at approximately the same time every day. If you have the discipline to complete your work and get the rest you need, you can be much more productive and successful in your studies.

Poor Budgeting Skills

Freshman year at college is often the first time people find themselves responsible for budgeting their own money, so it’s not surprising to find new college students in some sort of financial jam. Many freshmen fall into the trap of spending more than they can afford to, or even worse, spending too much money on the things that they don’t actually need.

How to avoid: The best way to avoid financial pitfalls in your freshman year is to make a good budget and stick to it. Determine how much money you can expect to have on hand each month, then note all of your monthly and other expenses. You should also make some financial goals for yourself, such as paying off any debts you’ve incurred or saving for the future. Set aside some time each month to pay your bills and assess your financial situation, too. If you’re proactive about your finances, it can help you avoid money problems and stay focused on your academic work.

Missing Great Opportunities

Too many freshmen let their first year of school just pass them by and miss some wonderful opportunities.  Most high schools and colleges have a great deal to offer students; there are opportunities to learn, make new friends, and have wonderful experiences that you’ll remember forever. However, whether they’re shy, overwhelmed, or intimidated, many freshmen never raise their hands, volunteer, or take the first step to try something new and exciting.

How to avoid: Put yourself out there! Be attentive at freshman orientation and find out what activities are available. Commit yourself to trying to do or experience one new thing each semester. Additionally, if you find yourself spending too much time alone in your dorm or at home with nothing to do, find a club, sport or other activity to participate in. Doing so will help expose you to different ideas, and may help to broaden your social network as well

Parting Thoughts

While being a freshman can be challenging, it doesn’t mean that you have to make those so-called freshman mistakes that make school unbearable. So, take stock of the tips and tricks offered here, and ensure you start your freshman year off right. Good luck as you get ready for a brand-new academic adventure in your new school!

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