Oh, freshman year. It’s the most exciting time of your life! You can wipe away your high school past with a new group of friends and completely recreate yourself. You can stay out as late as you want and eat as many desserts as you want without parents nagging. And no one is around to tell you not to leave that 10-page paper to the last possible minute, so you can procrastinate as much as you want. The world is your oyster, and every decision is exclusively yours to make!
But beware – this newfound freedom can lead to some mistakes. With so much independence, you’re bound to make a misstep somewhere along the line. Here are five common mistakes previous freshman have reported making, to help you avoid doing the same:
1. Losing the balance between your college life and your home life
One of the most common problems new students have during their freshman year is trying to balance all the new relationships in their life. With new friends at college, old friends back home, families trying to check in and an overload of schoolwork piling up on your desk, it’s hard to give everything and everyone the attention they need. Remember that even with all the excitement on campus, Mom and Dad need some time with you, too.
“I think my biggest mistake… was not keeping in contact with my parents and home friends as much,” says Anna, a senior at Marist College. “It’s so easy to get carried away at school, especially with your new friends, difficult classes and weekend activities. Mom and Dad need a little reassurance that you’re alive [and] well and still love them.”
Luckily, there’s an easy fix here. Set aside time once a week to give the parental units a quick phone call. There’s no need for a lengthy Skype chat; just give them the chance to hear about what’s going on at school. Your going away to college is an adjustment for them too, and they’ll be excited to share in your new accomplishments at school. Adult or not, you’ll always be their child.
2. Prioritizing your social life over your schoolwork
In college, the pressure to do well in class and make friends outside the classroom can lead to time management mistakes. Do you stay home and study, or do you head out to the frat party with the girls down the hall from you?
“When you first get to school and you want to make friends and you want to go out, you have to keep in mind that you do have schoolwork,” says Meghan, a senior at Iona College. “I wanted to go out and not miss anything. But your friends will always be there, and you need to learn to balance school and your social life.”
You can avoid feeling panicked during a test that you didn’t study for because you were too busy having fun by allotting yourself certain nights to go out a week. Plan out what nights you can hit the town and which you need to stay in to study by checking your syllabus ahead of time for assignments and tests. Tell your friends you would love to spend time with them, but you really need to write a paper that night. And you can always grab a couple of people from your classes and head over to the library for a study session – coffee and gossip breaks are bound to lead to friendship!
3. Studying the same way you did in high school
In high school, you may have found that the slightest bit of effort was enough to keep your GPA sky-high. But college is an entirely different animal. Simply skimming through your notes won’t be enough to get you a passing grade on a college test. Participation is often a part of your grade in a college course, so daydreaming won’t fly as well as it did when you struggled through high school senioritis.
It’s inevitable that you’ll have one class that you’ll struggle with. But know that in college, it’s up to you to push through it and do well. You have the ability to make elaborate outlines for tests and papers, set aside specific library study times for yourself and reach out to classmates for help and group study sessions – so do it! Don’t sit around gloomily and dwell on bad grades when you could be working to fix them.
4. Attempting to do it all
Wake up. Go to the gym. Shower. Run to class. Library time. Group project meeting. Class. Quick snack. Dance rehearsal. Test cramming session. Go out? One of the great struggles of freshman year is dealing with managing a schedule that used to be monitored by your parents. No one is around to tell you if you might have put too much on your plate, and this can lead to taking on way more than you can handle.
“I think my biggest regret was not knowing my limits,” says Nicole, a senior at Marist College. “Everyone says college is the perfect time to try new things, which I would not argue with; however, you can’t burn the candle at both ends. I tried too hard to be an amazing student who was super involved while going out every weekend or more. My advice would be to take freshman year with an open mind, but remember to take care of yourself first.”
There’s no rush to join every single club and go to every single event on campus. Slowly see what you’re interested in and see if you can handle the demands of what you want to do. Eventually, you’ll learn what you can and can’t handle and how much you can take on.
5. Partying too hard
A huge part of freshman year is attending the many parties that college life has to offer. They’re bigger, better and filled with way more cuties than your average high school party. But many freshman collegiettes struggle with knowing their own limits and partaking in dangerous binge drinking. College women are 50 percent more likely than men to exceed both the daily and weekly drink limits recommended by the National Institutes of Alcoholic Abuse and Alcoholism (scary!). This can lead to embarrassing nights that you can’t remember, regrettable hook-ups and even more dangerous situations, like alcohol poisoning.
“One of my hardest adjustments as a college student was learning limits and boundaries when it came to partying and drinking,” says Melissa, a senior at the University of Delaware. “My first night at the University of Delaware was definitely a learning experience. It was my first time to a frat party with tons of new people and free alcohol everywhere I turned. As the night went on, I found myself throwing common sense out the window and doing some things I definitely regretted the next morning.”
As scary as some mistakes can be, they can always be learned from. “I realized it is so dangerous to get out of control and unaware of my surroundings, especially because it was my first night as a freshman and I didn’t know who my true friends were yet,” Melissa says. “I learned from my drunken antics to become more responsible and not depend on anyone to be there for you if you need help in a dangerous situation. It is so important to have responsible fun while still focusing on what you are [at college] for – a degree.”
Know that it’s always okay to have a girls’ night in with some pizza, nail polish and movies if going out isn’t your thing. But if you’re heading out on the weekends, always bring a friend and stick together throughout the night. Going out should be about meeting new people and creating amazing memories, not risking your health or your life by not knowing your limits. Take it slow and set boundaries for yourself before the night even begins. If you tell yourself in advance, “I’ll only have two drinks,” or “I won’t hook up with anyone,” you’re more likely to keep your own promise to yourself than throwing caution to the wind and having an “anything goes” attitude. Always eat a full dinner if you know you’ll be consuming alcohol (skip the salad in favor of carb-heavy pasta), and alternate alcoholic drinks with water throughout the night. You’ll thank yourself when you wake up in the morning hangover – and regret – free.
Life is about making mistakes and learning from them, but you’ll be ahead of the game by heeding the wisdom of those who’ve been through it before. Have fun, good luck and be smart!