The Biggest Mistakes Freshmen Make (and How to Avoid Them)

You read all the articles online telling you what to pack, surfed Pinterest for room decor inspo, and survived the craziness that is move-in day. Now you’ve been thrown into your first few college classes, just starting to “adult” for the first time. Freshman year is always filled with stress, uncertainty, and mistakes that you’ll look back later and laugh at. There’s no avoiding them entirely, but as someone about to start her senior year, there are so many things I wish people would’ve warned me about. To save you from the same regret, here are 8 common mistakes freshmen make (including me), and how to avoid them. 


Mistake #1: Buying the unlimited meal plan. 

I remember looking at the second biggest meal plan Iowa offers– the “Black Plan” – and thinking that 220 dining hall swipes wasn’t enough for the semester. That’s only 2 meals a day, and I couldn’t survive without breakfast, right? Wrong. The amount of times I ended up eating a granola bar for breakfast on my way to class, because I rolled out of bed late is impossible to count. Save your money and skip the “Gold” unlimited plan. 

Mistake #2: Taking any class before 9 a.m. 

I know when you were enrolling during orientation, optimistic little you probably thought to yourself, “Oh, I can do an 8 a.m. class!” Take it from someone who took a 7:30 a.m. rhetoric, four days a week – it sucks. Even if you were a morning person in high school, college will change that soon enough.  


Mistake #3: Not sending your mom a picture of you on your first day. 

It’s cheesy, I know, but it means more to her than you could ever understand. It will take two seconds of your time to take a mirror selfie in your dorm and text it to her. I can guarantee it’ll make her day. 

Mistake #4: Buying all your books new. 

I know MyUI lists whether or not the books are available at the Hawk Shop, but don’t fall for the trap. Copy and paste those ISBN numbers into Amazon or Chegg. Buy used, or even better, rent used. Your wallet will thank you later. 


Mistake #5: Not venturing outside your comfort zone to make new friends. 

So many people come to college and cling to that one group of people they know from high school. That familiarity can be comforting at first, but college is all about new experiences and meeting new people is a part of that. You can maintain your high school friends while also finding new people that you vibe with.T rue friends will come with time. 

Side note: This also applies to boyfriends! Don’t let a man hold you back from venturing out and finding your #squad. College is a stressful time, and you’re going to need those solid friendships with your girls to get through it. 

Mistake #6: Thinking you can do it all. 

It’s so easy to tell yourself that since you balanced sports, clubs, homework, and a job in high school that you can do it in college, too. Don’t get me wrong, joining clubs is a great way to get involved and meet new people. But...this isn’t high school. For every hour in the classroom, you’re supposed to spend at least two hours outside of class on homework. Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to be a part of everything. Pick one or two student orgs that seem interesting and invest your time in those (like Her Campus!)


Mistake #7: Not having shower shoes.

I really hope this isn’t a mistake people are actually making, but I wanted to throw it in here just in case. It doesn’t matter if you have pod-style bathrooms or the regular old locker-room type – you don’t want to risk walking on those floors with your bare feet. It’s just not worth it. 

Mistake #8: Not taking care of yourself mentally. 

I know the mental health movement is huge right now, but seriously, I can’t overstate how important it is to take care of yourself. Maybe it’s a night out with friends, an hour in soaking in a bubble bath, or maybe it’s full-blown therapy. Whatever the case, just carve out some time for you. College is draining and it’s okay to take time to mentally recharge.

Avoiding these mistakes can help you prevent stress and, even better, save money. College is equal parts challenging and fun - making your own mistakes is all part of the experience. 

Image credit: Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4