Top 12 College Freshman Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Freshman year of college is such an exciting time — football games, exploring a new city, making tons of friends, and enjoying newfound independence! However, there are many mistakes freshmen can make that can lead to a disappointing first year of college.

students walking
Here are 12 mistake that many first year college students make. (Twenty 20 @maginnis)

Top 12 freshman mistakes and how to avoid them 

1. Not attending campus events or sporting events

Many freshmen don’t go to campus or sporting events if they don’t have someone to go with. This is a mistake because campus events or sporting events are usually tons of fun, often have free food, and are a great way to meet other students. 

To avoid this: Try to attend campus and sporting events and make the most out of college. Don’t let not having someone to go with stop you from attending these events — reach out in your class group chats or your dorm group chat and someone will likely want to attend the event with you or ask if you want to go with their friend group. Or, show up alone and introduce yourself to people at the event. Freshmen are usually very friendly and eager to meet other students. 

2. Not reaching out to professors for help 

Sometimes freshmen feel nervous about going to office hours and reaching out for help when they are struggling with a class because they don’t want the professor to look down on them. Or simply because they feel uncomfortable asking for help.

To avoid this: Make sure to go to office hours as soon as you realize you are struggling. Don’t wait until right before the final to talk to your professor. It’s much better to get help early on than to struggle in silence. In fact, go to office hours even if you are not struggling so that the professor knows who you are and your interest in the class. That way if you end up needing help, you’ve already established rapport.

3. Not communicating with your roommate if you have a problem 

Sometimes freshmen fear the confrontation that comes with communicating thorny issues with their roommates. Instead they will just deal with whatever is bothering them and let their grievances fester. That allows sometimes small issues to escalate and will create even worse conflict in the long run. 

To avoid this: Politely talk to your roommate about any issues as soon as you notice them. Keep in mind that everyone is raised differently, and some people may have habits that annoy you, but to them, there is no ill intent. They may not have even realize that what they are doing annoys you. Most roommates will be willing to compromise and won’t make a big deal about it. 

4. Not introducing yourself to others

Sometimes freshmen will wait until someone talks to them versus starting the conversation themselves.   

To avoid this: Try to meet someone new each day if you can. Introduce yourself to people in your classes and get to know friends of friends. Say hello to other students in your dorm or in the dining hall. Don’t be afraid to be the one to start the conversation. Networking is one of the most important parts of college. 

5. Not managing time properly

A big change from high school to college is the shift in schedule. You go from having classes every day from 8 am to 3 pm to only having each class two to three times a week. This shift often leads to freshmen struggling to manage their time because they think they have way more free time than they actually do.

To avoid this: Plan out your week each Sunday and write down any assignments or tests you have coming up. Then, write down time blocks for when you plan to study or work on these assignments. Make sure to put your phone away during these blocks and avoid any distractions. Going to the library or a coffee shop can be beneficial for studying and getting work done. 

6. Skipping class

Many students think if the professor doesn’t take attendance that they can just skip class with impunity. This can lead to doing poorly academically. Or, some students will not go to class because their friends are skipping that day. 

To avoid this: Go to class, even if your friends decide to skip. You need to be in class to understand the material, and often test questions are taken directly from things the professor mentions in class.

7. Being afraid to go places alone

Many freshmen are worried about eating alone in the dining hall because they don’t want to seem like a loner or for it to look like they don’t have friends. In reality, it can just be difficult to find people to eat with because everyone has a different schedule. It is a mistake to not go somewhere (whether it’s the dining hall or somewhere else) just because you don’t want to go alone. 

To avoid this: Remember that everyone is so focused on themselves that no one cares if you are alone somewhere. Going places by yourself can be intimidating but as an adult, you have to become comfortable with your own company. Don’t be afraid to eat alone or go to events alone. Additionally, going places alone can make you more approachable and people might even make conversation with you, which could lead to a new friendship. 

8. Taking too many difficult classes

Many freshmen are eager to challenge themselves in their classes and want to get their difficult credits out of the way early, but it is a mistake to take too many difficult classes when you are still getting acclimated to college. 

To avoid this: Always listen to your advisor’s advice when registering for classes and don’t overdo it your first semester in college. You want to have some free time to be meeting other students and doing fun things. You don’t want to overwork yourself when you’ve just begun college. 

9. Taking 8am classes (if you are not a morning person) and taking classes every day

A lot of first-year students think that because they woke up early in high school, they can do the same thing in college. However, in college, a lot of students stay up extremely late, which makes it more difficult for them to wake up early.

To avoid this: Carefully look through all of the courses offered and take time to plan out your schedule. If you are not an early morning person, make sure you take into account what time classes are offered.

10. Not joining a club or Greek life

A lot of students assume Greek life isn’t for them without even giving it a chance. Also, many students don’t try out clubs and assume they will just make friends through their classes, which is the case for some people. Joining a student organization can help you meet older students or students with common interests. 

To avoid this: Go through recruitment for Greek life even if you are unsure about it! The worst that happens is you decide Greek life isn’t for you. Try out as many clubs as you can until you find one you like! 

11. Spending too much time in the dorm room 

Sometimes students will spend a lot of time in their rooms by themselves, which can get depressing. It’s a mistake to not get outside each day. 

To avoid this: Leave your dorm room for a few hours every day. Go for a walk, work out at the gym, study at the library, try out a new club, or check out a cafe on campus. It’s not healthy to spend hours at a time in a small dorm room. 

12. Partying too much

It is important to go out and have fun with friends, but don’t overdo it! Freshmen can go crazy with partying as soon as they get to college which often leads to problems.

To avoid this: Limit partying to weekends. If you have an exam or big assignment coming up, always put your schoolwork first. 

College is a time of self-development and getting outside of your comfort zone. Learn from these mistakes and have an amazing first year of college!  

More Great Reading:

Letter to My Freshman Self: Nine Regrets I Have From College

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the 2019 to 2020 school year, she was the advertising director for The Bottom Line newspaper at UC Santa Barbara. Prior to that, she was an intern for United Airlines in both 2018 and 2019, where she was involved in projects to improve the customer experience. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

Read more posts by Madeleine

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