How Can I Avoid Common Freshman Mistakes?

Work on your time management techniques and pay attention to deadlines, experts say.

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Learning from your mistakes is one of the keys to succeeding in life, but we can probably all agree that learning from other people's mistakes is a bit easier and less painful. Hear from our experts as they discuss some of the most common freshmen mistakes you should be avoiding next year. Jill P., from Lafayatte, Ind., asks:

Q: I'm so excited for college to just start already! I'm totally the kind of person to overlook a few things when I'm excited, so what are some common mistakes freshman make that I can avoid?

A: Brace yourself for a ton of firsts.


Eric Furda, dean of admissions, University of Pennsylvania I am sure many people will say this to you, but I will add my redundant perspective: time management. Your life is no longer structured—or over-structured—like high school and living at home. You may feel that you have plenty of time each day because you are not in class as many hours or because the "only assignment is a few weeks away." Time passes and so do deadlines. All-nighters for homework are overrated and not sustainable. Make sure you get enough rest and eat properly. Be realistic about your first semester course registration. Listen to your academic advisers and peer advisers. They know the institution and have the advantage of experience. Also, be ready to receive some of those early assignments and tests and receive the lowest grade you have ever experienced. It will be OK!

[See U.S. News's Best Colleges rankings.]

A: Pay attention to all pre-arrival communications and deadlines!


Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid, Wesleyan University Read everything carefully, including the fine print. And follow directions regarding response: what you'll need to do before you arrive on campus, what to bring with you on arrival day, etc. Be vigilant in checking your E-mail for communications from the college as well as watchful of your mailbox. Some schools will coordinate mailings across offices, but you may need to send different things to different offices at different times.

A: Managing your time will leave you room for having fun.


Ralph Figueroa, director of college guidance, Albuquerque Academy Your excitement is great, but don't rush into things. The biggest mistake new college students make is taking on too much and not managing their time. Setting up a regular schedule for getting your reading, problem sets, labs, and papers done is the key to success. Don't overlook that academics come first. Learn the resources available to help you when you need it. And don't hesitate to ask for help. But if you manage your time well, there will be plenty left for having fun. Try a few activities, and add more term by term if you can handle it.

[Consider these 15 things to do in the summer before college.]

A: What you should do with all of this free time?


Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Consider that in college you will probably be in class for only about 12 hours per week. If you're living on campus, then you have around 156 hours of unstructured time each week. Welcome to college where the expectation is that you figure out how to spend all of that time. Dedicate enough time to your studies, get to know your professors, and don't forget why you're there. Find a balance that works. Give yourself a little time to get used to the rigor of your coursework as well as the new lifestyle, but also be prepared to develop a routine that works for you sooner than later.

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for 20 more experts revealing freshman mistakes and to have your own questions answered.