The 5 Biggest Mistakes College Students Make

Many of these issues can be avoided, if students and parents recognize them. Here are some tips.

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Next week, more than 3 million students will start college. Many will make basic mistakes that can easily be avoided—if you only know what they are. This week we point out the five most common mistakes, and offer parents tips on how they can set their child on the path to success at college:

Problem No. 1: Cutting classes. Many students figure they can miss six, eight, 10 lectures in each course and still do well.

The fix: Encourage your child to take responsibility for making all the classes. Point out that each lecture contains 3 percent of the course content, and costs about 1/350th of the tuition (i.e., $35,000 tuition equals $100, pre-paid, per lecture; $7,000 tuition equals $20 a lecture).

[Read How to Build Your Own Scholarships.]

Problem No. 2: Overloading. Some students think it's a point of pride to load up on as many courses as the college allows (five, six, even seven a semester). And then they sign up for a double (sometimes even triple) major, and a minor to boot.

The fix: Encourage your child to sign up for the standard course load and concentrate on doing well in those courses. Point out that, unless the majors make sense together (business and Mandarin Chinese, physics and mathematics, or social work and psychology, for example), employers won't be impressed by the sheer numbers.

[Read 10 Secrets to College Success.]

Problem No. 3: Overmedia-ing. Many college students spend hours and hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Then they complain that they don't have enough time for studying and that they have trouble focusing on any content not dished up in bite-sized pieces.

The fix: Encourage your kid to set up "media-free" zones each day. And encourage your child to retrain his or her attention span to process longer units of contents, such as those offered in the lecture or the reading.

Problem No. 4: Procrastinating. Many students believe in "no work before its time." They put off papers until the last possible minute and pull "all nighters" right before the test.

The fix: Impress on your child that careful planning and time management are essential to college success, and that, without parents and teachers to tell you what to do (and when to do it), "you're in charge of this college thing."

[Read How to Avoid Getting Sick at College.]

Problem No. 5: Going it alone. Many students shy away from going to see their professor or teaching assistant, either because they're too scared, they think the prof won't want to see them, or they think you should only go when you're in trouble. As a result, they end up blowing a test or paper when a few minutes with the instructor could have easily cleared up the problem.

The fix: When your kid comes to you for help, point out that professors are required to hold twice-weekly office hours and that they would like to help you do well in their course. That's why they went into teaching, after all.

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