Congratulations! You worked hard, got accepted to the college of your dreams, and now you’re starting your freshman year. Your first semester of college may seem scary because you’re leaving everything familiar behind and starting a completely new journey. Luckily, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. There are some things I wish I knew about college that would have made my first year go much more smoothly and minimized a lot of unnecessary stress. So learn from my mistakes with these seven things to avoid going into your freshman year.
1. Signing up for 8:00 am classes
This is probably the biggest mistake ever. You may think because you were able to wake up at 7:00 am or earlier in high school that it would make logical sense to choose an 8:00 am class so you can just get it out of the way. Wrong! Classes at eight in the morning work in theory, but waking up for an 8:00 am class can seem almost impossible in college with late nights and large work loads. And when you skip classes, you can kiss your good grade goodbye. If you have the choice, reject the 8:00 am and go for a time that’s a bit more reasonable. Everyone is different, but for me 10:00 am is the earliest I’ll schedule a class.
2. Signing up for 6:00 pm labs
A lot of us get stuck with 6:00 pm labs, while some of us make that choice. They may seem favorable on paper, but again, they aren’t really practical in real life. By 6:00 pm, the only place you’ll want to be after a day of class is in bed, not sitting in a two-hour, 45-minute lab. And not wanting to be there might cause you to rush your lab work, which will result in a poor grade. Your best bet is to try to get a lab time between the hours of 9:00 am–5:00 pm so you can at least be alert enough to participate.
3. Skipping class
Many students are guilty of skipping class because of the time it starts, attendance not being mandatory, or just not wanting to go. But missing class will negatively affect your grade. I know it may seem like you can do the work on your own for some classes, and lectures may seem pointless at times. But you may catch something in a lecture that helps you on the next exam. Not only that, but professors love to give extra credit assignments in lectures where attendance isn’t mandatory, just to see how many kids are really attending. That’s another big grade booster you absolutely don’t want to miss out on. (Plus, you’re paying to take these classes—get your full money’s worth and go!)
4. Not sleeping during finals week
Your first finals week can be daunting. You’ve heard so much about “hell week” and how stressful it is on college students. You aren’t wrong about it being stressful, but not sleeping makes it even worse. All-nighters don’t help you retain information, so you’re actually hurting yourself rather than helping during finals week by staying up all night to study. The most important part of finals week is making sure that you take care of yourself as you prepare for exams.
5. Spending your entire refund check
Anyone who takes out student loans knows the beauty of a refund check. Having a large sum of money deposited in your bank account or on a check written in your name may be the highlight of your semester. The downside is that money really isn’t yours, and you’re eventually going to have to pay back your loans. Your best bet with a refund check is to put it away and save it for a time when it’s truly needed.
6. Buying books from the bookstore
A majority of freshmen (including me) are guilty of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks from the bookstore. I spent $500 on books my first semester of college, access codes included. Compared to my second semester total of $130, I missed a huge money-saving opportunity! The reality is a lot of these textbooks are available elsewhere, sometimes 80% cheaper than the bookstore price. You just have to do your research. Also, don’t think you have to buy all your textbooks. A lot of websites will give you the option of renting your books until the end of the semester. Also, if you’re good friends with any upperclassmen in your major, don’t be afraid to ask them if you can borrow their old books. Pre-owned books are an amazing way to save money, and you can even find cheap ones on websites like Amazon and Chegg.
7. Choosing the major your parents “suggested”
Some of us come into college with a major that was predetermined by our parents. Do professions like doctor, lawyer, and engineer sound familiar? Sometimes the careers your parents urge you to follow hold your interest too, but sometimes it’s the complete opposite. After sophomore year, you’ll have to live with whatever choice you make when it comes to your major, so choose wisely. It’s 10-times harder to do something you aren’t interested in and will make going to certain classes a chore. Go with what you love—and if you aren’t sure what that is, don’t be afraid to go in undecided. You have plenty of time to narrow it down.
Your college journey is going to be unique to you, so while these are some suggestions of things to avoid that’ll make your life easier, you’re going to figure out what works best for you as you go. You may find 8:00 am classes are your jam or that your parents knew you well enough to suggest a major you’d love. These are just common additional stressors that most freshmen don’t benefit from. Don’t be afraid to explore your new college life and create a routine and lifestyle for yourself on your terms. Good luck!