The Top 10 Academic Mistakes Freshmen Make In College


The jump from high school level academics to college level academics is a jarring realization. If you are like me and you thought what you did in high school would work in college, then you will fail miserably! It is a rude awakening, but also a blessing to know that you’re going to be bettering yourself.

Performing well in college classes requires a proactive mindset, determination, and a little finesse. Anyone can learn how to succeed academically in college, no matter the type of student they were before. They just need to be aware of what mistakes they are making.

So here are of the top academic mistakes freshmen make in college:

1. Not talking to the professor and participating in class.

This person is your friend. Or they’re just your pathway to understanding, internships, or a good grade. Either way, you need to talk to your professor so that it shows him/her that you’re an active learner. They will see the effort you are putting in and thus be more lenient to you when you forget that essay due date.

2. Not doing the readings -OR- doing all the readings for every class.

Seriously, you need to learn about the 80/20 rule. You’ll notice that 80% of the most important material will be located in 20% of the text. Of course these are arbitrary numbers, but you get the point. Spend your time doing efficient reading and your life will be less stressful.

3. Buying every textbook listed in the syllabus.

Professors don’t always use every textbook they list in the syllabus? Why? That’s a good question. Call it the textbook-industrial-complex. To combat this, see if your school library has a copy of the book on hand if it is a one chapter assignment. Alternatively, you can save yourself some money by renting books from Chegg or Amazon.

4. Not studying for your first big test.

This might be something you need to go through. When you fail that first big test, it will shock you and force you to put more effort into your degree. For me, this really taught me to be consistent with my schedule and seek ways to systemize my studying.

5. Not creating study groups.

Studying by yourself is boring: let’s get that straight. Of course there are some subjects where group study is counterproductive (Like, writing: hello distraction central), but a LOT of classes in college encourage collaboration. By suffering through difficult projects and motivating each other to conquer the material, awesome memories can be made.

6. Not applying learned material to real life.

To create experiences and determine if you really want to major in something, you should find ways to apply learned information. This is important for internalizing information. If you don’t internalize what you learn in class, then that information will simply exist in your head for a short while and most likely disappear. For example, my first semester of college, I took computer programming, and I only ever did the projects assigned to me in class. As a sophomore now, I can tell you right now, that I have forgotten a little (okay, a lot) of that knowledge since I haven’t practiced the skill outside of class.

7. Not using the syllabi to plan your semester.

A syllabus is an outline of what will be covered in the class throughout the whole semester, as well as important test dates, textbook requirements, and additional information about the course. Professors usually hand out the syllabus on the first day of class and post it online. Freshmen tend to gloss over the syllabus and then never look at it again. This is a BIG mistake. The syllabus is paramount to creating a stress-free semester. The way I see it is, if you can spend the time at the start planning when projects will be due, it will pay back tenfold during the semester. Following through with your plan will increase your GPA, and also give you more time and freedom to hang out with your college friends.

8. Focusing too much on GPA.

I think when I’m old and about to die, I won’t be looking back at my wife with regrets, saying things like “I just wish… I had gotten a better GPA in college…” It just sounds crazy, right? Life is about creating experiences, not worrying about some number that is destined to be arbitrary in a couple of years. Try to maintain at least a 3.0, but don’t be holed up in the library studying your life away. It’s just college; enjoy your life!

9. Not attending office hours.

This is pretty much like one-on-one tutoring with your professor. Most colleges force people to pay for this (it’s part of the professor’s job), yet no one takes advantage of this. You need to be showing up to these things. Professors love the students who show up and make their office hours less boring anyways. Also, this helps you stay on top of your homework by keeping you active in your learning process.

10. Majoring in something you hate.

Why would you go to college to be a doctor if you didn’t want to be one? Live your own dream and study what you want. Understand that some majors are more lucrative or in demand than others, but ultimately, study what you want. Whether you chose your major for the money or the curiosity, make the choice of paying thousands of dollars for it yourself and not your parents.

Honestly, although you can avoid these mistakes, it is only through experiencing these academic mistakes that you learn the consequences of them. So don’t worry about slipping up. You’ll learn from it! Overall my freshman year of college has taught me a lot about what I value in life and how I can live it the best way I can. I hope your freshman year goes just as well!

This post originally appeared at Study Abroad Corner.