4 Pitfalls to Avoid During Your First Year in College

Your first year of college is your first real experience with independence, but there are so many choices, as well as responsibilities. You have classes to attend and social activities to explore. You may also work a part-time job, volunteer, or participate in extracurricular activities. Being a freshman is exciting, but it can be overwhelming.

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid during your first year of college:

1) Thinking It Will Be Just Like High School

One of the biggest mistakes freshmen make is thinking that college will be just like high school, but college isn’t like high school at all. You may have been the valedictorian of your high-school class without ever having to study for a single test, but don’t expect things to be so easy in college. Now that you are going to a university, you may find yourself surrounded by people just like you. However amazing you were in high school, these people may be equally amazing. You may even find that you are no longer the smartest person in the room — and that’s a good thing. Dial back the hubris and embrace your position. Don’t feel threatened, seize the opportunity to mix with some bright minds.

2) Working Too Hard but Not Smart Enough

This brings us to the second common pitfall: putting in too much effort but focusing that energy on the wrong things. Effort can be defined as taking action toward a goal. When you go to college, you find more extracurricular activities, course options, and social opportunities than were available to you ever before. It is easy to over-commit yourself and to try so hard to be the best in class or the best on your team that you get burned out. Instead of applying your effort, apply your willpower — that is, your ability to persevere. In other words, work smarter, not harder so you don’t burn yourself out on the wrong stuff.

3) Losing Focus

With so many new distractions, events, friends, and activities in college, it can be tough to really be there in the moment, giving full attention and not thinking about what you are going to do later or that cutie in the next row. Before you know it, you miss something important your professor said, you show up late or miss class because it’s Greek week, you fall behind on homework, or you miss a deadline with your financial aid/student loan paperwork and risk losing out on a college you dreamed of attending. Don’t let this happen to you.

4) Neglecting to Care for Yourself

In college, you get to eat what you want and sleep is something you do when you don’t have anything better to occupy your time. It may seem fun in the moment, but it is a big mistake. Overeating or eating the wrong foods can lead to the notorious “Freshman 15,” a very real situation in which many college students quickly put on 15 lbs. and stress their bodies carrying around that excess weight. Before you know it, you have problems concentrating and you don’t have any energy, plus you seem to get every cold that comes around and you’re out of breath just walking to class. Avoid this pitfall by keeping regular sleeping hours, exercising regularly, and eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

You finally have the chance to make your own decisions, plot your own course, and work toward the life you want. Don’t start off on the wrong foot!

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