Eight Mistakes College Students Should Avoid
Wait Until The First Week of Classes to Buy Books
There are two reasons that you don’t want to do this. First, and most importantly, you will get behind in your reading for classes! Yes, it can happen that quickly! Depending on the classes you take, you may be reading hundreds of pages a week. Image the (needless) stress you can cause yourself if you don’t have your books ready when that first class period is over.
I guarantee that you will have reading assignments in each class due for the next class meeting.Secondly, it’s going to cost you a lot more to buy all new books at the college bookstore. By that first week of classes, all of the used books will be long gone, so you will have no choice but to pay the full price for those books. Consider buying your books online now to save money (and your nerves).
You can find all of the details about the books needed for your classes on your college’s website. Just make sure to get the same edition that the college lists. If you don’t, the page numbers will be different and some of the material that you need may not be in the edition you got. So, stay on schedule and save money by getting your textbooks before classes begin.
Don’t Use a Planner
You may think it isn’t cool to have, let alone use, a planner. But trust me, you’re going to need one! One of the best things I did in undergraduate school was to take all of my syllabi that first week and make a master schedule of everything in my planner.
I also color coded it all so I knew what class had work coming due at a glance. Total nerd, right? Well, I never once missed an assignment or forgot to study for an exam.
I also never had to pull an all-nighter! Why? Because I could see all of my exams, assignments & essays for each class in relation to all the other work assigned! Shifting through each syllabus trying to find due dates is also a waste of time.
So, find the “coolest” planner you can and take the time that first week to put all assignments in it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with an electronic calendar/planner either…if you will use it. Get whatever will work for you and never leave home without it!
Believe College is Like High School…With Benefits
If you were listening in orientation, I’m sure you heard this, but it bears repeating! Many student think this doesn’t apply to them…they can handle it…blah, blah, blah. In college, unlike in many high schools, you are going to need to use critical thinking.
You are going to have to actually read the textbook and study for exams. You can’t flake out on group assignments. Besides all of the differences in the type and amount of work you will be required to do in college, you will also be in charge of your own schedule and activities for the first time. This sounds awesome now, I know, but by the time midterms roll around, you are going to see a lot of stressed out, sleep-deprived, freaked out students.
Zombies come to mind. The reason is they thought they could easily pass their classes while mostly doing all the stuff their parents told them not to do. Skipping classes and not doing the reading will get you in big trouble fast in college.
Here’s why: Instead of a whole year to get your grades up, you have 16 weeks. Instead of having tons of assignments that can raise your grade if you flunk one, you have a midterm & a final exam only. Extra credit to pad your grade is now a thing of the past.
Your professors have heard it all, so don’t think you will be able to sway them like you did the high school teachers you had over and over again for four years. Starting off on the right foot by knowing that you are going to have to work harder and longer than you did before, while making sure that you study more than socialize, will make the second part of each semester more enjoyable & less stressful.
Pack Too Much Stuff
No one loves back to school sales more than me, but the stores make it too easy to buy way more stuff than you will have room for! So, reign yourself in when you go to the stores to get stuff for your dorm room. It may help to remember that you will have to lug all of that stuff to and from campus.
One way to enjoy the thrill of packing all kinds of cool stuff is to make a pile or box up all the stuff you really want to take or think you will need for the first semester. Then, let it set there for a day or two.
Now go back and sort through the stuff and make a “maybe” and “not necessary” pile. What can you buy on campus if necessary? Are there items you can bring home on Thanksgiving or Winter Break if you want them?
Pack Cool, Not Comfortable
It’s fun to buy a bunch of new stuff for school. You get to redo your décor and your parents are happy to buy you whatever you want because they want their baby to be comfortable and have everything they could possibly need while away from home.
But, there are going to be times when you wish you had that old comfy sweatshirt or childhood stuffed animal to give you comfort when you are having a stressful time or when you miss home. Don’t be ashamed to bring out these items in front of your roommate. They will go a long way to making you feel at home in your new environment.
Don’t Use Their Resources
All colleges have computer labs, free tutoring and research databases. Unfortunately, most students either aren’t aware they are available or choose for some reason not to use them. Maybe it’s embarrassment-they don’t want to acknowledge that they need help. But trust me, you pay for these “free” services in your fees & tuition. And, the people who do these jobs do them because they want to help students!
My recommendation? Take time that first week to go to the computer lab, tutoring center & library. Get the lay of the land. If you need to set up an account for any of the services, set one up now (making a note of your ID and password) so that when your printer blows up the night before a paper is due, you have everything in place to do what is necessary to submit it on time.
Talk to the staff to learn what options are available. When are biology tutors (or whatever) available? What is the name of the English research librarian? What do you need to log onto the college research databases? How do you use them? These are things that you need to know! And if you feel more comfortable with these services before you need them, you will be less stressed when your printer blows up!
Don’t Visit Professor Office Hours
So, a student comes to my office one week before finals week. I know that he hasn’t turned in half of the assignments for the semester, and the ones he did where carelessly completed. Now, he is begging me to help him, not only pass the class, but to get an “A.” Huh?
He says he has a scholarship and has to keep a 3.7 GPA. How much time and effort do you think I, as a busy professor who also can’t wait until the semester is over, want to spend on this young, misguided soul? Yipe, none. Where was he in week 3 when he didn’t turn in his work? How about week 6 when we were preparing for the midterm in class and he skipped?
By midterms, if your grade is in the gutter, it is going to be really tough to pull the grade up to passing. If you need help with understanding concepts or aren’t sure you are understanding the assignments, go see the professor then. Don’t wait! By the time you finally arrive at her office, it may be way too late.
Create a New Identity
I know, this is cliché, but it’s true…be yourself. College is a whole new ballgame. That can be scary…there isn’t the familiarity you had in high school.
But it is also a great opportunity to develop your adult identity on campus. Don’t go along just because your new friends are.
And don’t think you have to try so hard to make new friends that you have to pretend to be someone you aren’t. You have the chance now to dump the high school persona you had and start fresh!
Jacqueline Myers is a long-time college English instructor who also provides expert tips, tricks & techniques for successful college writing and research at http://nittygrittyenglish.com. Her life’s work has been dedicated to guiding students through the messy world of writing, grammar, literature and research. She is a proud contributing writer for American Educational Guidance Center.