Affordable Online Colleges has developed a list of the 20 most common mistakes first year college students makes. Here are some of them:
1. Not Going to Class
It’s tempting after a night of partying to skip class. It seems easy enough to check online to get notes or assignments. But what you’re really missing isn’t posted online — it’s the experience of being in the classroom, listening to professors’ insights and participating in discussion.
The alarm clock seems harsh, but it’s best to marshal your willpower and go to class. Increase your odds by signing up for classes at times that you’re most likely to go. Remember, you’re paying for every class, even if you aren’t going. Plus, grades often are tied to attendance, so don’t risk your academic success by skipping.
2. Not Knowing How to Study Properly
Despite having just finished 12 years of school, many college students simply don’t know how to study effectively. It’s not just about reading, highlighting and memorizing. If students don’t learn to read critically, the material won’t stick.
Taking in-class notes is one way to ensure you have the necessary information, and the act of writing may aid in memorization. Find opportunities to meet with professors during office hours to discuss material that may not be clear and reach out to fellow students to start study groups. Many schools also offer freshman courses that teach basic study skills.
3. Poor Planning and Time Management
Procrastination is the nemesis of many students, especially freshmen. In one study of college students, two groups of students were assigned to write three papers. The first group had established due dates spaced throughout the semester; the second could turn them in whenever they wanted. The latter group handed in all their papers at the end of the semester, and the quality was poorer. Procrastination also leads to diminished energy and physical health, according to an article in Psychology Today. Procrastinating college students suffer greater rates of colds and flu, gastrointestinal problems and insomnia.
It takes commitment to establish good work and study habits, but it’s achievable, and the payout is worth it. Many campuses offer courses in time management, and student resource centers also can help in developing effective time-management strategies.
4. Not Establishing Connections with Faculty
Student-faculty contact outside the classroom contributes to better graduation rates, better academic performance and greater overall satisfaction with school. Yet two-thirds of students surveyed for a study published in 2014 said they had not attended instructor office hours at all for the course in question.
Instructors have office hours specifically for students to ask for help — but it’s not necessary to wait until problems arise. Establishing personal connections with professors can demonstrate a student’s good attitude and willingness to work, and can translate to higher grades and more opportunities.
5. Being Distracted by Their Phones
A 2016 study from the Journal of Media Education found that 97 percent of college students use their phones during classes for noneducational purposes. It’s mostly texting, which has been tied to lower grades, but that’s not the only culprit. Social media, web surfing and checking emails all contributed to the distractions.
Some teachers have outright rules against cellphone use, but if they don’t, it’s still a good practice for students to keep the phone on Do Not Disturb mode, tucked inside their backpacks. They might even try apps such as Cold Turkey Blocker, Freedom or Offtime, which allow users to temporarily block access to certain apps or websites.
6. Not Making and Following a Budget
Aside from tuition, college comes with costs ranging from food to books to transportation. It’s overwhelming and can derail students who don’t have a budget to keep them on track, according to Amy Nelson, who manages the financial literacy program at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Students don’t understand the components of a budget — where the money is coming from and where they’re spending it — or how those habits will carry them into future semesters,” she says.
Fortunately, many schools have financial literacy programs for incoming freshmen, offering tips on forming a budget and sticking to it. Nelson also recommends checking out advice from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
7. Living Beyond Their MeansCollege freshmen often tend to overspend in that first year, falling victim to the freedom that comes from living away from home and the temptation to cave to peer pressure and spend money when they’re around friends. Chances are, however, those friends are facing the same challenges, and teaming up to resist spending can go a long way.
“It’s OK to say no to your friends,” Nelson says. “Dining out is the biggest budget buster; that adds up very quickly.” Students should take advantage of that college meal plan, stick to their budget and band together to find ways to live on the cheap without sacrificing fun.
8. Overusing Credit Cards
One reason college freshmen may overspend is that they’re now flush with credit — in 2017, 38 percent of students had a credit card. Unfortunately, college students typically face high interest rates, leading to large debt for those who don’t repay balances quickly.
Students shouldn’t necessarily avoid getting a credit card, but they should be aware of the risks. They might consider becoming authorized users on their parents’ credit cards, or search for cards with low spending limits, to build their good credit for future purchases down the road. They should also educate themselves about what various cards offer, why their credit scores are important and how to maintain a good credit record.
9. Not Having an Emergency Fund
Even the best-laid plans are not immune to emergencies, from a broken-down car to an illness. But far too few students have an emergency fund set aside to allow them to absorb a financial hit without going broke.
How much they should put aside varies and will depend on individual circumstances. Freshmen are typically still receiving some parental help and can likely budget less than those who are financially independent, but it’s still a good idea to have something stashed away. Consider what your biggest expense might be (e.g. a major car repair) and use that as a starting place.
10. Not Paying Attention to Debt
According to a Brookings Institution report, about half of all first-year students in the U.S. seriously underestimate how much student debt they have, and less than one-third can provide an accurate estimate of their debt. At the same time, they continue to take out student loans with no plan about how to pay them back.
It’s nice to get that financial bump at the beginning of the semester, but it’s important to budget funds so they last from month to month. If you have some extra cash, consider paying a loan back immediately, to lessen the total loan amount you’ll owe later.
Read the full story at Oops! The 20 Most Common College Freshman Mistakes
And for more helpful information, see:
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