Freshmen are my favorite people on campus! They bring new excitement, energy, and fresh eyes to the college experience. The reason that I am in the Student Affairs field now is primarily due to the conversations I had with new students during my undergraduate years. Those bright eyed and bushy-tailed conversations ignited my passion to do what I do now. But with freshmen territory, comes fresh mistakes. Even though great experience comes from making mistakes, there are some mistakes that can be prevented with a gentle tap on a shoulder and FYI from an upperclassmen – or a professional. There are probably several more rookie mistakes new students make, but here are the top 5 mistakes that could potentially make or break your first semester of college.
1. Going home every weekend
Homesickness is real. While starting college can be very exciting, leaving behind loved ones is not an easy task to do. If home is nearby, several new students may have the urge to want to pack up and go home every time they have the chance to. While visiting home could help cope with homesickness, frequent visits might be a disadvantage in the long run. If your college is in a true “college town” the beauty of a college town is that you will meet college friends so you all do the college town things with. The point is that it does not matter what you do, but it’s more about the relationships you build your first year. If you are consistently going back home every weekend, you lose out on the new memories you could be making with new friends and decrease the stimulation you get from fully immersing yourself in a new place. Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.
2. I want to be a [Fill in the blank]. (Black Greek Life)
*This is for students who are interested in any Black Greek Letter Organization*
In my undergraduate experience, I was heavily involved with Greek Life and I absolutely loved talking to people about it. But it was all too common for me to come into a conversation with new students about what National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sorority or fraternity they thought they wanted to join. My best advice to anyone interested, specifically to any NPHC organization, is to 1. Do your research, 2. Be cautious of who display your interest to, 3. Get more info on how to join from the Greek Life office and 4. Observe the chapter (if active on campus).
3. Over-committing and Under-Involvement
Being a Student Affairs professional, I understand the value of being ‘engaged’ or ‘involved’ on campus. Several campuses boast about how many organizations and activities they have for students to find their niche and get involved. However, beware of being over committed to several different things. As a freshmen, I was involved in a lot of organizations. I had meetings every day and I remember running around like a decapitated chicken because of it. Even though over commitment is something you want to avoid, it may take you a few tries to know what your “niche” really is. It wasn’t until my second semester freshmen year and sophomore year to really know what I wanted to focus my talents in and once I did, I had to relinquish other commitments. No matter how much you try, it is hard and nearly impossible to give 100% to several different things. Find out what you’re interested in and then decide how you want to leave it better than you found it.
On the flip side, not taking advantage of the opportunities around you is detrimental to your first semester. The definition of involvement for many can varies. No, you don’t have to sign up for a certain number organizations. When I think of involvement, I think of investing in what you want out of your experience, such as actively seeking help for courses from professors or tutors, connecting with other classmates for study sessions, or showing up to an event to meet new people. If you are a new student, chances are, you are not the only one who doesn’t know anyone. That will make it easier and less awkward to meet new people in order to foster relationships and have a support system throughout your first semester.
4. Limiting yourself to what you know/ not having an open mind
One of the reasons I love working with college students is because of the chance for opportunities for students to really come into their own person and form their own beliefs. Just like you don’t get to “pick” your siblings, you don’t really get to pick your high school. Whether private or public, in most cases, your high school is determined by where your family lives and most (if not all) of the people you go to high school with live in the same area you do. The beauty of coming to college is the endless possibility to learn, engage, and interact with ppl who did not grow up down the street from you. Even if you end up going to college in your home town, you can still take advantage of new thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and cultures by being on a college campus.
5. Time Management
You’ll probably never be perfect at time management, especially during your tenure in college. We all know that life happens and it’s nearly impossible to have perfect time management. However, the goal is not to strive for perfection, but to strive for consistency in planning and preparation. New students will either be too prepared for class or under prepared; they take classes way too seriously or not seriously at all. That first semester becomes a litmus test that can determine how hard you need to study, if you need to learn how to actually study, or even if you will be coming back for the second year. Learning how to juggle social life, school life, and personal life is an on-going fact of life, especially when school gets replaced with your career. My best advice for any new student starting college is to always err on the side of caution. I would start off by taking things “too seriously” and loosen the grip or adapt from year to year rather than suffer from consequences made from bad choices made that first year.