The Top Ten Mistakes that College Freshmen Make and How to Avoid Them

By Sam Rosensohn

As captain of Valley Regional High School’s basketball team, Jeff Marois understood how good teams came undone, and underdogs manufactured victory.

As a freshman last fall at Eastern Connecticut State University, the rookie student thought that because classes didn’t meet every day, he didn’t have to hit the books nightly.

It wasn’t long before things started to avalanche. A paper was assigned, a project was assigned, then on top of that a writing assignment.

Naturally, Jeff – a most capable player – figured things out for himself and began to net the grades, but students shouldn’t have to take the same collegiate knocks that pupils have taken since the colonists started going to college in the 1630’s.

So with a wish for a smooth freshman ride, I share an insightful list that the Princeton Review put together called, The Top 10 Freshman Goof-ups, and How You Can Avoid Making Them.

1) The I Don’t Feel Like Going Out; I’d Rather Hole Up in My Room Syndrome – College might feel like a small metropolis compared to the comfy, cozy size of your hometown high school. And it may be tough to feel motivated to get out and meet people and explore – especially when the homework is piling up on your desk. But don’t give into temptation! During the first part of their freshmen year, students are more open to meeting new people then they have ever been or ever will be again. Social circles are being formed.

2) The It’s My Money and I’ll Spend it on DVDs, Shoes, and Pizza Every Night If I Want Syndrome – One of the many wonders of college is the incredible number of temptations on which to spend your money. Sure it’s your money, and you should be able to do whatever you want with it. But if you aren’t careful, that semester budget of yours will disappear after the first month.

3) The I’m Away from My Parents for the First Time so I’ll Behave Like I Was Just Paroled from Prison – Some freshmen find that their first time away from the parents can develop pretty quickly into partying like you never had the freedom to in high school. A bad hangover is only the beginning of the trouble these kids find themselves in.

4) The Who Is this Advisor Guy? Why Is He Trying to Tell Me What Classes to Take? Why Should I Bother with Him Syndrome – Ideally, your advisor should serve as a guide through the bureaucratic red tape that goes along with academic life, and as an aide in helping you make smart choices in your college career. Be open and honest with them and make an effort to communicate with them often. One of the keys to succeeding in college is establishing good, working relationships with your advisor and professors. Get to know them.

5) The I Can Handle My Own Problems Without Anyone’s Help Syndrome – Also known as Mom and Dad Don’t Need to Hear About this Syndrome. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make in your first year of college, and one that is likely to have the most lasting effects. If something is wrong (tough time adjusting, making friends, depression, difficulty with classes, homesickness) you should tell someone immediately, before things get too bad. Problems have a tendency to snowball in college, and with so many students to worry about, no one will know something is wrong unless you speak up. Your RA and dean are great people to talk to. They will admire you for coming forward.

6) The No One Will Notice If I Miss a Few Classes or Don’t Do a Few Assignments Syndrome – Also known as The JM Syndrome. Blowing off classes and assignments because you can is a dangerous road to go down, and the consequences are more far-reaching than you’d imagine. Low freshman-year grades can kill your GPA for the next four years. This would hurt if you wanted to go to grad school. Flunking out after freshmen year is not uncommon. Don’t fall behind early in the game.

7) The Freshman 15? What’s That Syndrome? It is not implausible that not having enough time for regular exercise, and subsisting on a diet of delivery pizza and Chinese food, soda, not to mention the unlimited buffets in the cafeteria, can result in dramatic increase in chubbiness, even in someone as svelte as you, says the Princeton Review. The solution: just take care of yourself. Eat fruit and veggies, drink lots of water, get some exercise and a sufficient amount of sleep.

8) The I’d Rather Be with Friends from Home or Better Yet, at Home Syndrome – Maintaining friendships with your friends from home is a wonderful and important thing to do during your time away. Clinging on to friends from home can prevent you from meeting some amazing new people.

9) The I know I Want to Be a Doctor so Why Should I Bother Checking Out Other Majors Syndrome – Knowing what you want out of life and out of school is great. But you’ll be exposed to a lot of new things at college, and approaching your academic career with tunnel vision might keep you from hearing your true calling.

10) The I’m Gonna Get My Money’s Worth and Really Make the Semester Count Syndrome – Okay, tough stuff, we know you’re good. You got into school in the first place, right? So there’s no need to over-commit and tackle an insane schedule that you’ll regret every day for the next semester. Remember, you have four years to get all you want out of college. Use your first semester to establish good habits, and to learn about the place, and all that it has to offer.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at