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Mistakes First-Year College Students Make (and How to Avoid Them)

The first year in college is rough for everyone. So, if you’re a freshman and you feel like you’re struggling, don’t despair. Most first-year students feel unprepared, and mistakes are common.

That doesn’t mean that you need to walk into your first year of college oblivious to the common pitfalls that those who came before you made. 

Learn from their mistakes and start your college years off right. Read all about these blunders most newcomers make, and don’t repeat them yourself.

1. Skipping Class

Unlike high school, where you get caught skipping class and sent to the principal’s office, making your classes in college is all on you.

You shouldn’t take this responsibility lightly. Although no one will be scolding you for skipping class if you choose to, you could miss out on some very crucial information.

Many college professors know that skipping class is a big temptation, and they want you to learn that their course is essential.  

They like to announce the date of quizzes from one class to the next so that you must be at one class to prepare for the next. 

Not to mention, missing too many classes can cause an automatic failure for that course. 

And if skipping class is a habit of yours, the teacher won’t be so forgiving when you need help or retake a quiz. After all, you have shown that you don’t prioritize their time, so why would they prioritize yours?

How To Avoid It

If you tend to miss a lot of classes, there are ways that you can fix this problem.

If you miss a couple of classes randomly, it isn’t a big deal. However, if you repeatedly miss the same class, it can be detrimental to your grade in that class.

If you miss a class because it’s your first class of the day, there’s an easy fix. 

Just make sure you make it to bed at a reasonable hour the night before. Set a loud alarm that you’re sure to wake up to or even ask your roomy to wake you.

If you constantly miss a class after lunch, get a grab and go lunch and try to eat alone, so you don’t get distracted.

If you miss classes because you feel burned out, don’t take a class overload. In your first year of college, you might be gung-ho, but it’s wise to start slow.

You may only set yourself up for failure if you overdo it.

2. Partying Too Much

Your first year of college comes with a lot of new things. One of them is freedom. This newfound freedom can go to your head, and you might end up making some bad choices, like staying up too late or excessive partying.

The college scene comes with lots of social activities and the party life. Temptations are all around, and meeting new people is fun.  

While there is nothing wrong with having fun, you must be safe and keep it in its rightful place. 

Too much partying can cause you to miss classes from oversleeping, which can be harmful to your health.

How to Avoid It

Again, limiting the partying doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun at all, but you need to know your limits.

Learn to say “no” to an invitation when necessary and bring a buddy with you when you go out. There’s power in numbers, and having somebody to protect you eliminates some of the potential dangers.

Make a habit of setting limits before you leave for the party. Decide beforehand how long you will stay and how many drinks you will have.

3. Constantly Pulling All-Nighters

The college cliche of studying all night before a test is not a smart move. 

First of all, sleep is vital for proper brain function, which is why all-night study sessions can do more harm to your grades than good. 

One night of no sleep, and you spend the rest of the week playing catch up.

How to Avoid It

The best way to avoid pulling all-nighters before tests is to develop good study habits from the get-go.

Read this article for a quick study habit lesson. 

Instead of tackling a big assignment at once, break down projects into smaller parts.

It’s also helpful to have a schedule and stick to it. Keep it within view so that you can quickly revert to it. It doesn’t help to make a calendar then forget what you put on it.

4. Going Into More Debt

The college campus is full of credit card offers. Many credit companies lure you in by giving you freebies if you fill out a credit application.

Even if you don’t want the credit card, you’ll be getting it in the mail, and it’s so easy to use credit when you want something but don’t have the money.

You don’t want to start your life of freedom with money burdens.

How to Avoid It

The easiest way is to decline the freebie and don’t fill out the credit applications.

It also helps to learn to budget. NerdWallet provides a quick and easy budgeting lesson for anyone wanting to improve this skill.

You can also use an app to track your spending so that you have your budget right in the palm of your hand. 

5. Letting Stress Get to You

College isn’t high school. You’ll have high expectations for yourself but little preparation for it.

Some students have to work and go to class.  Others join a lot of clubs or have the added responsibility of home life. 

This load can become stressful and cause you to burn out. This can hurt your grades and even harm your health. 

How to Avoid It

To make sure you don’t get overwhelmed, don’t take too many classes. If you want to join a club, choose just one.

It also helps to develop good time management skills so that you don’t fall behind.

Prioritize your mental health. Make sure you take time to decompress.

Keep in contact with family and spend time with upbuilding peers. This circle of support can help you to push through the difficult times.

Take advantage of your college counselor when you face a problem. They were trained to help you. Let them!


There’s no sure way to avoid making any mistakes in your first year of college. After all, you are facing a new school, new friends, and new teachers. 

You are also in a new position of responsibility. If you do make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn from them and don’t repeat them.

These mistakes are just a few that you can hopefully avoid so that your first year of college is a big success.

Author bio:

Karen Lein is the general manager of Copper Beech at San Marcos and Grove San Marcos. She is a Fresno State alumni and enjoys traveling and watching football. #GoDogs!

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