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6 Mistakes I Made In College And How You Can Avoid Them

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with the thought of college and being independent. I would spend countless hours thinking of my dorm room setup, planning my schedules, looking at the clubs I would join, and watching other people live day-to-day at their schools.

Even with this meticulous, and overboard, forethought, there were so many things I would have done differently—all because nothing can go exactly as planned. After being in college for a considerable amount of time, here are things I would do differently if I were to start again.

1. Being overly ambitious

In high school, I held myself to extremely high standards and pushed myself as hard as I could in my classes, extracurriculars, and other enrichment opportunities to get into the schools I wanted to.

I tried to come into college with this same mindset and quickly saw the cracks in that plan. When it came to class selection, I jumped to the hardest class options available to me based on AP and dual enrollment classes and tried to take as many credit hours as I possibly could.

In the first couple weeks of school, I was absolutely swamped and lost in several classes, considering all of my senior year was asynchronous online classes. Luckily, there was an add/drop shopping period, but not all schools have that option.

Majors, concentrations, and fields of study are all made to be finished by graduation. Rather than overloading my first semester, I would have waited until my second semester and considered my advisor in the conversation more since they have seen several students in my shoes. 

2. Not taking advantage of school events

Each week or month, undergraduate student life sends out events going on around at my school. Whether these are ice cream socials, chances to talk to different deans one-on-one, or ways to get free school merchandise, I wish I would have attended more of these events to feel more school spirit.

Being in a major city, my friends and I always defaulted to exploring areas of the city we hadn’t been to. While this is fun and beneficial, there are so many cool things my school has that I could have experienced or done for free. In future years, I will attend more of these events and take advantage of what is available to me.

3. Taking few pictures

I have never been much of a picture person, so in college I did not take many pictures. I would defend myself by thinking, “I’m just choosing to live in the moment rather than live the memory through a screen.”

Looking back now, it is easy to do both. There are so many fun and exciting memories I wish I could have documented to look back on when I’m older or when I’m feeling a little down.

Luckily, my friends are the opposite. However, next year I plan on taking many more pictures. Besides, scrapbooking is a great rainy day activity and a great way to reminisce.

10 Mistakes To Avoid As A College Freshman

4. Not taking advantage of city events

Similar to school events, there are tons of events hosted by different businesses and restaurants around schools, in college towns, and in major cities. Even though my friends and I frequented the city for things to do, there are many free experiences, pop-ups, shows, festivals, and markets we could have taken more advantage of.

It again comes down to taking more advantage of the opportunities afforded to me by the area I am in. Next year, I plan on doing more research into the happenings around the city for free and unmatched experiences.

5. Not taking advantage of school resources

College is not supposed to be a cakewalk. The material in classes or assignments may not come as easily as they did in high school.

I have had so many easily avoidable late nights due to not taking advantage of office hours, study sessions, and writing centers. At the end of the day, anyone working in these offices facilitating these sessions are trained to do exactly what you need help with.

Instead of going down a spiral in a problem set or essay, I could have gotten a clear answer for what is expected from me in the class. Next year, I will be utilizing these resources more often.

6. Procrastinating 

Procrastination is one of those things I have heard tons about well before college and a thing I was always told to avoid. However, I did not realize the effects of procrastination until I faced it in college.

Though it feels unavoidable when in the moment, there are many safe guards I could have put into place that I will be implementing to not procrastinate as much when I am back in school.

Firstly, I will be taking my first class earlier. This way, I am already up for the day and out of my dorm so I’ll feel more inclined to work.

Next, I’ll be putting hour breaks into my schedule. This way, I can not justify going back to my room because the break is too short, but I can go to a nearby library and knock out a few problems or do some writing.

You may not experience these specific circumstances while in school, but I hope this shows how different expectation and reality can actually be in school. College is something you can not completely plan for, and you will never know how your specific experience is going to differ from your expectations.

You will have plenty of time to figure it all out for yourself. You are not alone!

Don’t forget: several other people may be feeling how you are feeling so never feel weird for trying to gain your footing or asking for help. If you are given, or have access to, upperclassmen mentors, ask them the mistakes they made or what they would have did differently, too.

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Author: Colin Davis

Hi everyone!! I'm Colin and I am a freshman at Columbia University in New York City! Currently my major is biochemistry on a premed. Growing up in a suburban town with not too much to do, I knew going to school in a city (or at least city-adjacent) was a big deal for me, so I spend a lot of time exploring the city with my friends. Other than that, I love to write anything under the spectrum from research papers or scatterbrained poetry, sing, compose music, and cook. Happy reading!