Man. August already? It’s been a long, long time since I’ve used this time to gear up for the whole “back-to-school” thing (yes, I’m a dinosaur), but I’m sure there are loads of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young ‘uns out there getting ready to head out for their very first semester of college. Congratulations! It may not all be sunshine and rainbows, but I’m a firm believer that you get out of college what you put into it, so if you work hard and play hard, you’ll probably have a blast.
That said, it can be kind of overwhelming being out on your own for the first time. Navigating everything from class and schoolwork to friends and food isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially during your first semester. Reddit knows this (of course), so naturally a thread popped up on the AskReddit sub last night aimed at making your transition a little bit less difficult. Posted by redditor kurthnaga, it posed the question, “What is the biggest mistake you made your first semester at college?” — and since it’s chock full of sound advice, we’ve pulled out some of the best lessons to keep in mind as you kick off the school year. Thank goodness someone else already made these mistakes so you don’t have to, right?
1. Skipping Class
A few responses made the argument that wasted money is your punishment, but in terms of “am I going to get in trouble and have someone yell at me?” consequences, college doesn’t usually have ‘em. This, however, will definitely come back to bite you in the arse during midterms and finals season — plus, you won’t actually learn anything. And you know what? Learning is fun. Don’t skip class due to sheer laziness, guys.
2. Becoming a Hermit
Is it scary going out and putting yourself in crowds of strangers? Yes. But you’ll never meet your potential new best friend, study buddy, romantic interest, or partner in crime (metaphorically speaking) if you don’t.
3. Not Bothering With Orientation
It will seem dumb while you’re doing it, but orientation is actually quite important. Plus, remember that whole not becoming a hermit thing? It’s a great way to meet people in a relatively controlled environment before the madness of school really starts.
4. Failing to Identify All Course Requirements
Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for when you register for classes. Otherwise, you end up like this guy. Not so good.
5. Not Doing Your Research About Your Professors Ahead of Time
RateMyProfessor.com obviously isn’t the only way to do this (more about that next), but at least ask around and find out what each prof is like before you sign up for their courses. It could be the difference between an enjoyable semester and one that makes you want to sling your textbooks at anything and everything that crosses your path. That said, there’s also …
6. … Putting Too Much Store in RateMyProfessor.com
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a gigantic chip on their shoulder must be in need of a website on which to bitch. RateMyProfessor.com can be a useful tool, but only if you use it wisely.
7. Assuming Your Roommate Will Automatically Become Your Best Friend
You may not be besties, but you don’t have to be; as long as you can live together with relatively little friction, that’s OK, too. If you’re really having issues, though — totally different living habits, extreme hostility, etc. — and your school lets you do a “room swap” or something similar after the first month or two, it might be worth looking into.
8. Buying All of Your Textbooks New
Textbooks are a money sink. Obviously you will need them, but there are many, many other, significantly cheaper ways to get a hold of them than buying them brand new at the start of each semester.
9. Spending All Your Time With Your Off-Campus Significant Other
Balancing an existing relationship with your new college environment can be tricky — but no matter how much you miss your SO, make an effort to hang out with all the new people you’ll meet your first semester. It’s a variation on the “not becoming a hermit” theme. It also stops people from asking you this all the time:
Y'know, because they never see you except when you're in class.
This is sound advice regardless of whether you’re in college or not.
11. Not Taking Care of Yourself
Stay healthy. I know eating well can be difficult at the dining hall, but make sure you’re getting your fruits and veggies, stay active, eat enough, and so on.
12. Staying Somewhere That Makes You Unhappy
There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether the idea of “the right school for you” is a myth or reality — but while there may not be just one good “match,” it’s true that some places will be better for you than others. If you spend your first semester or year at a school that makes you deeply unhappy, for the love of Pete, get out of there. There’s no shame in realizing you made a mistake. Find an environment that works for you — even if you have to give it a second, third, or nth shot to get there.