Part 2: Common Mistakes Made by Students
Going to college can be a fairly overwhelming experience. As such, it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re frazzled. Here are three pitfalls that you should watch out for during your time as a student.
1. Assuming that all the information you need is in the textbook
Relying solely on the textbook tends to negate the purpose of going to college in the first place. It’s also a bad habit carried over from your time in high school. If you want to truly succeed, be ready to do some extra research. There are many times when a textbook might be outdated or not match up with what your professor has explained in class.
It’s also not a fallback in the event you miss class. All too often, students skip class thinking that studying the textbook will help them pass, only to set themselves up for failure.
Research is a skill you will have to rely on throughout your life, especially when you’re put into a position where all of the information you need isn’t readily available in a $60 book the size of a giant paperweight. Being able to find information and consolidate data from multiple sources is an essential skill in the workplace.
– Instead of doing a walk-in visit with Academic Advising, schedule an appointment in advance. Not only does it cut down the amount of time you have to wait to speak to an advisor, but it also improves your chances of meeting with an advisor who has the information you need.
– Have all of your financial aid forms prepared, copied, and organized the night before you bring them to the financial aid office. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting in line only to find out that you’re missing one or two key forms or signatures and have to come back at a later time.
– Always shut down or put away any and all electronic devices when you need to study. The distractions will only cause your quality of work to suffer. If you need to use the computer to write your paper or research, limit your Internet usage to the sites that will help you with your assignment.
2. Not asking questions/Not getting all the information you need
This is a problem that extends beyond the classroom as it can sometimes cause issues for you when you have to deal the administrative branches of the college, such as Financial Aid or Academic Advising.
In the classroom setting, it almost goes without saying. If there’s something you don’t understand about what the professor is teaching, then ask for clarification. You’re paying thousands of dollars for these classes, so it’s important to understand the information you’re receiving.
When dealing with the administrative offices, asking questions is absolutely necessary, as a lack of information can send you up a creek on a makeshift raft without a paddle in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.
To put that scenario into context, let’s say you’re meeting with an academic advisor and are trying to get information about what classes you need to take. It’s important to make sure that you’re taking a sufficient amount of courses to satisfy requirements, especially if your degree has requirements that are constantly changing.
It’s also important to make sure that the list of required courses is up-to-date and correct; otherwise you might end up making your way through college only to find that you still have three semesters worth of classes to take in order to graduate.
In the event that you’re not getting a straight answer, keep asking questions until you get one or until the advisor you’re talking to admits to not knowing the answer and is willing to refer you to someone who does.
This is yet another skill that’s important in daily life, as you will come across people who may try to give you the run-around by providing only a little bit of information. Being inquisitive like this is also a good way to avoid getting scammed.
3. Taking too many extra-curricular courses
This is something that can come back and bite the unprepared student down the line if s/he is not careful. When picking classes, the required ones have to take priority, especially if those courses aren’t available any other semester.
Another thing to remember is that there is a cap on how many credit hours you can accrue before your financial aid is cut off. That’s why it’s important to stay on-track, because if you have to file an appeal for continuation of funding, you have to show the financial aid office that you are on-track to graduate.
So while it may be tempting to sign up for underwater basket-weaving, you may want to make sure it doesn’t conflict with an important pre-requisite for your degree.
Those are the three biggest mistakes a college student can make, based on my experiences. While there are many more mistakes a student can make while going to college, these are a few that I feel are overlooked when a student is looking for information on ways to avoid screwing up.
For more sage advice from Stephen Romney, read Part 1 of his Survival Guide for freshmen.