7 Mistakes New College Students Make . . . and How to Avoid Them!

Timely advice for a strong start

Belinda Austin, associate dean of student services ,

Starting anything new in life can be challenging. Whether you're transitioning to college directly from high school, or have been out of the classroom for a while before taking the plunge back into higher ed, here are several common mistakes you can avoid to ensure a successful first semester.


1.   Not Asking for Help
Whether you are struggling academically, personally or financially, most all colleges have free resources available. Northampton Community College (NCC) offers free tutoring and counseling services, and our Financial Aid Department is available to walk you through the sometimes confusing federal FAFSA process.

2.   Not Taking Time To Get To Know Faculty

Faculty truly enjoy talking and getting to know their students. They have set office hours each semester to meet with students regarding such things as providing clarity on an assignment or reviewing results on a test or quiz.  Students can also find out about a faculty member's specific area of study in which they may want to also pursue, and they may find a mentor in the process!

3.   Saying no to campus events and activities
Students who are involved with campus life tend to be more successful upon graduating because time management skills, leadership skills and communication skills have been developed. They also make great connections with other students, faculty and staff that will serve them not only during their time at school, but for years to come. Avoid the urge to binge Netflix when you could be at a campus event instead. Join a student club...Netflix will always be there. Your college days will fly by, enjoy every part of it!

4.   Ditching Self Care - Which Can Lead to Ditching Classes
It's pretty tempting to pull all-nighters and eat out of the vending machine when you're balancing classes, work and family. Try to prioritize sleep and good nutrition when you are able. Staying up all night will make it hard not to hit the snooze button for those a.m. classes. And eating nothing but junk food will increase your odds of getting sick and feeling sluggish. At NCC, we've got a full Food Court that offers many healthy and tasty options, including salads and soups. We also have state-of-the-art fitness centers that students can use for free.

5.   Taking on Too Much
While it's important to get involved on campus, some students over extend themselves with activities. Set a schedule that prioritizes classes, study time, and work, and then see if you can fit in a club or an event. A great way to plan your semester is carefully looking at your syllabus for each class - add tests and assignments to your calendar, too!

6.   Staying in Your Social Circle

Colleges serve a number of students from various parts of the country and world!  Students should take time to branch out and get to know their fellow peers in their classes. This will not only add to your overall experience, but may also develop long lasting friendship that will last long after you graduate.

7.   Forgetting to Celebrate Achievements
Aced that test you were dreading? Finished that paper you thought would never get done? Make sure to take the time to pat yourself on the back. Every success brings you one step closer to your goals, and that should be celebrated. If you put off playing that video game or watching your favorite show in order to get a paper written, reward yourself with some screen time once it is successfully completed. Or hang out with the friends you haven't seen because you've had your nose stuck in your books. They'll be happy to see you!  

Belinda Austin is the associate dean of student services at Northampton Community College's Monroe Campus. Fall classes begin Monday, August 20, and classes are available both on campus and online.