College Parenting

6 Mistakes College Freshmen Make

Graduating from high school can be one of the most exciting times in a young child’s life, but it can also be one of the scariest! All of a sudden, your teenager is thrust into the world. They have to make decisions with potentially life-altering consequences. So how do you make sure your child does it right? The first step is avoiding some of the most common mistakes college freshmen make. Go over the different 6 points on this list as you talk or visit with your teen during their freshman year.

1. Over-committing. 

Enthusiastic freshmen can easily bite off more than they can chew if they don’t choose their activities carefully. College offers incredible experiences, and it is difficult to turn down opportunities to make friends and do things you love. Participation in student organizations, intramural sports, piled on top of course loads can quickly add up. Add that to never-ending opportunities to socialize and even the most capable of students end up overwhelmed and stressed out. Encourage your student to take the time to enjoy their college experiences rather than just surviving them. 

2. Under-committing.

Your child’s chances of making long-lasting relationships when they spend all their free time watching Netflix are close to zero! Friendships do not just happen; they are intentional. Time and effort is needed for the bonding together of two people that allows for growth, enjoyment, and development. Your child needs friends! Encourage them to do one of the following: get involved in the Greek system, a college ministry, join a club, maybe even seek out a part-time on-campus job (like working in the bookstore, at Starbucks, or with the admissions office).  The four years will fly by. 

3. Pulling all-nighters. 

Staying up all night is terrible for your child’s health and academic performance. Encourage your child to avoid having the need to stay up all night by preparing ahead of time. If your child needs to cram, counsel them to study until a reasonable hour in the night—say, 11pm—then go to bed and wake up early the next morning—try for no earlier than 4am—and finish studying. Although 5 hours of sleep is not sufficient to keep the body healthy, this method is far superior to burning the midnight oil. 

4. Playing the dating game.

A college environment provides an entirely new field of potential dates. The wise college freshman will keep relationships with members of the opposite sex on a friends-only level for his or her freshman year. Because the purpose of dating is to eventually find a spouse, encourage your child to consider the time of life that they are in. Would he or she really be able to get married now, or in the near future? If not, there is no need to lead someone on, pick up the baggage that comes with every new relationship, and get your heart broken.

5. Drinking underage.

There is no better way to ruin both your health and reputation than by drinking before you are legally allowed to. Most college students drink to get drunk, and alcohol poisoning affects millions of Americans each year. Binge-drinking, especially at an early age, can do irreversible damage to your body. There are nearly 90,000 alcohol-related deaths in the US each year. Encourage your child to count the cost: is feeling cool with friends worth the hangover, the long-term health consequences, the school discipline, or even trouble with the law?

6. Losing sight of the end goal.

Remember when you were first learning to ride a bike? Probably not. But your parents certainly have pictures of you, adorned in layers of protective gear, smiling ear to ear as you move from your tricycle to your big-kid bike—with training wheels, of course! College is like that. Encourage your child to think of the next four years as their opportunity to practice being an adult. They still have you behind them, ready to catch them if they fall. But don’t forget: in the end, the goal is to be financially independent and mentally prepared to be their own person. Just as training wheels are a temporary means to learning to ride a bike, college is a temporary means to learning to be an adult.

What mistakes did your teen—or you—make as a college freshman? Let us know in the comment section below!

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