Everyone's college experience is bound to be unique, but there are some common pitfalls that everyone has to struggle through one way or another. Don't let these common college mistakes happen to you and bog down your ability to graduate, whether you're attending school online or on-campus.
1. Racking up student debt (and other college financing mistakes)
College financing mistakes could haunt you for most of your adult life. Student debt is at an all-time high, with class of 2017 bachelor's degree graduates averaging $28,500 in debt, according to the CollegeBoard.org "Trends in Student Aid 2018" report.
Do what you can to stay out of debt. Pay cash for food, create and stick to a budget, and start putting money aside into a savings account. See our Ultimate Guide to Student Loans for tips on how to borrow smarter and how to pay back your student debt after graduating.
2. Not reading the syllabus
This tip is simple, but many students forget about it before the first day of class is over: read your syllabus! For each class, you should receive a syllabus that spells out everything you need to know in order to do well in the course — assignment deadlines, late work policies, how participation is graded and more. It's the key to everything. Read it carefully.
3. Not asking for help
If you're putting everything into a course but still struggling to keep your head above water, consider getting help. Make good use of your professor's office hours, class study groups, and your schools academic tutoring services. A teacher's job is to help you and answer your questions. Don't let a fear of asking questions keep you from success.
It's common for students to put potential salary above suitability for their chosen career. Choose a discipline you really love and are happy doing; after all, you're likely going to dedicate a good chunk of your adult life to it. Don't settle, either--it's never too late to change majors.
4. Getting distracted
Who wants to wrestle with calculus when there are so many new college experiences to be had? But be careful! Remember that your primary goal as a student is to succeed in your classes so that you can get a real (or better) career with plenty of paid vacation and the funds to enjoy it -- which, we might add, beats beer pong any day of the week.
That being said, however, going too far in the opposite direction has its own dangers....
5. Getting stressed out
College is stressful, no matter your age. Take care of yourself. Make time for relaxation and de-stressing, regardless of what that means for you. Join a club. Spend time with friends. Audition for a play. Have experiences. And take advantage of resources that your college tuition likely pays for — things like tutoring centers, emotional counseling, and advisors.
When it comes to college, working too hard is as dangerous as not working hard enough. Don't let depression ruin your college experience.
6. Pulling all-nighters (and other studying gaffes)
According to the National Sleep Foundation on Sleep.org, pulling all-nighters equals lower grades. College students may see it as a rite of passage, but it's a simple fact that humans need sleep to perform at our best. Not getting enough shut-eye is one sure way to undermine your efforts. If you want to survive your classes, let alone your college career, make sleep a priority. You'll do better on your finals by getting a good night's sleep than by cramming at the last possible minute.
All-nighters aren't the only studying mistake students can make, although it's probably one of the more traditionally established ones. Disorganization is another mistake that can come back to bite you -- it's a lot harder to study if you can't find the right notes from your classes! Even if you're typically messy in your everyday life, try to keep your study area clean and organized so you can find the information you need when you need it.
7. Not planning for a professional life
College isn't just about grades and tests; it's the place to hone your professional skills and prepare for the job market after graduation. Seek career counseling and get help with resume and interview skills. Explore internships. Attend networking functions. Get a professional email address (in other words, skip the "firstname.lastname@example.org" address). And always put your best foot forward when using social media. A status update or photo upload that seems fun and frisky at the time may get dredged up during the job interview process and ruin a chance at your dream job!