By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
How are you supposed to know what to do in a brand new situation? This might seem like the ultimate question for any incoming freshmen. Everything is new and exciting (freedom!), but terrifying at the same time (finding friends?!). New students will want to make the most of their first year on the Bluff without any serious missteps along the way. Luckily for you, I’ve picked out four of the most common mistakes freshmen make and will try to guide you safely through them.
Not Getting Involved with School Activities. One of the first events of the year on A-Walk (the main drag that runs behind the Union) is a fair where all of Duquesne’s student groups set up tables to inform incoming freshmen about what clubs are offered on campus and encourage them to join. The biggest, and most common, mistake a freshman can make is to brush by these tables in a hurry without a glance, eager to make it to Basic Philosophical Questions in Fisher on time. Don’t rationalize this move by promising that you’ll get involved later in the semester or swearing that you don’t need to join any extracurriculars because you’ll be making enough friends in the dorms. Chances are, this type of thinking will become a cycle of excuses, and you’ll end up in your senior year wishing you’d joined something sooner.
To get the “true” college experience that all of those clichés talk about, take advantage of the clubs and organizations that Duquesne offers (especially during the fair where everything is conveniently organized down one stretch of road; there’s basically no effort required on your part). Find the activities that suit your interests and major. Do you love protecting the environment? Check out Evergreen. Want to get involved in Greek Life? Talk to the sororities and fraternities. Always dreamed of having your own radio show? Visit WDSR. There’s over 100 organizations that you can join, and all of them are listed on Duquesne’s Campus Link.
Getting Too Involved with School Activities. It’s true: You can have too much of a good thing. While you absolutely want to avoid being an uninvolved student on campus, you don’t want to bolt off into the territory of being too involved, either. Remember that you have a full, rigorous schedule of classes in, for most, a brand new learning environment. Remember that you are also going to need time on top of the hours spent in class to study, eat, sleep, shower, etc. It’s wonderful to have your weeks filled to the brim with interesting activities, but you will want some time to just hang out and do nothing, even if you’re thinking right now that you won’t. To avoid adopting a “Why Did I Do This To Myself?” mentality, choose one or two clubs to join. Give yourself some time to adjust and then fiddle around with adding or dropping activities as needed.
Not Saving Money Where You Can. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, college is expensive to the point where it’s almost physically painful. Therefore, a heinous mistake many freshmen unknowingly make during their inaugural year is not pinching pennies wherever possible. This doesn’t mean forgoing fun or being frugal for the sake of it; this just means approaching your spending in a smarter way. Two of the biggest budget-eaters I personally fell prey to my freshman year are books and coffee. It might seem logical at first to purchase every book listed by your professor – because you’re obviously going to use them all, right? – but be wary. Before you commit to purchasing any materials for class, attend the first few days. The professor might say that specific readings are only recommended rather than required. Others might list a textbook but not actually teach or test from it. Or, some might use all of the books every single day. You won’t know for sure until you talk to that professor, so hold off until then. Once you do figure out what you will need (and will actually use), search around online for the best deals. Avoid buying through the bookstore if you can, because the prices are exponentially higher, and it can sometimes take more than a week for your books to be ready (I’m speaking from stressful experience). Nothing beats two-day Amazon Prime shipping.
Now coffee is going to be a bit more difficult to save cash on because, unlike snagging more psychology books, you’ll actually be tempted to pop into one of the two Starbucks on campus for a latte between classes. However, a $4 coffee each day during the school week seems insignificant until you realize that’s $80 a month spent on espresso and flavored syrups. Consider using that money to buy a Keurig instead, which typically run around $100 depending on what model you get. Or, go to Target and buy a regular ol’ coffee pot and milk frother. For under $50, you can make your own fancy coffee drinks in the same amount of time it would take standing in line to have a barista do it for you.
Having Your Life Already Figured Out. We all hate the dreaded “ice breaker” games, where the professor goes around the room and asks each student to say what year and major they are. If you’re a freshman and are undecided, it might feel a little awkward, or even a little shameful, to announce that to a class of strangers who seem to have their five-year plans already nailed down. In reality though, staying undecided during your freshman year can be one of the best decisions you make. If you are clueless about what you want to do with the rest of your life, why try to fit yourself into a major that probably won’t work out just so you have something concrete to tell people when they ask? College is an adventure. There will be ups and downs. All of those students in class with you, who seemed to have everything together, will find themselves wondering if they made the right decisions. They’ll change their majors, they’ll change their minors and then they will change them again. Very few 18-year-olds know truly in their hearts what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Take this time to learn what classes you are passionate about. Don’t worry about picking a job for its pay; follow what you love to do. Everything else will fall into place.