Looking back on my freshman year, there were many things I wish I would have known beforehand. I felt like I went in blindly, not having any clue of what to expect. Obviously, as one could assume, I made a lot of mistakes. But all those mistakes taught me valuable lessons.

Today, I am going to share with you the lessons I learned after my first year in college. I really hope that those of you who are college freshmen take all of these lessons into deep consideration and avoid the mistakes I made.

Lesson #1: Ditching class has no benefits


Truthfully, the biggest mistake I made my freshman year was ditching class. Normally the class I would ditch was a math course. In the moment, it seemed like no big deal. I would rationalize the situation in my head and tell myself, “It’s just one class, I will make it up.”  Well, I never made it up and that one class turned into five. Before I knew it, I was behind and had no idea what was going on. Ditching that math class resulted in me earning a very low grade, and in the long-run I had to retake it.

Not going to class isn’t worth it. Previously, I created an infographic that answers the question How much is skipping class costing you? Through research, I came to find that at a public four-year institution, skipping one class costs about $51.02. At a private four-year institution, it costs about $69.40. I learned that it isn’t just one class, and that I probably won’t make it up. I paid for the class, so I should take advantage of the time and knowledge that I paid for.

Lesson #2: Be mindful about purchasing textbooks


This is something I have talked about in many previous blog posts. Reason being, textbooks are extremely expensive and if you are not wise about purchasing them, you may end up spending more than you need to. When I started my freshman year, I didn’t know that websites like Chegg existed, so I bought all brand new textbooks. My first mistake in this situation was buying the textbooks. Unless you plan on annotating your textbook, I would advise that you rent them. Renting a textbook decreases the cost drastically.

The second mistake I made was buying brand new textbooks. Never buy brand new, because the second you walk out of the bookstore the value of that textbook goes down (similar to a car). After my first semester in college, I tried to resell the textbooks I had purchased (that were brand new and paid full price for).

I could sell them back but got very little in return. I remember buying this book for my English 101 course and it was about $100. When I tried to sell that book back, the most they could offer me was $30. This expensive mistake taught me to look for other options when buying textbooks; whether it is renting, borrowing, or going to my school’s library.

Lesson #3: Find a note-taking process that works and stick to it.


Freshman year was overwhelming in many cases for me, especially the style of the classroom. I was used to a small classroom with my teacher basically spoon-feeding me the notes that I needed. When I was exposed to a lecture hall, I found myself confused. I had no idea what I should take notes on, and to top it all off I couldn’t even keep up with the teacher. I would try and write down every single word he or she said, and then I would leave the lecture hall feeling like my hand was going to fall off. I came to realize that my note-taking process was inefficient and that I wasn’t retaining any information.

I took a new approach and became a fan of what I call mental webs. I start out with the main topic that is being talked about and branch it into different sections, and continue doing that. I stopped writing full sentences, and instead I write small fragments that give me just enough information to remind me what was being talked about when I look back at the notes later to study. There are many different note-taking processes, you just have to experiment and see what works best for you.

These three lessons I’m sharing with you today are the three things that I wish I had known when I started my freshman year in college. If I didn’t skip classes, especially my math class, I would have earned a better grade and wouldn’t have to retake the course. If I didn’t pay top dollar for textbooks, I could have saved that money. If I had taken better notes, I would have retained more information resulting in better grades.

I don’t want my readers to look back on their freshman year and say to themselves that they wish they would have done something differently. Take my mistakes and learn from them!

As Blogger and budget aficionado, Tara K. helps students across the country enhance their knowledge about money management and everyday  life. She is constantly looking for new ideas to transform into great advice for you. Pursuing a journalism major, Tara K. has a passion for the art of inquiry, which is conveyed through her writing.