15 Biggest Mistakes Students Are Making
Student mistakes are nothing new. We’ve all been where you were, and we were all unprepared for what lay ahead.
Therefore, don’t beat yourself up too much as you read through this list, because it certainly isn’t given with the intent of beating you up.
Life is a series of trials and errors. In it, you see what works and what doesn’t. You screw up and hopefully learn from it. In the end, you emerge a better person.
But even when you do, you’re not going to be perfect. There are plenty of us who’ve been out here in the real world mucking it up since entering the workforce full-time.
So as you read through these, just remember that we’re all in this together. And if you’re looking at these from an older perspective, just remember that no one gets it right all the time, and there are probably plenty of things you could be doing better, too.
Now with that said, let’s get started with…
Student Mistakes No. 1: Not giving enough thought to the job side of things.
Before you enter college, a lot of well-meaning adults are going to tell you to pursue your passion. While it is good to be passionate about whatever you’re doing, you also have to be realistic.
There probably won’t be just an abundance of employers looking to throw six figures at you the minute you graduate with your liberal arts degree. I say that as an English major.
If you have a clear career path that you’re happy with and you’re going in with eyes wide open, then by all means proceed. But don’t buy into the touchy-feely stuff.
If you want to earn a good living, you’ll have to pursue certain tracks that may not exactly align with your interests and hobbies.
2. Too much reacting, not enough listening.
There has been plenty of negative attention directed at college campuses nowadays, and unfortunately, a lot of it is with good reason.
There seems to be an overwhelming urge in certain locations to shout down people you disagree with and label individuals in certain ways that may or may not align with what they actually are.
Case-in-point, the conservative speaker Ben Shapiro. Shapiro is an intellectually honest Jewish man, like him or not, and he is the biggest recipient of anti-Semitic hate online.
In other words, he has nothing to do with neo-Nazis or white supremacists. They target him routinely on social networks like Twitter. Yet that has not stopped students at Berkeley and now Utah from labeling him a white supremacist.
It’s all because students — and people in general, for that matter — are no longer to listen to the substance of what someone says. They just know they disagree on a few key issues and label, label, label. The problem with doing this, is that the labels you use tend to lose their power.
As Shapiro himself puts it, when you’re a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.
3. Droning out on technology.
Notice a pattern developing here with student mistakes. We’re telling you about things that also happen to be “real world adult” mistakes.
Too many of us, no matter the age, are glued to our phones and staying numb to human contact and relationships.
When you’re always so wrapped up in the virtual world, you never have time for the physical. You give more of yourself and your time to what isn’t real. No wonder everybody is so depressed these days. By doing this, it’s hard to feel like you’re really alive.
4. Going to college without exploring whether it’s the right decision.
Yes, trade schools are picking up steam in an increasingly skills-based economy, but too many of you are still going to college simply because that’s what people “are supposed to do.”
Don’t let antiquated thinking from adults lead you down an expensively uncertain path.
Work hard at getting to know yourself in a professional sense. If you’re more of a hands-on person, think about pursuing a trade.
5. Giving away too much freedom.
Going back to the Berkeley thing for a moment, it is important one understands what they are actually doing when they shout down an opinion with which they disagree (yes, even hate speech).
They are essentially creating an environment wherein it becomes easier and easier to label something disagreeable as offensive. Pretty soon there is no free and open change of ideas.
When that happens, say goodbye to all of your freedom — including the freedom to protest. Buck the trend.
If you see someone engaging in erratic, hostile, or violent behavior, tell them to sit down and shut the bleep up.
6. Listening to critics too closely.
It may seem rich to read this one in an article telling you about the mistakes your group is currently making, but hear me out.
We ALL need to be more self-reflective and critical. While going through this list, I’ve marked more than a few that I need to work on more myself.
If you’re not careful, it can become easy to get down on yourself and give up. But you need to view criticisms through the proper context.
They are not indicative of your essence as a person. They are actions or courses that can be corrected, and you have the power to do just that.
So when you hear uptight older people decrying the future of civilization because they think you’re a mouth-breathing moron, consider the source.
There are gaps between you and them that neither can understand, and allowing one group to label you based solely on what they view to be your mistakes, is a good way to feel horrible about yourself forever.
Again, when you hear criticisms, consider whether they have merit, take action to fix it (if needed), and move on.
7. Moving to expensive areas too early.
The financial component of living in a big city can be crippling. When you find yourself having to compromise health, comfort, and safety just to live in a studio apartment, you probably should rethink whether this is the best time to make your big move.
If you still have to live in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, put some planning into it. Find an apartment that you can swing either with one job or with the assistance of a roommate.
Check out where to find roommates in the area. Vet them thoroughly. Don’t get locked into a long lease with someone who will flake out on you. Keep exploring ways to live more cheaply. If you’re fine with doing all that, go for it.
Just don’t make the mistake of being the person who allows himself or herself to be seduced by the big city, moves there, and then has to find out how they’re going to come up with $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
8. Taking unpaid internships willy-nilly.
We recently explored whether it was every okay to take on an unpaid internship, and it ended up being a pretty split decision. At the end of the day, it can make a lot of sense to do so.
But you have to consider the source.
If it’s a place like the Huffington Post or Fox News, then yes, an unpaid internship might be beneficial. If it’s somewhere you’ve never heard of that doesn’t have much of a reputation one way or the other, be suspect about it.
9. Not taking unpaid internships at all.
On the flip side of things, a lot of student mistakes emanate from thinking a legitimate opportunity is “beneath” them.
Don’t snob your way out of a promising position. As with item No. 8 above, make sure you do your due diligence in determining whether an unpaid internship has something tangible and legitimate to offer before turning it down.
10. Not planning ahead for study time or large projects.
When you are younger and have fewer responsibilities, time can seem to go on forever. That changes as you get older, though.
You simultaneously feel like there are not enough hours in a day, yet the miserable stuff (like studying if you’re not doing it right) takes forever.
It’s a weird feeling that two opposites can feel true at the same time, but it’s reality. At least it seems that way if you don’t lead a structured life.
When it comes to large projects or major exam dates, your procrastination can kill. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But it can sure make you feel like you’re losing track of time.
Moving forward, don’t let that happen to you. Create a structure by starting with the end date in mind and breaking down your goal into several individual action steps.
From there, you can weigh it against how much time you have left, and pretty soon you’ll be able to get what you need to get done accomplished without losing track of time.
11. Allowing others to enable them.
We’ve touched on it a bit with the part about giving up your freedoms, but this is slightly different in that some people with more life experience who should definitely know better can take advantage of your development stages.
Teachers, politicians, family members … they all try to influence you into seeing things their way, and they often choose to do so through the gift of enabling your baser tendencies.
Hey, don’t beat yourself up too much. We’ve all got base tendencies. How many times have you had an unreasonable reaction to something someone did accidentally to you just because you were having a bad day?
You convince yourself whatever they did was out of spite, at least until you calm down a bit and calmer heads prevail. Just as an example, I recently had to walk back into my daughter’s day care to retrieve my keys.
When I walked in, I saw her holding hands with a little boy. For just a brief moment, I flashed forward in my mind by about 15 years and imagined some lecherous teenage boy pawing at her instead of the little cotton-haired 3-year-old classmate.
I wasn’t seeing the reality of the situation. I was reading in and implying something that wasn’t there based on a reality I briefly perceived as possible.
After some thought, I realized how ridiculous it was, and my wife and I had a good laugh about it. But it would have been really easy for me to enable myself by trying to say, “Well, that’s my little girl, I can’t be held responsible.”
Whenever you have someone whispering in your ear that you’re a victim, that’s typically not a person you want to be around or take any life direction from. Yet all over the U.S., college professors, parents, administrators, and some of your peers are trying to manipulate you into seeing things their way instead of allowing you to come to your own conclusions.
Be open to advice and instruction, but whatever you end up believing, make it your own.
12. Following their heart instead of head.
“I just have to follow my heart,” are generally the stupidest words in the English language. Your heart pumps blood. It’s not capable of thought or reason. It simply keeps you alive. That isn’t even where your emotions come from!
Don’t allow it to pick your major or your career for you.
13. Following their head instead of heart.
What!? Hypocrite! Yes, yes, I know. But hear me out. There is a flip side to everything.
When people say “your heart” in such situations, what they really mean is your passion. The heart gets more credit than it should for housing said passion, but just for sake of not being difficult, we’ll contribute passion to the heart for this point.
You do need to primarily use your head to make decisions, but you should not neglect passion in finding something to like about your career. If you’re picking entirely based on logic, then you may very well make a lot of money for a while, but you’ll end up hating your job thoroughly. Make room for both heart and head in this context, and find your balance.
14. Taking on more loans than they need.
Again, don’t borrow all the money available to you. Borrow only what you need; then mitigate the rest with your choice of school(s).
Student loans do not have to be as expensive as they are for many students. Even if you’re going into an unavoidably costly profession (like becoming a doctor), you can pinch pennies with community college, an in-state university, and a well-thought-out graduate school that offers you the most in scholarships or work-study.
15. ‘Wanting it all’ and not having the patience needed to get there.
Becoming successful in life doesn’t happen overnight, and even when you get it, there are no guarantees that you’ll keep it. It’s a constant fight, and it takes continuing education, hard work, and hypersensitivity to opportunity. Just buckle down and take it one step at a time.
You’ll make plenty of mistakes in life, but if you can learn from them and change course, you’ll usually more than make up for them. Now where are some areas where you need to improve, and what advice would you share for older generations?
[Featured Image by SOURCE]