So you’re off to college. Eighteen and on your own, you must be mature, right? You may be able to drive, vote, and rent an apartment, but as far as growing up is concerned, you have a long way to go. Before you recite your SAT scores and all the nice things your teachers said, you should know that the ability to get good grades doesn’t automatically mean you’re smart enough to make good decisions. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Everyone makes stupid mistakes while they’re in college. Hopefully, your stupid mistakes will only be the kind that cause brief moments of embarrassment. Too often college students make poor decisions while drunk or succumbing to peer pressure, which can damage their reputations and even stop them from landing a good job.
If you’re going off to college this fall, avoid making these stupid mistakes that you’ll regret for years to come.
1. Post Inappropriate Things Online
When you’re away from home you should be enjoying your new-found freedom. You should also remember that the things you post online have the ability to stay online forever. Even things you post in private are only a cut and paste away from becoming public knowledge. Sexting, naughty photos, racist, misogynistic, or homophobic rants, and photos of you passed out drunk won’t do you any favors. You may think your friends will never hurt you, but not everyone who you think is your friend truly has your best interests at heart. If you post something inappropriate online or in a text, there’s always the chance someone will share it without your permission.
You also have to consider all the people who have access to your photos and online updates. If your co-workers are your Facebook friends and you call out on the same day you post beach photos, there’s the opportunity for some tattle tailing. If you work with people who are your social media friends, always think about what you’re posting online. One misstep and you can get fired or not get a good reference when it’s needed.
2. Ragging on the Boss
Everyone has complaints about their jobs. If you are lucky enough to have a part time job while in college, you’ll know that’s true. Whether you’re in fast food or a CEO in a corner office, you have issues with how something is being done. The problem is, complaining about your boss and your job all the time makes you look like a chronic malcontent. It also makes people not want to work with you. Before you get on Twitter or Facebook and complain about your boss, and before you begin a constant barrage of complaints about how everyone is against you, think about the damage you could be doing. A good reputation isn’t only a job well done, attitude counts for a lot.
It can be tempting to look at someone’s test or buy a term paper instead of doing the work, but this is one of the worst choices you can make as a college student. If you’re caught cheating several things can happen depending on the infraction:
- You can get off with a warning: Depending on the infraction, it might not be too bad.
- You can fail the class: Your instructor can fail you for the test or project, or you can flunk the class altogether.
- You can get kicked out of school: Cheating is against the rules. You can get kicked out of school for cheating, especially if you’re a repeat offender. If that happens you can petition to be reinstated, but the school doesn’t have to comply.
- Your cheating infraction can show up on your college transcripts: If the school makes your cheating a matter of public record, details will be available to anyone who requests to see your transcripts.
- You can miss out on important job opportunities: If your cheating is a matter of record, the probability of a potential employer finding out is high. No one wants to hire someone who takes shortcuts and passes someone else’s work off as his/her own.
Besides having a spotty record and spreading mistrust, there’s one other important reason not to cheat: Because you won’t learn anything when you’re using someone else’s work. No one wants to hire a person of questionable intelligence.
4. Amass Heavy Credit Card Debt
When it comes to money, college might be a rude awakening. In addition to the cost of school and however you’re paying for that, you have to pay for things such as food, transportation, and shelter. If you want to have fun you’ll have to find the means to fund that too. Don’t think the credit card companies don’t know that, either!
Credit card companies love students, that’s why you see so many of them camped on college campuses waiting to welcome you with freebies in exchange for signing up. They know many college students don’t have the money to pay their credit card balances in full, and look forward to charging high interest rates. The problem now is that you’re caught up in a vicious cycle of charging and paying what you can, but never coming out ahead. According to a 2013 study by the Institute for College Access & Success, the average college student graduates with $30,000 worth of student loan debt. Add another $3,000 to $5,000 in credit card debt and, well, that’s not a very positive start to adulthood.
What does all this have to do with your career after college?
Many employers do a thorough review of their job candidates which includes their credit report. They don’t have access to your credit score but they can see other items such as how many times you were late with payment or if there are judgments against you. While this has no bearing on how well you can do a job, the employer may wonder how you can be counted on to be responsible with his or her business if you can’t keep your credit in order. Moreover, they may worry about you having bad habits or making bad choices that lead you to accumulate such debt.
It’s not easy to get out of debt. Avoid paying for things you can’t afford and do your best to always pay your balance right away. Besides landing a good job, the peace of mind is worth it.
5. Partying All the Time
Every college has a few students whose reputations are earned by partying rather than studying. While you should certainly enjoy yourself in college, remember that you’re there to learn, not major in drunk and disorderly. By all means enjoy yourself, but partying every night - and even every weekend - can lead to a chain of events that can harm your future.
First and foremost, if you’re partying you’re not studying or working on maintaining your grades and participating in the right kinds of extracurricular activities. You may think you have a handle on it all but one day you’ll be hit with the reality that you’re past the point of no return and you can’t bring your grades up anymore. Moreover, excessive partying leads to excessive oversleeping, which leads to excessive absences and tardiness.
Embarrassing things happen when people are drunk. You can hook up with people you don’t want to hook up with, get behind the wheel of your car and have an accident, or people can do mean things to you if you are in a drunken state and share those photos on social media. All of these things have the potential to harm you well into the future.
6. Ditching Class
Sleeping in is enticing. So is going to the beach, playing mini golf, going to a movie, and playing video games. However, none of those things are more important than class. Here’s the thing about ditching class when you’re in college: no one is policing you. No one is calling your parents or telling you to show up on time. So you can pretty much do what you want, when you want, without anyone getting in your face about it. This kind of freedom can either prove your maturity or lead to some bad habits down the road.
If you habitually ditch class, how often will you ditch work?
7. Being Disorganized
Mom isn’t around to clean your room and your instructors won’t tell you to clean up your paperwork. It’s up to you to make sure your notes, course work, and dorm room are in good order. Oh sure, you say you know where everything is or that you have a "system," but do you really? When things aren’t in their proper place they become harder to find and it’s hard to concentrate amid the chaos all around you. If you don’t break this habit now, it will follow you into your career and then you’ll have a real problem. Your team won’t appreciate your messy work area, and your boss will become tired of waiting for you to unearth that one piece of paper you can’t find. Keep good organization habits now and they’ll follow you through life.
8. Getting a Tattoo While Drunk
The word "tattoo" should be banned by anyone who has had more than beer. While many employers have no problem with tasteful tattoos, it gets harder to find a job with a big old tribal around your face. Save tattoos for when you’ve had time to make an informed decision and can choose a location on your body that won’t hinder your chances of getting the job you want.
9. Not Participating in the Right Extra Curricular Activities
Employers want to know you’re a team player. If you’re not willing to participate in clubs, sports, and other types of extra curricular activities while at college, will working with your team at your job be something that is beneath you?
Clubs and activities build important skills that you’ll need as you begin your career and your potential employers want to know that you’ve been building those skills. For example, interacting with people who share similar interests is a form of networking, and working together towards a common goal is a team building activity. Having those skills via extra curricular activities gives you an edge over other job candidates.
You’re busy in college, we get it. But you want to be the right kind of busy. College isn’t just for learning; it’s to help you prepare for a career and life. Life isn’t partying.
10. Doing Things You Know are Illegal
It’s fun to toe the line sometimes, but crossing the line can lead to consequences that will haunt you for the rest of your life. If you dabble, experiment, test the waters, or try something new, you can get caught. Having the mindset that it won’t happen to you doesn’t hold water, because almost everyone in jail didn’t think they’d get caught either.
Besides the potential to end up on the other end of the mugshot camera, illegal activity can be photographed by others. Do you really want that to turn up in a search by your potential employer? If having a good job and leading a positive, productive life are important to you, keep it legal. Otherwise, you may be the person who gets caught.
Going away to college should be a positive experience. While your coursework should be your top priority, you should also have fun. Just be sure you’re having fun in a responsible manner. Stupid choices you make now, can come back to haunt your career later.