So, you're starting a new life at university.
Part of being a freshman is all about finding your own path, no matter cheesy that may sound. Freshman year can be a bit overwhelming at times. You'll make mistakes. It's a given. Learning means taking your mistakes and running with them.
But... you can avoid most, if not all, of these 10 freshman mistakes by taking our advice! Here are the top 10 freshman mistakes as well as a comprehensive guide on how to avoid them!
1. Forgetting to Do All the Necessities
Of course, part of living in Holland means there are certain obligations you need to meet. What are we talking about? Specifically, registering at a city hall, getting your permits in order, and making sure you have insurance. Don't forget to do these things because they are the freshman mistakes you cannot afford to make! One of the first things you need to do when you arrive in the Netherlands is to register at a city hall. When you register, you receive a BSN number, which is a citizen service number.
Moreover, you need to make sure you have the right residence permits. As a non-EU student, you might need permission to live in Holland. What’s more, insurances are a must! You will need health insurance to work no matter where you're from. Be sure to not forget liability, student contents insurance, and even legal aid. You can read more about student insurances here and what you need in order to work.
2. Not Applying for Financial Aid
As a student, you are able to apply for financial aid! That means student finance for the most part. Student finance is basically comprised of three parts: a loan, a supplementary grant, and a student travel product. Depending on whether you meet the requirements or not, you can get a loan for your tuition fees or even a supplementary grant that is gifted to you. Definitely take the time to read more about student finance, what the requirements are and how you can apply.
Moreover, allowances are great if you feel you need some help with your monthly expenses. Specifically, the Dutch government provides low-income citizens and students, with monthly aid. This could be towards your health insurance payment or your rent. Check out our page about Allowances if you're interested!
3. Not Joining Societies
Don't step into the freshman mistakes of avoiding societies and clubs! Societies are great places to meet people (especially if you are a bit introverted), as well as explore hobbies or new interests. We highly recommend joining some sort of society whether that be a cultural or sports society. Dutch universities often have associations dedicated to start-ups and businesses. This is because the Netherlands is the No.1 place in Europe for student entrepreneurship! Societies are also a great addition to your CV and your network!
4. Not Learning Basic Dutch
Learning some Dutch should be on your list of things to do! Sure, more than half the Dutch population speaks English but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the native language. You just need to learn a few phrases like hello, thank you, what is the Wi-Fi password etc... A lot of universities have language schools or at least language courses where you can go to Dutch classes. You can check out more ways to learn Dutch in this post!
5. Not Trying to Get Along with your Roommates
One of the places where you want to avoid stress is at home. Most freshmen spend their year in a college dorm-like on campus or in a complex. Many Dutch student accommodations are in the form of an apartment with a shared kitchen or common area and your own bedroom. That means you will meet new people the first day you move in and hopefully become friends with them. Your roommates don’t have to become your BFF (though that would be quite ideal wouldn’t it?). However, you don’t want to make enemies out of them or give them a hard time. The best way to stay cordial and make the most out of your roommate experience is to set the boundaries straight away. What are you going to split money-wise? What should you share in the kitchen?
[ Recommended Reading: How to Find a Perfect Roommate: 3 Options, 7 Approaches ]
6. Bombing your Classes
If you choose to listen to any advice about freshman mistakes, listen to this one: it’s not cool to not go to class! Though you may be hungover for most of your first month or so you should still make an effort to go to classes. Even though some professors may upload powerpoints and lectures online, information is always retained the best when you listen to it yourself. Procrastination is also a no-no. Have fun in your freshman year but take your grades seriously. In most (if not all) Dutch universities, your grades in your first year do matter. So if you are looking to get a high GPA or graduate with honors, don’t slack this year!
7. Having a Too-Tight Schedule
Yes, university is great for trying out new things as we have established. Classes you are interested in, societies you want to join, sports you want to try, and people you want to meet. However, sometimes juggling everything at once means your schedule is packed and close to bursting. It’s never a good idea to have such a tight schedule that you hardly have any time to take care of yourself. You should do all the things you want to do – in moderation.
8. Not Budgeting your Money
College is a time where you are (sort of) on your own. No one can tell you how much or how little money to spend. It’s up to you to take care of your income and expenditures. You'll soon see just what kind of living costs you'll have and what takes up most of your bank statement. A great way to stay on top of things is to use a budgeting journal. Try not to spend a small fortune on pizza and attempt to have some sort of system for keeping track of your money.
9. Not Asking for Help
Of all the freshman mistakes, this is one of the more serious ones. Freshman year can be a stressful time and that’s okay. For many, it’s their first time juggling multiple different classes and it’s a step up from high school. That means that the workload may be more than you are used to or balancing your extracurriculars may become more difficult. Go talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed. That could be a mentor, a professor, program coordinator or a counsellor. It’s better to tell someone you can’t manage your workload than to wait for bad grades.
10. Not Exploring Work Options
Studying is always your number one priority. But don’t forget about your (future) career! In college, your schedule is not as rigid as it might have been in high school. You have more time for other things. You could try finding a job.
Part-time work is great for students looking to get a little more money and internships are awesome for work experience! You can have a look at College Life Work, where you can find open positions for part-time, internship and graduate jobs. Plus, the Job Board is exclusively for international students as all the jobs are in English! Being a working student is great so give it a go!
Hopefully, your freshman year will be as good as it can get! Remember to have fun but take your grades seriously. When it comes to freshman mistakes, just remember to get what needs to be done, done and balance your life well!
Are you an international freshman student? Check out our freshman checklist of things you have & haven't done!