A College Commentary: More than the ‘freshman 15’


You’re starting from scratch.

Annie Henry

As soon as you step onto campus as a freshman, you decide who you want to be. Your identity is no longer impacted by previous accomplishments or high school stereotypes.

No one knows if you were the prom queen all the boys wanted to date. No one cares that you were the shy kid who liked to read at lunch.

Although social media can allow your future classmates to “see” what you were like in high school, it’s not always clear what you’re like behind the filter. Whether your GPA was at the top of the class or you were barely passing, you are given a clean slate.

Freshman year is an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

You think the hardest part is over. You did well in high school, graduated and said goodbye to all of your friends and family.

After putting up a personalized but relatable message of “Hi my name is….” on your class Facebook page, you friend a majority of its members, find a roommate “destined” to be your best friend for life and await move-in day.

Your parents pack the car and leave your hometown with a college parent magnet proudly displayed on their back bumper. Tired upperclassmen students who volunteered to assist with move-in day help you make countless trips to your dorm, carrying boxes and suitcases full of everything you think you need.

With your clothes folded by mom and put into drawers, photos of family and friends displayed on your dresser and alcohol hidden under your bed, you say tearful goodbyes to your family — let the adventure begin.

A lanyard around your neck, college ID stocked with meal swipes and “college name, year” proudly displayed on your updated Instagram bio, you are absolutely positive that you are about to master this place.

Soon reality will set in.

You might think you know what goes on, on campus, off campus and everywhere in between, but it won’t take long for you to realize that you have no idea what is going on — actually, nobody really does.

College is like losing your mom in the grocery store for four years. You are lost, disoriented, surrounded by people and there’s a very good chance you will cry, but the thing about this time is that everyone around you is trying to navigate the store too.

Although we all wish we could skip to the part where we’re sitting in the super-happy, always-fun college depicted in movies and TV shows, we all start out the same — orientation, with a bunch of strangers wearing matching drawstring backpacks, an overly enthusiastic orientation leader, and a phone that won’t stop buzzing from mom and dad’s calls and texts.

And usually, one friend, seemingly mandatory because they they live with you.

Whether you chose random roommate selection, pair with a best friend from high school or found someone through Facebook stalking and awkward “You seem cool, are you looking for a roommate?” messages, very rarely does that match live up to the Hollywood perception that has been created — that you two will end up as best friends, become inseparable and live out every crazy college memory together.

More often than not, there will be some unforgettable roommate memories, but they will mainly consist of arguments about socks on the door, whose turn it is to fill up the Brita and whether or not it’s necessary to set 15-minute increment alarms to wake up in the morning.

While it may seem like everyone is experiencing ~roomie love~ and you are the only one who is less than thrilled with your co-inhabitant, keep in mind this is probably not only your first time learning to live with a complete stranger, but also having to share a shoebox-sized space.

Arriving at college is exciting and terrifying, partly because you are now a small fish in a big pond. Even if your pond is small, you still don’t know the other fish. For the first time in years, you are given a seemingly simple task — make friends.

However, a common misconception is that these connections happen right away. Just as your nights out with the roommate might dwindle, your first-semester “friends” might not be “your people” standing beside you in your graduation photos.

People give advice like, “keep your door open,” “join clubs,” “get involved” andput yourself out there,” but the truth is, the most genuine and long-lasting friendships will develop naturally.

Everyone’s college experience is different and you never know when an unlikely friendship will form. Your lifelong best friend could be the classmate who always lends you an extra pen.

Your future bridesmaid could be the girl you share the bathroom with at a house party, as you bond over your mutual anger that there is no toilet paper.

Just like anything new, making friends is a trial-and-error learning experience. It’s normal if your friendships don’t seem as tight-knit as the “squad goals” on your newsfeed. No one is having as amazing of a time as their Instagram and Snapchat story might make it seem, and nobody is doing college “right” or “wrong,” despite what the movies might say.

Freshman year is one of those rare times in life when it’s completely justified to act ridiculous and seem utterly clueless. Embrace the stupidity.

No matter how much you say, “I’m not going to act like a freshman,” you will, and I don’t think anything is wrong with that.

You are going to be a little awkward, a little over-eager to make friends and a little (or a lot) lost.

It’s okay if all of your friends say “I love college” and you aren’t so sure yet. Your feelings are valid if you wonder if you really chose the right school.

Nobody always loves or hates their school.

Sometimes you happily walk around your beautiful campus and sometimes you will feel so lonely that you would give anything for a home-cooked meal and lazy night with your family at home.

Your first year of college is full of change, but eventually, campus won’t feel so completely unfamiliar.

You will learn how to navigate the chaotic but exhilarating world of college — the ways to make it, fake it, survive and thrive.

You will learn how although there is no “I’ in team, apparently there is one hidden somewhere in “group project”. You will learn how to breathe quietly so no one realizes how much you are struggling to walk up a flight of stairs. And ultimately that it is okay to be confused, uncertain and anxious about what is happening and what is to come.

Classes become more manageable and you find people who don’t make you question whether you fit in. Your campus will feel more like home.

No matter how many checklists you find on the internet about “how to do freshman year right” everyone’s adjustment is different. You will walk away with experiences you won’t forget and some you might regret, but just know that this is only the beginning.

College is a time of immense growth, learning and understanding, so ultimately, be prepared to gain a lot more freshman year than 15 pounds.

Annie Henry, ’18, is a community engagement manager and columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Use the college experiance as a transition to adult life and how to function in the real world. Make good decisions that will not haunt you for the rest of your life.

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