How To Be A Freshman In College

Flickr / Bradley Gordon
Flickr / Bradley Gordon

Be alternately thrilled and terrified about the idea of college. Have long talks with your best friends before you leave about how college will change everything and nothing will ever be the same. It will take a month for you to realize that you were completely right and completely wrong about that.

Have your parents help move you into your terrifyingly small dorm. Marvel at seeing other kids your age carrying hampers with their emotional parents. Feel so exposed when a large group of your peers sees you with your family because it’s like they’re getting to see the fatter older version of you. Kick your parents out ASAP and then cry in your dorm room because you’ll miss them so much.

The first few weeks of school will feel like summer camp. Everyone is just so open and ready to meet their future best friends. Leave your door open and play alternative music so people will know that someone cool lives there. Also develop a strategic plan with your clothes. Wear outfits that will convey to people what kind of stereotype you fall under. For example, wear band t-shirts every day during the first week of college so you can attract someone with similar music tastes. Just think of it as being the super sized version of yourself. There’s “You” and then there’s “First week of college you.”

Latch on to the first person you meet at orientation. Talk nervously about how you’re both overwhelmed and feel a sense of relief that you’re not alone in your anxiety. Accompany them to the dining hall, find your classes together, and delude yourself into thinking you’ve found a friend. Two weeks later, realize they suck and ditch them when you find someone else you have more in common with.

Fail to understand that a lot of the friends you make freshman year of college will disappear once you’ve found your niche. That’s okay though. You’re not being an asshole. You’re just being a freshman in college who has no friends for the first time since middle school. As a result, your standards are lowered. It’s like you’re wearing the friendship version of beer goggles. During this time, you might befriend the following types of people: hippies who believe in conspiracy theories, boring people who are only fun to go out to dinner with, stoners, girls from Fresno with eating disorders, and dull hipsters who looked cool on Facebook. These types of people will float in and out of your life during freshman year, and by the time you’re a junior, you’ll have honestly blocked them out completely. If they’re ever mentioned again, just roll your eyes and say, “Well, that was freshman year of college. Nothing counts.”

Realize that it’s impossible to be popular in college. Depending on what kind of person you were in high school, this epiphany may delight or devastate you.

Take an 8:45 AM Women’s Studies class with the intention of being enlightened. Wonder if your professor will be the mentor that changes your life forever. Get excited to finally learn. End up going to the class five times because it was too early in the morning and the teacher was kind of a goober.

Go to so many themed parties. Go to a Marie Antoinette party, an 80s party, a stripes party, a jungle party. If you’re under 21, you have to be imaginative with the ways you’ll be getting drunk. “Wait, you mean this party is just a party? And we’ll be getting drunk here? I thought it was a fiesta theme! I brought chips and salsa!”

Drink. A lot. Take ten Jello shots at a house party and vomit rainbow colors for seven hours. Miss your poli sci exam because you can’t move and begin to wonder if college is becoming too much. Your friends don’t seem to think so though. Every time you puke or hook up with a gross guy they congratulate you as if you’ve won the Nobel Peace Price. Quickly catch on that doing college “right” means making an ass out of yourself every single night. Feel obligated to make mistakes.

Your love life will be one of three things:

  1. Your attempting a long-distance relationship with your high school sweetheart. You’ll be on the phone with them 24/7 and everyone will make fun of you for it. Your conversations will consist of hushed declarations of love and saying things like, “Babe, I’m trying to make this work but I feel like I’m alone here.”
  2. You’ll find a boyfriend/girlfriend your first few weeks of college and become addicted to them. The relationship will feel so adult because you’ll get to sleep together every night in your respective shoeboxes of a room, and deal with your annoying roommate who plays World of Warcraft. Ahhh! Maturity! Take that, Mom & Dad!
  3. You’ll be a total whore. You’ll make out with ugly people and do multiple walks of shame. You’re not sure why you’re doing it. You just feel like you have to sleep with as many people as possible. Otherwise, you’re not doing experiencing college.

Enter your freshman year of college bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Leave it slightly hungover and possibly with an STD. For nine months, you had your first taste of freedom. It was cool and everything, but you wish someone told you that freedom can sometimes taste like shit. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Michael Koh

    I miss being a freshman… Just kidding. Damn.


    I am going to attempt to disprove every single one of these things when I start university in the Fall.

    • Anna B

      Good luck trying!

      • College Textbooks

        Those were the days!!

    • LDN

      …yeh, that ain't happening.

    • Greg

      good luck, but O'Connell pretty much nailed it

    • ricky schitltiiz

      ah, you're in high school. that explains your annoying posting


        What's your excuse?

    • Matthew Ballek

      oh babe, that's how it all starts.
      it's fairly accurate, except the sex part, but i would still saw that's pretty good.

  • Susie Q.

    haha as a senior graduating in a month this made me sad and nostalgic. So on point (especially the three types of people in relationships. I was the “try to make it work with the high school boyfriend girl”. FAIL. Great article!

  • Mikaela Kaimo

    I thought this was gonna be another one of those annoying “how to” articles in Thought Catalog. You proved me wrong. Loved this article!

  • Freshman

    I'm a freshman right now and could relate to everything here with the exception of the love life section. Forever a virgin.

    Great little essay.


      It won't be forever, unless you want it. It just takes time.

    • Michael Koh

      I applaud you for your virginity.

    • 27sandgranola

      That was me first semester freshman and then I went home for winter break and had sex with the first available guy I found, mostly because I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I went to school with that I was a virgin. Except then I came back to school with a long-distance boyfriend, and it was as predictable as any long-distance college relationship could be.
      Freshman year was stupid.

    • Faith Wright

      nothing wrong with that!

  • Anna B

    ” It’s like you’re wearing the friendship version of beer goggles. “

    HAHAHAHAHA, I love this line. And yes, it happens more than once throughout the four years of college.

    “Wonder if your professor will be the mentor that changes your life forever. “
    I always have high hopes at the beginning of every quarter. I'm a graduating senior. I've probably had one teacher who has somewhat influenced me. High expectations suck :[

    cheers to Ryan O'Connell.

  • xmkdz

    i swear i'm not bitter, but when i saw the devastation in certain people's bearing as they slowly realized popularity is impossible in college i felt the kind of tingling glee i feel when a guy who is tailgating me decides to cut me off and an undercover police cruiser follows him and gives him a ticket

  • landoK

    I wore a futureheads tshirt the first day of class, idk why because I didnt like them

  • Louis Scuderi

    Spot on, especially the bit about trying out new friends. There's a little bit of awkwardness when you see the people you've “grown apart” from also.

  • george brostanza

    I'm a sophomore in college and i didn't do any of this my freshman. I'm still deciding on whether or not it went okay or completely sucked. Even if it sucked, i'm sort of okay with that because it is completely my fault (my anti-social self, lack of effort etc, also my non traditional college) and i will learn from it on how to improve my ways of living in a non destructive way. (i.e. flooding my body with drugs and booze)


      You've made the choice to read Thought Catalog. Things are already going in the right direction.

  • xtos

    first year's been fucked! wouldn;t change anything but goddamn if it hasn't been the most bizarre, alienating experience in recent memory.

  • aarondfrancis

    This is brilliant and exactly accurate.

    Saw it via

  • Matthew Ballek

    “hipsters who looked cool on Facebook”. Too true.

  • College Textbooks

    Those were the days. College life was good !!!!

  • N00b

    I'm going to be a freshmen in college this year and i plan to wear lots of band tees, how do I make myself look less pretentious?

    • Hipsterfriend

      Don't worry about it. People who see you as pretentious just for liking some things aren't worth it. Some of my best friendships (and musical partnerships) have been started by somebody wearing the right shirt/hat/patch/button/whatever.

      Also, TC posts that start with “How To Be” are what Goffmann would have blogged. They are straight up social scripts. Barely even satire. Soooooo artseh.

  • OMG

    ahh this is exactly  how my school is like. (i go to Oberlin) 

    ahhh being a freshman is weird (or as they say here “first-year”) 

  • Notofinterest

    haha this is like erasmus!

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