Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It’s OK not to have a perfect freshman year

Know your limits and desires

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(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Hannah Lieberman, Collegian Columnist

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For years, we couldn’t wait to go to college. Most of us spent the first 12 school years of our lives with the same people, and 12 years is a long time. High school culture is weird and difficult – it’s hard to make new friends because “friend groups” tend to become set in stone at the beginning of freshman year, or even in middle school, and it’s such a small community that branching further out from your social circle is pretty much impossible. Everyone has a reputation that feels permanent and almost like a brand. College, a new world that looms on the horizon, becoming closer and closer over high school’s four dragging and tumultuous years, is a unique chance to start over. We see it as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, shed our long-held reputations, and make a new group of friends who are just as excited about starting anew and are ready to welcome us with open arms.

While moving into college is an exciting and huge change, so many freshmen, myself included, have felt the pressure to completely remake ourselves and have a seamless transition to independent life overflowing with new opportunities and friends. But the reality is that leaving behind everything you’ve ever known is scary and difficult, and we need to be okay admitting that to ourselves and others.

It’s impossible to discuss the societal pressure to have a great time in college without bringing up social media culture. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other social apps and sites are breeding grounds for comparisons and competition. We’re constantly scrolling through posts by our friends from home about how much fun they’re having at school, and we feel pressure to show everyone that we’re having just as much fun. If you didn’t know me and came across my Instagram feed, you’d think that all I do is go out and have fun with my new friends. In reality, I’m constantly in class or doing homework, I don’t get nearly enough sleep and I struggle to get my Massachusetts Daily Collegian articles in on time. But we don’t post about those things, let alone talk about them.

Our social media profiles most often show us at our best, enjoying ourselves and looking great. When I went home for Columbus Day weekend and everyone and their cousin wanted to know how college was going, my response was always, “Great! I’m really busy but having tons of fun!” This shows everyone that not only am I learning a lot and having academic success, but I’m also engaging in the fun college lifestyle and enjoying myself.

The idea that college is the time to “work hard, play hard” is a very real pressure. We want to do exceptionally well in school, but also have a blast every weekend. “FOMO,” or Fear of Missing Out, is also very real. There’s this sense that everyone is loving life in college, and that in order to make the most of your university experience, you need to be constantly partying and social. I’m an extrovert and I love to dress cute and go out as much as the next freshman girl, but there comes a time when constantly being with people becomes draining.

Everyone needs time for themselves, but we’re so afraid of missing out on “college life” that we often skip time for self-care so that we can be with friends. Every free moment that isn’t spent on homework is an opportunity to be social. During these first few weeks of freshman year, I’ve pretty much constantly been in class, doing homework (with friends), hanging out in the Van Meter basement or out at night. I’ve gotten a full eight hours of sleep maybe three times, and you’ll rarely see me without a coffee in hand. I’m absolutely exhausted, and I ask myself often: is this worth the hype? Is this what everyone loves about college life?

The answer is no, at least for me, and I’m sure for many others as well. If you look at my photos from the first tailgate, you’d think that I had a blast. I was actually very sick and on my second dose of Dayquil in 12 hours. I felt the need, though, to post, so that everyone would think that I’d had a great time. The pressure isn’t just about FOMO, or the need to have a great college experience, but also the need to show everyone that we’re having a great college experience.

If we gather the confidence to admit that life isn’t always great, that sometimes we’re too tired to go out, or even that we’re struggling with newfound independence, I think we’ll find that more freshmen are feeling the same way. It’s normal and okay to be tired, stressed or homesick. It takes a lot more courage to admit that not everything is amazing than to pretend that it is. And more importantly, honesty and openness lay the foundation for the strong, lasting friendships we’re all dying to make.

Hannah Lieberman is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “It’s OK not to have a perfect freshman year”

  1. Amy on October 11th, 2018 1:11 am

    These feel good , it’s okay, wow I am honest, so you can too, op-eds are really getting old.

  2. iKvetch on October 12th, 2018 11:10 am

    Your issues with the expectations and pressures you feel regarding your freshman experience are actually a symptom of far bigger problem. We are pushing far too many of our youth into a college experience they are neither prepared for nor well suited to.
    The simple fact is that we have been beating kids over the head with the “fact” that college is THE way to succeed in life for so long and so effectively, that many kids who should not be anywhere near a 4 -year college classroom are pushed in to going in to debt just to keep up with their age cohort. College is no longer a good place to “find yourself” and has not been for many years, and especially not if you are going in to debt to be there.
    First, we need to be telling kids the truth, that 4 years or more of college is NOT for everyone. Not every person can benefit from a college education. Those that are not obviously good candidates for it should be politely and gently directed to community colleges, or other life paths.
    Second, we need to be finding ways for kids to “find themselves” in the real world, or in community colleges, in particular by encouraging kids to take a year or two away from school before they decide to go to another school. It seems pretty obvious that not all kids should be pipelined direct from high school in to college, and that many who are pushed to continue school need to take time away from formal education to begin the process of learning to “adult.”
    Finally, we need to focus the financial aid on the kids with the most to gain from it…and stop funding kids to go to school just because that is what they are supposed to do. If you don’t know pretty specifically what you want to do with your college education, you probably should not be in college, and you definitely should not be using up resources that could be supporting the kids who really do want to be there and know what they want to do with their education. If you are unsure of how college can benefit you and advance your life goals, then I think that one of the many many fine vocational schools or community colleges are a far better, and cheaper, place for you to figure that out.
    I applaud you for even touching upon the fact that the college experience is deeply unsatisfying for a huge portion of the kids who undertake it…I just hope that anything I have said has made you question WHY this is the case in a more fundamental way.

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