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5 Collegiettes Get Real About Freshman Year

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Freshman year of college is an intense time in everyone’s life. It’s typically your first experience living away from home and feels like the start of the rest of your life. While a lot of questions can be answered during campus tours, you don’t always hear about the realities of freshman year. We asked five Collegiettes who are getting ready to finish up their first year for the nitty gritty details.

What’s one thing no one told you about freshman year?

Leah: No one will judge you for not knowing what you want to do with your life. If you’re still undecided, or unsure that your current major is the right one for you, there are so many resources and academic advisors who are always there and who completely understand how stressed out you are.

Lauren: One thing no one told me about freshman year is that you are surrounded by so many different types of people. Because colleges tend to have more students than high schools, you’ll meet a larger variety of people compared to those you knew in high school. This is a great thing. In high school, I only really hung out with my group of friends who were all very similar to each other. I’m now friends with people who are so different from me and that have taught me so much because of it. Also, because you’re with your friends much more in college than you were in high school, you get to know them a lot better. The amount of times I’ve had crazy deep conversations with friends is countless. This has helped me to learn so much about the people around me and myself in general.

Carly: Freshman year of college is a weird time because you’re not necessarily surrounded by all dictionary-definition freshmen. Your classmates are at all different stages of their lives, some are straight outta high school, some are 24-year old athletes, some are older adults studying something new. People don’t really tell you that, they usually talk about freshmen as if they’re all the same.

Lena: That you may not find your niche on campus right away. I came here expecting to immediately find my “thing,” and that’s just not realistic for everyone.

Lulu: One thing everyone should know about freshman year, that no one really told me until it was happening, is that IT IS OKAY TO BE SAD OR SCARED. When I was feeling super alone and sad towards the beginning, I remember feeling like no one else felt the same way. I missed my parents, and it seemed like no one else did. But I want incoming freshmen to know that it’s okay to miss your parents and your friends and just your bed. Just because no one’s talking about missing home doesn’t mean no one does.

What’s the biggest myth about freshman year?

Leah: For me, the biggest myth was the infamous freshman 15 weight gain. I was terrified that I’d be too busy with classes to work out, or have no control over what I ate because UMass dining is so delicious. In reality, it’s not difficult to stay fit because of the number of healthy DC options; even walking to class when you have time is an easy way to cram in a little cardio and fresh air.

Lauren: The biggest myth about freshman year is that it’s the time when everyone generally finds themselves and what they want to do with their lives. So not true. There are so many people who still have no idea what they’re doing with their lives and that’s completely okay. I think that’s what freshman year is for: exploring different things so you can then determine who you are and what you want to do later on.

It’s important to take risks in both social and academic situations. How are you supposed to know if you like something unless you actually try it? I definitely wasn’t sure I chose the right major until I actually took a leap and tried something new with it. I’m a journalism major, and when I had my first article published, I knew it was right for me. Use your freshman year to explore different opportunities, but this doesn’t mean you have to be settled on one thing in your first year of college.

Carly: I think there’s a myth about life in general that you learn isn’t accurate as a freshman in college. The myth says humans are sensitive to the cold and may experience hypothermia or frostbite, for example. But I have seen so much blatant disregard for the elements in so little time – college women rock crop tops, skirts and no jacket straight through the New England winter. You can’t teach that kind of toughness.

Lena: The freshman 15! You have to walk everywhere here, and I’m way more active now than I was in high school. The food is good of course, and it’s easy to go overboard, but it’s also easy to balance out with activity.

Lulu: I think the biggest myth about freshman year, that I’ve heard, is that everyone is always hooking up. You hear all these stories about how people wanted to lose their virginity right before college so they won’t seem “inexperienced,” but in my experience, it’s not particularly necessary. Maybe it’s my friend group, but we haven’t had a ton of casual hookups with random people this year. 

What’s honestly the scariest part of freshman year?

Leah: It’s incredibly overwhelming to pick classes, because I always feel like I’m missing a requirement or will end up having to take an extra semester of classes because I’m short on credits.

Lauren: I think the scariest part of freshman year was making that first move to try and meet people. I know a ton of people who acted completely different than who they truly are during the first weekend to try to impress others, and were then stuck with friends who they didn’t necessarily relate to. It’s so important to be yourself when you’re first making friends. If you don’t, you’re missing out on people who you can actually relate to and possibly some who could be the best friends you’ll ever meet.

Carly: It was scary to go into freshman year “Undecided.” The first couple of months reminded me of middle school AIM conversations, you know the infamous: “hey. hey. sup? ntmu? nothing. so who do u like?” Only when the conversation dies at college, instead of asking who you like, people ask you what your major is. It’s also scary to be told that college is the best time of your life, because freshman year is probably (and hopefully!) not.

Lena: The scariest part of freshman year is the times when you’re alone and have to figure stuff out by yourself. You’ll have friends, but you aren’t together 24/7, and sometimes you’ll just have to find a classroom or fix an administrative problem yourself.

Lulu: The scariest part for me was the strangeness of being alone those first few weeks. I just wanted to go home, honestly. I wanted to go back to my room with my cat and talk to my dad about my day. I really wanted to see my friends. I was scared I wouldn’t make it through this year or that I wouldn’t find anyone I liked, friends-wise. I live on the Hill so walking up every day, I thought to myself, “If I can make it up this hill, I can make it through this.” 

How long did it take you to feel at home on campus?

Leah: It took me about a month to feel at home on campus. Once I had a solid friend group and I wasn’t getting lost at every turn, the campus suddenly felt super familiar and homey.

Lauren: I pretty much felt at home right away. Once I figured out where all of my classes were and determined my favorite spots to eat on campus (this is a must-do as soon as possible), I loved UMass. I also think that the people you meet and the friends you make help you to feel comfortable and at home because they sort of become your honorary family.

Carly: I felt comfortable really quickly. It helps to spend a lot of time making your room homey. Even though I hardly spend any time at all in there, it’s always nice to come back to a space that doesn’t resemble a jail cell.

Lena: I only really felt at home on campus towards the end of my second semester, when I had found friends I liked and was comfortable doing things on my own. I thought I would have adjusted earlier, but it truly is a process and you can’t rush it. I’m sure next semester I’ll feel even more comfortable.

Lulu: It took me a few days, maybe a week to feel at home. Once classes and work started, I began to have a routine, which really helped. Also within the first few weeks I found some great friends, which really helped to make my dorm feel like a home. 

What’s one thing you wish you had known at the beginning that you know now?

Leah: I wish I had taken the time to understand the bus system, because it would have saved me hours of walking. Also, taking advantage of the resources (advising, specifically) would have alleviated a lot of stress.

Lauren: I wish I had known to not get involved in a romantic relationship right from the start. This is definitely something I’d love for incoming freshmen to learn from me. A week after move-in day I started dating someone, and as great of an experience that was, I feel that I lost a lot of opportunities to make great friendships. Dating in college can be great because it gives you the feeling of intimacy that you’ve lost from not being around family (having a pet at school could give you that same feeling, but obviously that’s not allowed). When you’re spending all your time with one person meeting other people can definitely be harder.

Carly: Everyone says “Get involved, sign up for everything, join so many clubs!!” I took that advice to heart; I mean really took it directly to heart. And let me tell you there is such thing as being overinvolved. That happened. I know now it’s better to commit to a few main things, so you have time to be more than just a lifeless body at the weekly meetings (and maybe even a leader).

Lena: Honestly, I wish I had known how to relax at the beginning of the year. I got really anxious with school and friends, which was misplaced and unnecessary. Just take your time and have fun! No one is judging you.

Lulu: One thing I know now is that I should’ve made it part of my routine to keep my room neat. It’s honestly past the point of no return at this point. I don’t mean to scare my parents, it’s livable! It would’ve just been easier to make it more organized and keep it in check if I started doing that at the beginning of the year.

Do you ever miss high school?

Leah: I don’t miss high school—there are certain friends and teachers who made an impact on my life, but the classes and overall environment at UMass are so wonderful. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the independence that you have in college, and it’s definitely not as prevalent when you’re in high school and still living at home.

Lauren: Not really. As much as I loved high school and miss all my friends from back home, I think college is just so much better. In my opinion, the school day isn’t as stressful because you may have breaks in between and also may be learning about a topic that you’re genuinely interested in if it has to do with your major. The independence is great too and I’ve learned a lot from having to do things on my own without parents around.

Carly: I do!! I miss it a lot. I’m lucky my high school experience was awesome and I avoided the “I hate everything and everyone” phase. Now it’s harder to be without friends who set the bar unreasonably high, and the small school spirit that made athletics and other events so fun.

Lena: Sometimes I miss being able to just come home at the end of the school day or see my high school friends at lunch. But college is an awesome experience, and seeing your family and friends during breaks just makes the experience even more special.

Lulu: I actually have never found myself missing high school. Sometimes I miss my friends or certain teachers, but I never actually miss the institution. I think that’s because I’m having so much fun here and the classes are, honestly, so much more interesting. I also feel like I’m building towards something, even if I’m only going into my sophomore year. 

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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Catie Baumgartner

U Mass Amherst

Linguist, sports enthusiast & all-around adventurer with a severe case of wanderlust.