I remember being so happy on my last day of my freshman year of high school because I couldn’t stand being called a “freshman” anymore. I guess I was so excited that I totally missed the fact that I would be called this again in a few short years when I went off to college. A few months ago, at my graduation luncheon, I was all smiles talking about how relieved I was to have finished high school. But then a relative of mine uttered the words “I remember my freshman year of college”, and even though nothing could take away the joy I felt at that time, the thought of being a freshman all over again flooded my mind. Being a freshman isn't easy, and I was curious to see how being a college freshman would compare to being one in high school.
1. Nobody can tell you’re a freshman in college based on your appearance.
When you’re a freshman in high school, upperclassmen can spot you from a mile away because the appearance is usually a giveaway. You can’t go by my case because I’ve been the same height since I was fourteen, but usually, the shorter you are and the younger you look, the more likely you’ll be seen as a freshman. A lot of high school freshmen still have braces and look like they’re in middle school. The difference in looks amongst high schoolers is noticeable because teens go through a lot of physical change during (I apologize for the word I’m about to use) puberty.
But, when you’re starting college, you’re already a young adult who has pretty much finished (here it is again) puberty. There’s no way of differentiating between the appearance of an eighteen-year-old and a twenty-one-year-old; everyone pretty much looks the same in regard to age. Before starting school, I thought it would be painfully obvious that I looked like a first-year student. Yet, I was surprised that whenever I talk to someone new, they ask me what year I am. Sometimes, they even think I'm a sophomore or a junior.
2. Nobody cares if you’re a freshman once you get to college.
You’ve read the books and watched the movies about the stereotypical freshman starting high school. There's always been this stupid stigma that high school freshmen are “less than” sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I think this is dumb, but this might have something to do with the fact that they have less experience and they haven’t quite learned the ins and outs of high school yet.
Fast-forward to college, and it’s pretty much a level playing field. Obviously, the seniors know more tricks of the trade than the freshmen, but since there’s so many things to do and places to be, word spreads pretty fast. Soon enough, a first-year will easily know the lay of the land. It only took me a month and a half to perfect my Cosí order and to learn the best times of the day to go to the cafeteria.
3. For the most part, being a college freshman is a bigger transition, but being a high school freshman is the first big transition.
Change is a big deal. Transitions don’t just happen overnight. You have to crawl before you can walk, and you have to walk before you can run, and… you know the rest. Everyone’s first day at a new school is scary regardless of how old you are. I remember how scared I was to start high school; it was my first time attending a private, all-girls Catholic institution; I wasn’t even baptized Catholic!
High school is the first really big step to becoming an adult. It’s the place where you will start studying for your SATs, make your résumé, apply for college, master the art of going to prom with a guy you barely know, and so much more. However, in my opinion, college is the biggest transition into adulthood. It’s the place where you say goodbye to being a teenager who is dependent on their parents and says hello to learning how to be self-sufficient and mature.
College is the place where I learned how awful it feels to realize at midnight, after you’ve been cramming for a test, that you left your bedsheets in the dryer and have to not only put on decent clothing just in case you run into anyone but also make the three-story trek down to the scary and roach-inhabited laundry room and back up to your room again. College truly is the place where adults are made! I know that some high schools (and even elementary and middle schools) are boarding schools, and this is also definitely a huge milestone for anyone beginning to pursue their education in such a grown-up way.
4. High school freshmen tend to stick with their own class, while college freshmen mingle with other classes.
When I was a freshman in high school, I only had one friend who was in a higher grade than me, and that was only because one of my friends (a fellow freshman, of course) danced with her outside of school. I feel like, for the most part, freshmen don’t really have a great opportunity to make strong friendships with people outside of their grade unless they’re in a committed club or sport that establishes this bond. Almost always, the classes that freshmen are in only contain freshmen in them. This makes it hard for people to familiarize themselves with their other schoolmates. When you get to be a junior or senior in high school, classes can sometimes contain students from both grades because the course is tailored to a specific academic concentration.
In college, I have friends from every single grade. A big part of this has to do with getting to know them from class; in my philosophy class, the majority of the students were freshmen, but there were a few sophomores and juniors, and even a senior. Also, because the number of students attending your particular college will probably be more than the student size of your high school, there are so many ways you can meet people. The more students there are, the more clubs, sports, and activities there will likely be, which means the number of ways to meet different people are endless. I became very close with one sophomore and two juniors through a program I did before the semester even started.
5. College freshmen have more freedom and opportunities than high school freshman.
At my high school, the freshmen are not allowed to sit in the lobby. Why? I honestly have no idea. Every other grade can enjoy sitting on the couches in one of the prettiest spots in the entire school, but the freshmen can’t. It seems as if in high school, the more years you have under your belt, the more privileges you get.
This (thankfully) is not the case in college. There really aren’t any rules about things you can or cannot do based on your year of graduation. I even hang out in the lobby of the building where all the business classes are all the time and I’m not even a business student! Except for the fact that the dorms get nicer as you get closer to your senior year, I can say that I, personally, feel as if my school makes it very clear that all grades are equal in the opportunities we’re given.
6. College freshmen have experience with being fresh meat at their school.
If I haven’t already convinced you that being a freshman in college is nothing to dread (especially when contrasting it to high school), there’s always the fact that you’ve been a freshman before, so you can do it again. Based off of the pretty absurd cliché that high school freshmen are somehow beneath the students of the other grades, it’s safe to say that first-year students loathe being seen as the “fresh meat” at their school. Who wouldn’t be excited to finally finish being called the “frosh” of the school?
Luckily, once you get to college, you can already say you’ve been a freshman once before and can handle it again, right? You know that’s it’s normal to be lost on your first day of classes and it’s not the lamest thing in the world to ask an upperclassman where the cafeteria is.
After spending a lot of time comparing and contrasting my freshman experiences in both high school and college, I have come to the conclusion that being a freshman in college is SO much better than in high school. I wish I knew this before coming to college because I would have been so much more relaxed. I shouldn’t have just assumed that being a freshman again would be the same as it was last time. Your first year at college will be such a unique and extraordinary experience. Don’t believe that the freshmen clichés you may have endured in high school will follow to college. College is such a wonderful experience because you get to make whatever you want out of it!