After spending my senior year of high school milking every last drop of power from my upperclassmen rank, I was not looking forward to being demoted right back to square one as a freshman in college. Commonly characterized as young, hopeful and naive, I feel like freshman are often patronized, less respected and dismissed as “too young to understand.” Although I treated the freshman at my high school in the same manner, I did not want to return to the newbie status in college.
Beginning college in the fall, I missed the perks of being a senior in high school: the confidence from being looked up to by underclassmen and the familiarity of a school I knew well. As a senior in high school, I knew each hallway, each teacher and each classroom a little too well. I knew exactly how long I could procrastinate writing an essay and still receive a good grade. I knew which teachers wouldn’t care if I was a few minutes late to class. I knew where I ate lunch, and exactly who my friends were. By the time I was a senior, high school was comfortable.
And while that comfort is easy to miss, it signifies that my high school career had come to a close. I needed something new to throw me off balance and make me learn. I needed college, but more importantly, I needed to be a freshman again.
However, starting off my autumn quarter, I was adamant to not seem like a freshman. I hid my 2021 lanyard, didn’t wear my NSO t-shirts and tried not to let people see me using Google Maps for directions. It was ridiculous, but I didn’t want to fall into the stereotype of a college freshman. I refused to give other students the satisfaction of identifying me as a freshman before I said a single word. On another level, I didn’t want to be a freshman because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know yet how to function in college.
Since then, I’ve learned two things. First, nobody cares about what you’re doing. I mean this in a positive, liberating way. Obviously your friends and family care about you, but the students walking down the hallway couldn’t care less that you have to use Google Maps to get to class.
Second, I shouldn’t be ashamed to be a freshman. In fact, it has many advantages.
For example, you get a free pass for making mistakes. If you miss a meeting as a freshman, you’re instantly off the hook because “you’re still adjusting to life in college.” I also love being a freshman because even mundane tasks are small victories. Each microwavable recipe and shortcut to class that I discover is a step towards adjusting to life in college. The new environment of college is more interesting as a freshman as well. Everything is novel. Additionally, freshman year is a chance to rediscover yourself in a new environment without the pressure of real, adult responsibilities in the near future.
So, I have come to the conclusion that there’s no point in hiding my 2021 lanyard, because being a freshman is fantastic. I have another three years in front of me to learn and discover who I am in college. As a freshman, I’ve got nothing but time and potential, and that’s pretty darn great.
Contact Phoebe Quinton at pquinton ‘at’ stanford.edu.