What’s the best year of college? The life of a freshman vs. the life of a senior




In American culture, the period of time during which a person attends college functions as a sort of transitional period between legal and actual adulthood. While most come to college with permission from their state and national governments to vote, smoke cigarettes and buy lottery tickets, it can be safely inferred most of them have very little experience in the realm of adult responsibility.

This means that the freshman year of college opens up a huge realm of experiences heretofore unknown to the previously nascent high school student.

As a freshman, all these new experiences unfold in a grand, unprecedented sweep, producing a feeling not unlike one may receive upon finally deciphering a passage of extremely confusing philosophy: both mental and visceral.  The notion of freedom becomes a still hormone-confused reality and sits ripe and ready to be utilized like an unexploited market demographic for an ambitious entrepreneur.  How many of these possibilities are really tangible, possible, realistic, etcetera, etcetera?  Very few of them.

But one (sometimes) wonderful thing about the human psyche is that if it is not aware of the facts—sometimes even if it is—it has no problem experiencing utter falsity as truth so long as it sounds promising enough.  Is it likely I will ever become an astronaut?  No, but I am only 19. The hope has not been totally debunked despite my terrible vision and proclivity for nausea during turbulent flights.

If freshmen enter college with a nearly infinite number of options on a metaphorical horizon line, seniors are exiting college with such options extensively truncated or practically nonexistent.  If the poor job market in recent years has proved anything, it has been that being an adult is: A. not all that much fun sometimes and B. more often than not, sucks.

For seniors, the hopes and dreams of freshman year went down the tubes when they first vomited while partying too hard, when they were forced to seriously declare a major, and when they had to switch their major for the 16th time because everything else they wanted to do was just silly or not something actually attainable with their skill set.  The only real point of excitement in their lives now is purchasing their first turbo tax software and waiting for their first dependents to be born under the harsh fluorescence of a hospital maternity ward.

How envious they secretly are of us freshman with so much life ahead of us and so many opportunities buzzing noisily around our big heads swelled with pride, soon to be deflated as we too become grumpy, cynical seniors.




Some things I freaked out about as a freshman and now categorize as not important when viewed from that all-knowledgeable senior perspective:

1. Rules. It’s okay to break rules sometimes. For example, as a freshman writing for the Mirror, I would have been freaking out that this list I’m forming is not in standard AP style. As a senior, I realize that the Mirror is not The New York Times (no offense) and that students have enough to read already. This list pleases your scattered brain, doesn’t it?

2. Rules, part two. As a senior, getting a parking ticket is not as important. Not because we have more money than freshman (we are actually MUCH more broke) but because we’ve mastered the art of avoiding tickets. It’s okay to use snow to your advantage (Campus Safety isn’t going to brush off your window to see if you have a pass) or back your car into the space.

Also, if you have a bunch of hummus and grapes that you need to haul into Student Street (because you are the one organizing events now, not just going to them), it’s okay to pull your car onto the sidewalk.

3. GPA. Those three little numbers just aren’t as important as I cracked them up to be. Okay, if you’re going to grad school or applying for a big scholarship, you should probably keep an eye on your GPA.

However, if you’re going out into the working world, experience is everything. To get an interesting job, you have to be an interesting person. To be an interesting person, you have to live an interesting life. If your grade suffers a bit because you spent more time diving into a chapter not covered on a test simply because it interested you, you’re not at a loss. So stop stressing over the grade on your test next week and learn about the real world around you.

4. Pleasing everyone. At Augie, if you please everyone, you’ll end up in 17 student organizations with no time to live that interesting life that I talked about in number 3. I’m not saying don’t be involved, because participating in student groups is a great college experience, but don’t commit to things for the sake of making others happy. If you’re too stressed to spend an hour catching up with a friend in the commons for the sake of someone else, then something is off-balance.  As a senior, I’ve learned (maybe a little late) that saying no can be a good thing.

5. Making Mistakes. If I hadn’t made the mistake of freaking out about all of these things, I wouldn’t be able to share this list with you.