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The freshman fantasy is just another myth

Every year, I feel excited about my students going off to college. Some of them have already built a college friend group during senior year of high school, and others have the natural confidence to create one as soon as they hit campus. Personally, my three kids had three different freshman year experiences. During the move-in, my oldest made new friends to have dinner with that night; she politely recommended a place where we could eat before she even unpacked. At the time, I didn’t realize how unusual that was.

The truth is that freshman year, socially speaking, is not easy for most students. An advisor at my youngest daughter’s college spoke to us about helping students manage expectations (sound familiar?) at Parent’s Weekend. She advised them to stay positive, make “life raft friends,” and understand that these friends, and their roommates, might not become their closest friends for life. Good advice, little comfort. The vulnerability that comes with seeking acceptance is painful.

Settling into freshman year keeps getting harder as students watch their Photoshopped friends partying like celebrities. It’s tough to connect when everyone is lost in their phones.

I wish that I didn’t feel moved to post this video every year, but it's worth watching. Made by a Cornell freshman for a school project, it somehow captures not only the discomfort, but also the optimism, of the freshman college experience. The video remains hopeful, and so do I, because the college experience really does get better!


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