Freshman living: the good, the bad and the ugly

by Samantha Pace

So were you filled with bubbly laughter and delight when you saw your orientation leaders singing and dancing, attempting to teach you about responsible living? Did you faithfully read every colorful pamphlet and leaflet distributed during orientation? Did you really remember the names of all those buildings you learned about on that wonderfully informative and entertaining campus tour?

I didn’t think so.

But don’t feel too overwhelmed or under-prepared. Life at the University isn’t as cheesy or as confusing as it might have first appeared. Six-foot gophers are only spotted once or twice a year, and after you’ve grabbed the wrong Campus Connector for the fifth time, you finally start getting a grasp on where you want to go and how to get there.

However, for the small details – those little hints to help you avoid the pitfalls and enjoy the pleasures of University life – you need a little something more. For this reason and others (I really only like to see my name in print), I offer the Fresh List to University Living: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Listen up, all you freshpeople, and try to profit from the free advice of a four-year University veteran. After this, you will find precious little for free at your new home, the University of Minnesota.


Professors and TAs are Good. They’re living, breathing reservoirs of knowledge and far easier to access than the libraries. TAs are especially Good – they’re approachable and serve as a bridge between you lowly freshmen and the ivory tower of professorial academia. Be good to your teachers and TAs (e.g., participate, speak up and go to office hours) and they’ll be good to you (e.g., they’ll be able to put a face to the grade, they’ll provide amazing resources and information, and you might even find a friend.)

Study abroad is a 100 percent guaranteed Good; absolutely no one returns with any regrets. It’s one of the most intense and enlightening experiences you’ll ever have. If you want to learn a lifetime’s worth in a foreign culture, visit the Global Campus (second floor of Heller Hall) and study abroad!!

The Bad: 8 a.m. classes are Bad. Very Bad. Especially when it’s 40-below outside, it’s barely light, and you have a 10-minute walk to class. Try your damnedest not to be stuck with them.

To all you overachievers out there, obsessing over your grades is Bad. You might end up in the psych ward if you try too hard – and trust me, it’s scary up there with all the other cracked, drooling students and professors. And unless you’re stupid, you should realize your intelligence is more than the sum total of your transcript.

Some fun classes are Good. Too many fun classes can be Bad. Between your horseback-riding class, your golf class and your pottery class, you won’t find much time for career-related classes. Next thing you know, you’ll wake up a seventh-year junior. I’m not kidding, either – these people do exist.

The Ugly: Not going to class can be Ugly, and, contrary to scientific theory, your grades will plummet faster than the speed of light. Freshman lectures usually don’t take attendance, but that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for the information. Partying all night, sleeping all day and missing class can be the beginning of a transcript filled with lovely zeros. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a binary world.

Missing a midterm or a final (for whatever reason – teachers usually don’t care) is very Ugly. Running in half an hour late is just as Ugly. Unless you manage to wet yourself and blubber in front of the professor, your grade will usually be unsalvageable.

No man’s land of academic cheating is the ugliest. It’s humiliating, messy and can result in expulsion. You do not want to find yourself here. Not even wetting yourself and blubbering can save you.

The Living

The Good: Freedom is Good. For many of you, this might be the first time you’re truly on your own. Enjoy it, revel in it, grow in it, but do not abuse it. The backlash can whip you with its Ugly side faster than a tequila shot. Try to learn this before you’re scarred for life.

Squirrels are Good. No matter what other propaganda you hear, just remember that squirrels are Good. You’ll understand what this means in a few years.

Getting involved in clubs, organizations, volunteer groups – all of this is Good. Creating your own niche with friends who care will help take the loneliness out of being one in 40,000 students. You just might meet that special someone who loves Star Wars even more than me. (If so, could you let me know?)

The Minnesota Daily is Good. It’s the largest college newspaper and can offer you the diversions of Network and the crossword during 50-minute biology lectures. Don’t worry, you’ll soon learn what Network is.

Sleep is Good. You’ll discover this after your third consecutive all-nighter. Sleep will become the greatest Good (and thus the least attainable) during finals week.

As a corollary to the above point, Mountain Dew is Good. Coffee is Good. Jolt is Good. Anything with caffeine is Good. (But sleep is still better).

Ramen is Good and will become your dinner buddy. However, you will soon tire of his company, and he’ll then become Bad. Hopefully, you’ll never reach the Ugly stage.

And remember that almost all people are Good. The people you meet here will all be awesome (some more awesome than others). Everyone will have their stories, and you’d be amazed how enriched your own life becomes when you listen to them.

The Bad: Freedom can be Bad, especially if it starts detracting from other priorities. “The party tonight or the midterm tomorrow? I have the freedom to decide!” Uh-huh. Riiiight.

Relationships can be Bad. Dating can be Bad. Granted, they can also be Good, but they might leave more scars than stars in your memory. Date wisely and love cautiously.

Yes, everything you’ve heard is true – dorm food is Bad. It’s edible, but Bad. Kind of like rat poison.

Coca-Cola is Bad. They forever suppressed the presence of Mountain Dew on campus. For this, they are unforgivable.

Roommates are Bad unless you’re extraordinarily lucky. The Roommate-From-Hell legend is not just a nightmare; it’s a reality. Deal with it as best you can – view it as the opportunity to learn how to navigate around mounds of garbage, dirty clothes, vomit, crusty dishes, etc. It builds character.

Walking home at night can be Bad, especially in the winter. The distance and the cold are easier to handle when you call 624-WALK and walk home, talking with an escort.

I’m sorry to lay it on you, but freshmen are Bad. You stumble around campus, wide-eyed and awestruck, looking like you just graduated from 7th grade. Sophomores and juniors find you annoying. You’re easy to spot, so you must be careful of seniors who feel it’s “open season.” But relax – it’s only a temporary awkward phase, almost like puberty. When you watch the hordes of freshmen invade the campus next year (and you will be able to pick them out of crowds), you can proudly realize you’ve matured, and it will now be your duty to make fun of the newbies.

The Ugly: Freedom can be Ugly when it leads to drug or alcohol addiction or other unhealthy behaviors. Why age your mind, body and soul by 40 years when it will happen naturally?

Coffman renovation is Ugly. Welcome to the prospect of paying student services fees for a student union you might never benefit from.

People are Good, but what they carry are not, and it can get Ugly pretty quickly. Can we all say STDs and pregnancy? Understand what love truly is before taking a panic crash course on antibiotics or family planning.

Underage drinking is Bad and often turns Ugly (i.e. rapes, drunk driving, death). Try to stay alive, not hurt anyone and keep a clean criminal record until you’re at least 21. That’s not so hard, is it?

Credit cards are not just Ugly – their evil rivals that of Satan incarnate. Little-known fact: The number one reason kids drop out of college is credit card debt.


And this completes the Fresh List to University Life, summed up in easy categories especially for freshmen eyes. But I leave you with perhaps the greatest tip of all – have fun!!! You’re only young and in college once. Work hard, party harder, don’t get smashed before a final and always – call Mom and Dad. They’re paying your bills.


Samantha Pace is the opinions editor and will be a supersenior next year. She welcomes comments at [email protected]