The Freshman Depression

by Madelyn Macias | Thursday, Sep 21, 2023

Most people have heard of the phrase “the Freshman Fifteen" referring to the fifteen pounds of weight a freshman typically gains in their first year of college. This is usually due to high stress levels, lack of sleep, and the feeling of freedom to eat and do whatever you want whenever you want. However, I want to talk about something else that happens to college students in their first year. It may not happen to all freshmen, just like how not everyone gains fifteen pounds their first year of college, but I do believe it is more common than people think. I like to call it: “the Freshman Depression.” I know, it’s a little darker than the term “the Freshman Fifteen.” However, this topic may resonate with students even more than its sister term. 


The Freshman Depression refers to the mental health state of a freshman. The two mental health issues I faced as a freshman were anxiety and depression. In high school, I had a 4.0 GPA. I was not considered a popular girl, but I was a twin, which was cool and drew attention to me and my sister. I was also the star of my basketball team and lead electric guitar player in the band. I went to a small high school, so my classmates were the same ones I had since 5th grade. High school was easy for me. When I went to college, I was expecting the same. However, two weeks before classes began, I switched my majors and re-registered for all new classes. I already felt overwhelmed, and my college experience hadn’t even started yet. 


When I first moved in and classes began, I loved it. I had friends from orientation that I hung out with, barely any homework the first few classes, and felt free since I was away from my parents. But eventually this all faded. My friends met new friend groups that I did not fit into. My classes became harder, and I had never dealt with such challenging course material. My “freedom” felt more like I was drifting at sea with no direction. I was so confused about my future and career.


Additionally, I was becoming more and more broke, so I got a job. I was working 50-60 hours a week, sitting in class 12 hours a week, and spending about 3-5 hours a day doing homework. In other words, I was getting roughly 2 hours of sleep a night. Sometimes, I would not sleep for days. I quickly put on weight because I no longer had the time or energy to hit the gym. Eventually it kept getting worse. I had never felt so alone, exhausted, confused, and lonely all at the same time.


I quickly developed insecurity in my academic abilities, anxiety about my future, and depression about my life. My social life was nonexistent. I was gaining weight and becoming so unhealthy to the point that my cholesterol shot through the roof, and I almost had to go on medication. I felt distant from my family, whom I was close to, and I did not feel like I was living the great college experience everyone told me about. I found it hard to make deep connections with new people since all my best friends were back home. Although the pressure to make lots of friends was present, the natural connections were not. 


My freshman experience was wonderful for the first semester. I had many laughs and memories and enjoyed it stress-free. It was the second semester when all this really hit me. However, I was embarrassed and ashamed of admitting that I needed help. I felt like I let everyone down. My parents and friends all had high expectations of me when I went away to college, but honestly, I just felt like a loser. My sister had a ton of new friends as well as a boyfriend, which made things even worse because I felt like she did not need me anymore. I became depressed to the point where I did not want to get out of bed. I felt worthless and stupid, asking myself, “Why am I even here?” I would cry myself to sleep most nights and had no motivation to do anything. Food and television became my go-tos, but they offered no real comfort. I was in a dark hole, and it did not seem like I was leaving it anytime soon.


My story does not end here though. I eventually got better. The main point of this article is to show a darker, but very real side of freshman year. Being a freshman is challenging. Not only are you adapting to a hundred new changes all at once, but you also have pressure to think about the future. It’s difficult to move away from your loved ones, move to a city where you do not know anyone, go to a school that is 10 times (or even 100 times) harder than high school, start living by yourself with strangers, figuring out things on your own like scheduling your own appointments and paying taxes, and so on. There are a million other changes that a freshman has to go through, and it is not always easy. Many freshmen struggle with depression or anxiety in their first year. I hope this blog brings some light to the unsaid struggles a freshman might be facing. But there is hope. You will get through it, and you will thrive. Remember to be kind; you never know what someone is going through.