Bennett: The Struggles of the “Freshman 15”

Features Intern Kariyah Bennett describes the gut-wrenching fear of the "freshman 15." - Photo via

There is a phrase students hear when they begin their first semester of college: the “freshman 15.” It refers to the extra weight students gain through their first year at college.

It’s a term I knew all too well. when I began my first semester at college I was a commuter at a community college, and let’s just say, I am all too familiar with this cursed term. 

An obvious contributor is the extended quarantine during the early part of the pandemic. But, ultimately, it’s a lack of exercise, poor nutrition and the will to prepare a proper meal. 

As college students, we try to stay afloat by making sure our assignments are turned in on time, working part-time to put gas in our cars and participating in extracurriculars such as working at the radio station. It’s so mentally exhausting that the last thing we’re worried about is weight gain. 

From a personal perspective, I want to eat better and work out more, but it takes a lot of motivation and mental strength. As I mentioned before, it feels nearly impossible because we are so drained. As my college years progressed, I became even less energized than before. I find it difficult to focus on my homework and my ability to fall asleep, and stay asleep, has decreased significantly. 

The irony is I could be experiencing this due to the weight gain, lack of exercise and foods I’m putting into my body. My daily choices are making my daily life more challenging.  

I didn’t understand why college students were gaining weight more in college compared to high school. For me, I felt that although I was eating snacks that weren’t necessarily the best for me, I was also doing that while I was in high school but I wasn’t gaining nearly as much weight as I did while I was in college. 

Experts suggest that the main reason students can gain more weight compared to high school is due to the fact that students had a more structured physical schedule while attending high school: gym class, sports, etc. Alcohol consumption is another factor contributing to students’ weight gain

I understand the idea of a “freshman 15”  is quite scary. Fortunately, there are ways to confront it. You could always choose to ignore it, or, you can work to make necessary changes.  

After doing research on what experts recommend, I came across some tips to help me with scheduling exercise even when it seems impossible to even get a workout in. One tip was to try one new recreational activity week and decide what works best for you. 

This week, I tried Zumba since I’ve always loved to dance. I learned that although I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, if I don’t like something I have the power within myself to change it. I always felt like I had no control when it came to my weight gain and my mental health, but it’s crucial to change one’s perspective on life in order to improve. 

“Freshman 15” is a scary phrase, but you don’t have to let it define who you are or how you feel about yourself.

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