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Articles / Admissions / Fighting The Freshman 15 (or 20, Even)

May 18, 2020

Fighting The Freshman 15 (or 20, Even)

I've posted a few times here about what to pack for college. Those of you who will be headed out to the higher education hinterlands next fall need to include one seldom mentioned but absolutely critical item: a bathroom scale. Don't laugh. Take it from a guy whose weight chart looks like a ride on Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster. Weight gains and losses of 20, 30, even 50 pounds are no strangers to me.

I can offer some insight into the reasons behind freshman year weight gains. First of all, there's a group psychology at work, maybe even a "mob mentality," if you will. First of all for many freshmen, it's their first time away from the authoritarian eyes of Mom and Dad. This factor alone can lead to some unbridled enthusiasm when it comes to chucking discipline and controlling one's appetites (of all kinds). Second, when you find yourself among a throng of like-minded revelers, concerns about holistic well-being often get tossed like a beer can out of a car window (not that I've ever done that). So, you may find yourself being swept along in a contiguous series of weekends that begin on Thursdays. So much for moderation.

What's a fresh-faced frosh to do then? Well, Carl Germano, celebrity nutritionist, has some great tips. Take a look at what he says.

The causes of the freshman 15 may seem to be common sense for many people but for those who don't understand why they gain so much weight during the first year at a college this should help. Everyone is settling into their college life, finding out what works for them. However, somewhere along the way health gets put on the back burner. Next, you show up to Thanksgiving looking like the turkey. Here are some reasons:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Pulling all nighters (drinking/ studying)
  • Late night snacks
  • Keeping unhealthy snacks on hand (in the dorm room)
  • Not watching the calories you consume throughout the day
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol [Dave says, "Duh!"]
  • Lack of motivation

Although the “Freshman 15" might be a little bit of an exaggeration, most freshmen do gain five pounds.

Some Fun Facts about Freshman year:

Cornell University researchers found that college freshman gain half a pound per week on average. That's about 11 times more weight than the average 17-and 18-year old will gain, and nearly 20 times more than the average weight gain among adults. Both male and female college students eat approximately 500 additional calories between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Carl's Dorm Room Tips:

  • Get all the unhealthy snacks out of your dorm (yes the Ramen Noodles and Mac & Cheese have to go!.
  • Walk to class! While the shuttles may seem to be a better option the exercise will help.
  • Eat Breakfast and do not skip meals.
  • Every campus has a gym and you already pay for it. Go there, even if it is only three times a week.
  • Try your best to get a full night of rest. This helps your overall health tremendously. [Dave snickers and says, "Absolutely!"]
  • Get involved in an intramural sport; it will keep you active and create an opportunity to meet new people.
  • Keep an eye on what type of alcoholic beverages you are consuming,; stay away from sugary mixed drinks. [Hear that, ladies?]
  • Start a workout routine in your dorm room. You can start with something as small as 25 push-ups and sit-ups. You can gradually increase the number that you are doing.


Thanks, Carl! But do we have to give up that Mac & Cheese??? Some of us like it better than beer!


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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