10 Things I’ve Learned About College Students, Campus Life

Nerdfighters. Hipsters. Speedy seniors. Dropouts. Superfans. Slackliners. Drunkorexics. Tanorexics. Adderall addicts. Longboarders. Sleep texters. Thrifters. Illegall downloaders. And one very bold halftime streaker.

Over the past 18 months or so, for my Campus Beat column on USA TODAY College, I have written about an array of students involved in a ton of different activities, organizations, scandals and states of mind.

My most popular piece: a glimpse at the rise of college Quidditch teams. The most poignant piece, in my opinion: a Q&A with a student journalist who reported on the surprisingly high number of undergraduates who lose a parent while still in school. The most infuriating piece: a rundown of a university testing center that temporarily banned students who were wearing skinny jeans. And the silliest piece, among the most shared on social media: the student embrace of the “YOLO” craze.


In recognition of my 100th column– posted earlier this semester– here is a quick top 10 list of things I have learned about college life and the world at-large through Campus Beat.

1. College students’ grades are going up— and it may have nothing to do with the quality of their work. As The Student Voice at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls reports, “For the past 30 years, grades and grade point averages in private and public universities have risen significantly. …[S]tudents should be aware that the ‘A’ they are striving for may not be as big a deal as they once thought it was.”


2. The Freshman 15 is actually the Freshman 3. According to a study featured in Social Science Quarterly, first-year students at colleges and universities only gain a bit more than three pounds during their first two semesters in school. As the study’s co-author tells The Daily Texan, “There are a lot of things to worry about when you go to college. However, gaining 15 pounds your freshman year is not one of them.”

3. Nerdfighting, a cult movement, is increasingly gaining traction on campuses nationwide. Nerdfighters are a loose collection of geeky do-gooders who attempt to enact positive change in the real world and online. As a Butler Collegian student staffer at Butler University explains, “[A] nerdfighter just tries to fight against world suck.” Nerdfighters’ favorite acronym– and call-to-arms– is DFTBA, or “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.”


4. One in 10 individuals deals with the death of mom or dad before turning 25, including during their time in college. As The University Daily Kansan shares, “College students who lose a parent are affected emotionally, psychologically, physically, academically and financially. At the very time they are about to launch independent lives, they lose the people they rely on most for direction.”


5. Sleep texting has become a common activity on college campuses. As The Lantern at Ohio State University reports, “Sleep texting is as simple as it sounds: a person will respond or send out a text message in the middle of their sleep. Most people who do this usually do not remember doing it and it usually doesn’t make much sense.” A University of Georgia student admits once sending a sleep text that led to an accidental pizza delivery.

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