Now that fall quarter is in session, a new batch of freshmen has been welcomed to UCR. Whether they’re wandering around school with a campus map or traveling in herds (a.k.a. their entire hall), spotting first-years can be pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong. Being a freshman doesn’t carry a negative connotation. If anything, every other class is probably jealous of how convenient most first-years have it: dining dollars and the dining hall, being able to wake up and walk to class in under 10 minutes and no matter what, any class you take will fulfill some kind of graduation requirement. The first year of college is arguably the most exciting and least stressful. It is probably for these reasons that, collectively, freshmen are able to prioritize their appearance more than their upperclassmen counterparts. Just wait, freshmen. You might be putting in the effort to look good now, but it won’t always be that way.

The fresh year

The first year of college is the best time to start fresh. Everything and everyone is new. Whether someone was labeled as the outcast, goody-two-shoes, dumb jock or drama queen in high school, entering the new environment that is college gives people the chance to make new first impressions. Many freshmen are eager to get involved with student organizations and bond with their peers, so looking their best is one way of putting their best foot forward.

I’ve seen countless freshmen girls on campus walking around with a face full of makeup and their hair completely curled or straightened while wearing some of the trendiest outfits. These girls might be dressing up for someone they want to impress or just for themselves, but trust me, these girls probably spend at least 45 minutes getting ready. Generally, freshmen are trying to maneuver their way through college, so giving them a compliment wouldn’t hurt. One piece of advice to freshmen: you’re going to give up trying to look that nice every day once midterms hit. Don’t worry, you’ll learn how to look fierce with minimal effort — it’s an art in itself.

For guys, their change in fashion sense is less dramatic than most girls. Some of my guy friends own timeless articles of clothing that they’ve clung onto since their first year of college because let’s face it, a plain white tee and jeans will never go out of style. If anything, tons of guys merely upgraded their closet (i.e. they switched out their bulk Hanes t-shirts for some bulk Uniqlo ones). A more apparent transformation between freshman year and senior year for guys is their ability to grow facial hair, properly style their hair in an effortless manner and finally getting those gains from the gym. A lot of first-year guys stick out like a sore thumb because of their peach fuzz, baby-faced smiles and lack of muscles.

The middle child[ren]

I like to refer to second and third-years as “the middle children.” By this point in college, a lot of them have found their place on campus and finally feel at home, but don’t have to stress about post-graduation yet. For the most part, they prefer being in Riverside where their school friends are because what used to be their huge group of home friends has whittled down to a few close friends who tend to be away at college too.

Many second and third-years are calming down from their reckless partying habits from freshman year and are taking on leadership roles in student organizations or getting jobs. They’ve also learned how to strategically plan which lectures to go to and which food places to avoid on campus; another year older another year wiser right? These students are less likely to elaborately plan their outfits because they’re still debating on whether or not they should even go to campus that day. I guess you could say the debate lies in whether or not they think they’ll find parking in Lot 30 or if walking to school from the UV in 100 degree weather is worth it. During freshman year, a lot of students were lucky enough to walk back to the dorms and change their outfit during Riverside’s unpredictable weather. Once you live off campus, stashing extra clothes away in your car is a must.

In addition to that, second and third-years tend to adopt a gym-grind after gaining the inevitable freshman 15 or coming to the realization that we pay about $200 per quarter for rec center fees in our tuition. Girls switch out their sundresses and gladiator sandals for yoga pants and tennis shoes; guys wear self-made sleeveless t-shirts that are cut ridiculously low on the sides. During this period of college, students are constantly “working on themselves,” so they concentrate more on how their bodies look or feel rather than the clothes that are on it. Without even trying, second and third-years display more confidence than they did freshman year because they’re more comfortable in their own skin.

The survivors

Have you ever watched one of those reality TV shows like “Survival” where a perfectly normal individual looks like complete death by the end of the season? Well, that’s the best way I can explain how fourth years and up feel. We’re not only dressing the way we do out of pure convenience; there’s a well thought out method to our madness. We wear hats to survive the Riverside heat and hide our unruly hair. Gym clothes aren’t always for the gym either. Four possible reasons behind our gym attire: 1) we didn’t do all of our other laundry because the utility bill was too high, 2) we slept in it the night before, 3) we gave up on bringing extra clothes for after the gym or 4) comfy clothes means we can nap anywhere on campus comfortably.

From our first to last year of college, priorities have changed. Once you approach graduation, you start to feel like you have to play catch-up. This practice involves piling up on units to make sure we can graduate on time, frantically searching for extra internship opportunities or trying to prepare our organizations for a future that doesn’t include us anymore. A lot of seniors come off as intimidating because we wear sunglasses and are mad-dogging the world the majority of the time. Honestly, our sunglasses just help us hide our massive under-eye bags from 3 a.m. study sessions or night shifts at work. As for our angry stares, I’m sure we’re just hungry, deprived of caffeine or thinking of our futures…

However, we do clean up nicely. Years of attending student organization recruitment events, parties, formals or even interviews have prepared us for looking our best when we need to. Now that we’re jam-packed with responsibility, we make up for any lost time with larger-scale fun (i.e. musical festivals, bar hopping, road trips, a weekend in Vegas, etc.). As you get older, you start to realize that there isn’t enough time to prioritize your day-to-day look. Through finding your niche on campus and maturing as a person, you’ll find that the clothes you wear, while it does reflect a little bit about you, is just clothes. If you focus your energy on your schooling, health and doing whatever it is that makes you happy, you won’t need a trendy outfit in order to put your best foot forward.