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Objectives

We test whether the phrase “Freshman 15” accurately describes weight change among first-year college students. We also analyze freshmen's weight change during and after college.

Methods

This is the first investigation of the “Freshman 15” to use a nationally representative random sample, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97). The data are analyzed using descriptive statistics, regression analysis, simulations, and longitudinal analysis.

Results

Freshmen gain between 2.5 to 3.5 pounds, on average, over the course of their first year of college. Compared to same-age noncollege attendees, the typical freshman gains only an additional half-pound. Instead of a spike in weight during the freshman year, college-educated individuals exhibit moderate but steady weight gain during and after college.

Conclusion

Anti-obesity efforts directed specifically at college freshmen will likely have little impact on obesity prevalence among young adults.