Let’s get a “hail yeah” for the University of Michigan class of 2026. At this point, this year’s freshmen have survived their first seven weeks on campus, including five game days in the Big House, about 130 meals in the dining halls and two University presidents.
The Michigan Daily sent a survey to the 5,357 students Information and Technology Services listed as members of the class of 2026 on Sept. 8, receiving 1,194 answers about freshman experiences and expectations. Overall, The Daily found that this year’s freshmen are fairly optimistic when it comes to grades and dorms but less so about the impending winter.
Here are the results of those who responded:
West Quadrangle has been officially crowned the most coveted dorm placement on campus for the second year in a row. Freshmen rated their residence halls on a scale of 1-10 with West Quad averaging a 9.28 satisfaction rate. That’s still slightly down from last year, when the class of 2025 gave West Quad a 9.56 average rating.
When LSA freshman Rachel Lim was placed in West Quad over the summer, she said her mother — an alum of the University — told her she was lucky. That’s turned out to be true, Lim told The Daily, and she has enjoyed living in her dorm over the past couple of months.
From air conditioning to spacious rooms and lounges, Lim said West Quad is one of the best dorms on campus. And the location can’t be beat, she said.
“West is definitely top-tier,” Lim said. “The main thing is how central it is. It’s really convenient getting to classes.”
Compared to last year, East Quad (8.88 average rating) upset South Quad (8.74 average rating) as the second-most satisfactory dorm on Central Campus for this year’s freshmen. With an average satisfaction rate of 7.76 across all of the dorms, it seems that the freshmen are already feeling pretty at home in Ann Arbor. This year, Baits II beat out Bursley for being the favorite North Campus dorm. And with an average rating of 9.04, Alice Lloyd Residence Hall was the king — or queen — of the Hill compared to Couzens and Mosher-Jordan Residence Halls’ ratings of 8.19 and 8.75, respectively.
According to the respondents, prospective neuroscience students think they will have the lowest GPAs upon graduation — with an expected 3.43 average. They’re followed by architecture and nursing students with anticipated GPAs of 3.49 and 3.54, respectively.
Out of the 10 majors with the lowest expected grades, half of them are in the College of Engineering. Mechanical engineering, computer science, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering and environmental engineering students all think they will end up with a GPA lower than 3.70 — the median GPA anticipated by the class of 2026.
Engineering freshman Julie Anton said she expects her GPA to be around a 3.5 when she graduates in four years. She said she recognizes that engineering courses are rigorous and challenging, especially since she did not have a strong engineering background in high school.
“Nobody really learns engineering in high school,” Anton said. “I think (a 3.5 GPA) is pretty reasonable for the university we go to and considering the courses I’ll be taking in the future.”
Seventy-eight percent of first-generation students in the class of 2026 are at least somewhat concerned about paying tuition, while less than half of non-first-generation students are stressed about paying for college.
About 14% of all U-M undergraduates are first-generation students, though almost a third of underrepresented minority students are first-generation. According to a 2017 New York Times analysis for the class of 2013, the median family income at the University was $154,000. The University’s website for first-generation students says 66% of first-generation students come from households making $65,000 or less. That means the majority of first-generation students come from backgrounds where their parents were making less than half of the median family income at the University.
While the Go Blue Guarantee offers free tuition for students whose parents make less than $65,000, many first-generation students do not qualify for in-state tuition and are therefore ineligible for the guarantee.
LSA freshman Vanessa Rodriguez is a first-generation student whose parents immigrated to Michigan from Cuba about 23 years ago. Though Rodriguez said qualifying for in-state tuition and financial aid has helped take some of the financial burden of going to college off her family, she still has to work a campus job to fund her education.
In general, Rodriguez said she has noticed higher stress levels among first-generation students concerning tuition.
“Sometimes it’s stressful,” Rodriguez said. “I have to work to help my parents pay (for college) because they said they would help me, but I have to put in that work, too.”
Temperatures are dropping, leaves are falling and the heat is ratcheting up in buildings across campus. In other words, winter is coming. In-state freshmen seem to know what to expect — snowball fights in the Diag, thick winter coats and frostbitten fingers that can only be kept toasty by the warmth of a peppermint mocha. About 60% of in-state freshmen think they are prepared for winter on campus, but out-of-state students are not quite so sure.
Only 30% of out-of-state students said they were prepared for their first Michigan winter, while over 40% of them said they were unprepared or were dreading it. Even fewer international students, about 20%, said they felt prepared for the snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures that come with the change of seasons in the Mitten State.
Engineering freshmen Victoria Spencer and Riya Dev are roommates hailing from Lorton, Va., and Fairfax, Va., respectively. They said they usually see about a foot of snow throughout the winter on average and have been warned several times about how brutal Michigan winters are in comparison — Ann Arbor averages over five times as much snow as Fairfax.
“I brought six to seven jackets here, four or five scarves, a couple of hats and a bunch of gloves,” Dev said. “I still feel like I’m not prepared.”
Spencer also said she bought five additional jackets before leaving Virginia for her new home in Ann Arbor. She agreed with Dev that having all of the necessary cold-weather gear does not make her any less anxious as the temperatures begin to drop.
“I think I’m physically prepared but not mentally,” Spencer said.
Daily News Editor Roni Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.