Look Behind You!!! 3 Lessons from Corny Horror Movies that also apply to life as a College Freshman

By Baylee Easterday

Hi all! My name is Baylee, I’m a Junior at William & Mary and an Orientation Area Director. I’m also a huge fan of horror movies, the campier the better! Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, any Stephen King movie, the Ring, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, they’re all great. There’s something about watching someone on screen making what seems like the worst decisions possible and thinking in the back of your mind that you could’ve outsmarted Freddy Krueger just fine or that you would have left Jason in the dust. Add in a few cathartic jump scares and you have my ideal Saturday night. I know for a lot of you who are transitioning to college for the first time, it might seem like a bit of a scary story. Dining hall food, doing your own laundry, sharing a bathroom with 15 other people, three midterms in a week… and just like with horror movies it’s easy to imagine that you won’t fall into any of the classic pitfalls. But can any of us honestly say with 100% certainty that if we heard about the tape from the ring we wouldn’t watch it? My point is, sometimes when you’re in it (it being a campy horror movie or midterm week) it can be hard to take care of yourself to the best of your ability. Stress and adrenaline can impact your decision making. That’s why I’m here with this themed list of lessons that, if you remember, will help you drive away from the corn field full of creepy kids and succeed in college!

Lesson #1: “No DON’T split up, gang! Ever heard of strength in numbers???”

This Fred-from-Scooby-Doo standard is a common pitfall amongst horror movie protagonists and college students alike. Those of you who are horror movie fans like myself can probably recall yelling at a screen as the protagonists of any cabin-in-the-woods slasher decided that the best way to respond to the menacing presence in the trees was to split up and look around separately. It is oh-so-common in horror movies to see the protagonists go their separate ways after entering the murderer’s menacing lair so that they can be picked off by the Big Bad one by one without the other characters learning too much relevant information about the antagonist. In spite of the fact that their chances of success are almost definitely higher if they didn’t split up! College students have a tendency to do the same thing. When things get tough or we are stressed, it can be easy to separate ourselves from our support systems. And it is true that sometimes locking yourself in a Swem individual study room for 8 consecutive hours with no outside contact and without leaving for meals can be an effective way to write a term paper. However, it’s also a good way to feel isolated and unsupported as you go through stressful times. Lean on your people, let them help you out when you are having a tough week and help them out when they’re doing the same! This looks different for different people, it can mean using meal times to meet up with your roommate, taking a one hour study break to take in the sun on the sunken gardens with a close friend, or just having some chill company while you go through a study guide. But don’t spend all of your days alone with your schoolwork, make time to spend with others and feel connected to your friends and loved ones. We are never in this alone, and when we try to go it alone, we are more likely to be killed off for plot reasons and more likely to feel unprepared to tackle big challenges. 

Lesson #2: The dramatic reveal… that character has been injured all along!

Slasher movies are full of chaotic scenes, complete with subpar lighting and already banged up and bruised protagonists. Many directors take advantage of this chaos to utilize the trope wherein the audience doesn’t realize that a character is injured until they literally collapse into some kind of comatose state. The other characters are also shocked that the injured character didn’t say anything before! As a general rule, don’t be that injured guy! Sometimes when there is a big, intimidating antagonist, whether it’s the ghost of a 17th century murderer or a 30 page paper, we can ignore “smaller” things like self-care or mortal injuries, until they get so big that tackling these issues can be very difficult. When we have a ton of academic things going on, it can be easy to not want to take the time to make filling meals for ourselves, skip our laundry, or push off outside responsibilities. I do it as much as anyone. But we have to remind ourselves that taking care of yourself is productive. Rest is productive, self care is productive. Eating a good meal gives you brain power, getting enough sleep helps you remember and process the information you’re learning. Having a clean work space can help put you in a good headspace. Don’t neglect treating your minor wounds until they cause you to collapse in the middle of a battle. Be active in taking care of yourself.

Lesson #3: “He’s leaving her behind? I can’t believe this!”

Horror movie love interests are stereotypically major jerks who are completely willing to abandon the protagonist when the going gets tough. Often after forcing the protagonist into a situation they weren’t completely comfortable with in regard to substance use, romantic/sexual situations, or breaking the law. Don’t settle for the kind of people who are only there for you when things are easy! In your friendships and your romantic/sexual relationships, seek out the kind of people who would listen and validate you if you didn’t feel comfortable in the cabin in the woods, and wouldn’t leave you if you broke your ankle while running from a serial killer. Find the type of people who want to be with you all the time, on your good days and your bad days, who always take your feelings into account. When you are moving to a new place, it can be scary, and this can mean you want to find friends fast. Don’t let that desire keep you from finding the kind of people who would always double back when they realized that you weren’t with the group. You are worth it.

It’s a scary world out there. Especially for those of you who are new to college. Take care of yourself, take care of others, and you’ll do just fine.

About Baylee

Baylee (she/her/hers) is a Junior from Pasco, Washington. She has spent the Fall semester at home working and raising some succulents, so she is very excited to be returning to campus in the Spring! Baylee is a double major in Government and Hispanic Studies who takes classes on Shakespeare whenever she can. After graduation, Baylee is hoping to move to a Spanish-speaking country to teach English before continuing on to study international law.

On campus, Baylee is involved with research and advocacy related to American Sign Language, and research on sociolinguistics and diplomacy. She is also involved with the Moot Court team and the rock climbing club. Baylee loves science fiction, waffles, and Taylor Swift (her favorite albums are Reputation and Folklore). Her favorite spot on campus is the bench across from Washington Hall, in spite of the fact that she once got pooped on by a bird there.

Baylee has been looking forward to being an OAD since her own orientation. She’s previously worn the neon three times: as a member of LRHunTAL & Co, Botetourt, and the Spring transfers and exchange staff. She’s incredibly excited to plan next Fall’s orientation, and to help a new incoming class of William & Mary students feel comfortable and welcomed, just like she did as a freshman!

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