College Rivalry Showdown - Which Schools Have the Happiest Freshman

College Rivalry Showdowns: Which Schools Have the Happiest Freshmen?

The college experience is never complete without the taste of a heated rivalry.

You know the deal as soon as you set foot on campus; no matter where you spend your four years of undergrad, there is always that one school that you and your fellow students will forever love to hate.

Usually, the hostility reaches its peak during meetings on the gridiron or the court, as the most devout fans can rattle off head-to-head series records faster than they can remember the names of close friends and family members. However, the best rivalries extend beyond athletics, where any sort of bragging rights are fair game.

That includes which school is more enjoyable.

Most of the time, such claims are backed up only by subjectivity. To quantify this discussion point, however, we dug into freshman satisfaction rates as listed on This figure measures the percentage of freshmen who return for a second year.

Or, as some may interpret it, the percentage of freshmen who are happy enough to stick around.

Here is what we discovered with some of the top rivalries in America:

Michigan-Ohio State


Hail to the victors!

These two football powers draw millions of eyeballs each time they square off on the field. Michigan leads the all-time series, 58-49-6, but Ohio State is in heavy pursuit with six straight wins.

Perhaps the Buckeyes will soon catch up in freshman retention as well. For now, though, the Wolverines hold that advantage.

Final score: Michigan 97%, Ohio State 94.2%


Man holding trophy over his headThe requirement applies to anyone residing in the state of Alabama: You have to pick a side.

Whether they’re rolling Toomer’s Corner or singing Rammer Jammer, fans of both schools know what to do when they defeat their rival — and you better believe they’re going to let the other fan base know about it.

The Auburn faithful will happily accept this win.

Final score: Auburn 90.9%, Alabama 86.3%



Students of these two universities get up close and personal on an annual basis when the schools meet on the football field.

Every year, the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas is perfectly split down the middle, with a sea of burnt orange filling one half and crimson occupying the other. It’s a unique tradition that freshmen on both sides are lucky to enjoy if they can make the trip.

Oh, and more than 95 percent of Texas freshmen will be back showing their Hook’em Horns hand sign a year later.

Final score: Texas 95.1%, Oklahoma 90.4%

Notre Dame-USC

Girl with trophy

Rarely will you find a student at either of these schools who is shy about their allegiance. That also goes for their distaste toward their rival.

It’s easy to see why freshmen generally stay content at both universities, whether it be because of the southern California weather or the abundant tradition found throughout South Bend.

However, the allure of Notre Dame wins out here.

Final score: Notre Dame 98.0%, USC 96.0%


If you’re looking for animosity in college basketball, you’ve got it in the Bluegrass State.

First-year students learn the drill quickly and know that this is always one of the sport’s biggest, most competitive match-ups of the season. The schools are even just about neck-and-neck when it comes to freshman satisfaction rate.

Big Blue Nation comes out on top in this battle, though.

Final score: Kentucky 81.7%, Louisville 79.7%

Florida State-Miami


It’s never difficult to find ways to pass the time in the state of Florida, but even with all that’s going on, everyone is paying attention when these two rivals meet. By the time this one rolls around, freshmen always know what to do — those in garnet and gold take part in the war chant, while those in orange and green flash the “U”.

It’s close, but it’s the Seminoles’ first-years who are most often back for another round.

Final score: Florida State 92.6%, Miami 91.0%


Perhaps the most famous play in college football history belongs to this 126-year-old rivalry, giving Cal an iconic moment to hang its hat on. Stanford, though, has won the last eight on the gridiron, holds a 63-46-11 series lead and even set the record for largest margin of victory in the rivalry with a 50-point triumph in 2013.

Whether or not that factors into their 98 percent freshman satisfaction rate is unknown, but it can’t hurt.

Final score: Stanford 98.0%, California 97.0%

Mississippi State-Ole Miss

Girl with medal

Freshmen haven’t officially experienced Ole Miss until they’ve had a chance to tailgate at The Grove. Similarly, you can’t truly appreciate what it’s like to be a student at Mississippi State until you’ve been introduced to the cowbell.

The traditions at each of these schools goes way back. For now, here’s one more bragging right for the Rebels.

Final score: Ole Miss 86.5%, Mississippi State 80.0%

Clemson-South Carolina

Girl with medal

Located in a football-crazed state, both Clemson and South Carolina students know where to be on Saturdays. As fans in orange and white cheer on their team as it runs down The Hill, those sporting garnet and black are rocking to Sandstorm.

Students at these two universities will point to anything to prove why they’re better than their rival. As for the school that freshmen enjoy the most…

Final score: Clemson 92.6%, South Carolina 87.1%


In Provo, everyone knows about Y Mountain. In Salt Lake City, people know your allegiance as soon as you flash the “U” sign.

Matchups are heated when BYU and Utah meet in just about any sport. Off the field, however, this showdown for bragging rights will have to wait another year before a winner is named.

Final score: BYU 90.0%, Utah 90.0%

Oregon-Oregon State

With a heated gridiron rivalry, Ducks fans have been throwing the O more than ever recently after winning nine of the last 10 meetings. That has only added to their all-time series lead of 64-47-10, which dates back to 1894.

These schools are separated by only 50 miles, so students of the universities cross paths on a regular basis. When that happens, you better believe some friendly trash talk is taking place.

Here is something else that Oregon fans can bring up.

Final score: Oregon 87.0%, Oregon State 83.4%

Georgia-Georgia Tech

Man holding trophy

Known as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” Georgia and Georgia Tech’s rivalry has about as fitting of a name as you’ll ever find. After all, the two schools have been arch rivals since 1893.

Freshmen attending a game between these two will immediately notice that — whether following official lyrics or not — each school references the other in its fight song. It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between these two.

Georgia Tech, though, comes out on top in this one.

Final score: Georgia Tech 97.3%, Georgia 95.2%

North Carolina-NC State

No list of famous college rivalries is complete without North Carolina and Duke; in fact, many contest that it is the best rivalry in all of sports. However, the Blue Devils didn’t report freshman retention rate for last year, so UNC will have to turn to another foe.

While you won’t find Tar Heel fans rushing Franklin Street after a win over NC State, make no mistake — no student in Chapel Hill wants to lose to the Wolfpack in any sport. For that reason, they’ll happily claim this victory.

Final score: North Carolina 96.6%, NC State 93.8%

About the author

Alison Blankenship
Senior Marketing Manager
I graduated Cum Laude from The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with degrees in Marketing and Communications. I’ve been working in the textbook industry for over 10 years, and my work has been featured by College Confidential, Mercy College of Health Sciences, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania Tribune, Montana Technological University, Oregon Live, and other organizations.

I’m an obsessive lover of dachshunds and a passionate reader of books. I’m an avid Pinner and poster, and I’m all over our Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and Pinterest.