First Year Experience

Story by Sam Rosenberry

Carly Pingel and her family were on vacation in Arkansas when she got the phone call.

She happened to be on a boat at the time so she didn’t answer, but the caller left a voicemail. The call was from a New York area code and it informed her that she had been chosen. She had to find cell phone reception to call back.

“I pretty much just flipped right there and said ‘You need to go back to the docks!’”

Once on shore, she sought higher ground for better reception.

“She ran up this huge hill, cut her feet to shreds running on the rocks,” said her mother Kathy Pingel. “ … she was so excited to get to the top so that she could call that number back.”

That call was from “Seventeen” magazine, which caters to teenage girls and discusses fashion and celebrities and gives advice. Pingel was selected as one of their “Freshman 15.”
Each week, she and 14 other girls can create written and video blogs about their college experiences and get them posted on Seventeen’s website. She was chosen from among 8,000 other applicants. The women selected span the country and go to a wide range of universities, including Stanford (Calif.) and Columbia (N.Y.), as well as one community college.

“Seventeen” also poses a question to the girls for each print issue, and then selects their favorite responses to be included. Pingel said that she has been published about four times.

She said that the editors told her that she was chosen for her “relatable” nature and because she seemed like an “all-American girl.”

Her editor, Kaitlin Cubria, said in an e-mail that this can still be seen in her work with “Seventeen.”

“Her blogs are written in such a way, it’s like she’s telling a story to her best friends,” Cubria said. “Ultimately, this makes readers want to know what’s going on in her life because they feel like they know her.”

Filling out the application

The 19-year-old Marshfield native started reading “Seventeen” when she was around 13. One day she simply saw that they were accepting applications to be featured in their “Freshman 15” section, so she went online to give it a try without much thought.

It was just a simple application that included a section where she had to write about one of her days, which she said was to display her writing style.

“I was like, ‘Ah, whatever, I’ll just apply anyway, what are the chances?’” she said. “I sent it in and figured that I’d never hear from them again.”

Two weeks later, she did hear from them again and they informed her that she had made it into the second round.

At this point, she finally let her family in on what she had done. Most of the family was taken aback upon learning that she had applied. This was especially the case with her father.

“I don’t read ‘Seventeen’ magazine a whole lot,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever read it in my life, so I was surprised.”

Her mother was impressed that she even thought to apply and recounted a time when Pingel started a dance team at her high school despite the athletic director not wanting it. After she graduated, the squad was dissolved.

“She just sort of does things when the spirit moves her,” Kathy Pingel said. “She’s kind of a contagious person.”

In the next round, she had to make a video about why she deserved to get selected and put it on YouTube.

Based on that video, her sister wasn’t surprised that she was selected.

“She’s innocent-looking and sweet,” Emily Pingel said. “Everyone knew she would get it.”

Roughly one month later in June, Pingel learned that she had been selected. Soon after this, she participated in a conference call with the editors of the magazine and the other “Freshman 15” participants.

This is also where they learned of their first assignment, which was to discuss their first month of college prior to actually going through their first month.

“We had to turn it in before we had even gone to college because by the time it was published, we had already been there for a month,” she said. “So that was interesting.”

Fun with some frustrations

One if the primary reasons why Pingel likes “Seventeen” is that they use normal, everyday teenagers from around the country in the magazine, and they give advice.

Pingel has always enjoyed giving people advice and offering help, so she’s very pleased that now she is able to give some help similar to that which she read in previous issues of “Seventeen,” and that readers seem to take it in.

Some of the advice includes how to eat healthier and how to stay safe during spring break safety tips.

She discussed one girl that sent her a video message thanking her for her help.

“Girls sit down and read my blogs and watch my video blogs; my advice and everything I’m saying is actually useful to them. It just makes it a lot of fun.”

She also commented on the fact that there are several major universities that the girls belong to, and she is proud to be able to represent UW-Eau Claire and Wisconsin.

Not everything about “Freshman 15” has been great though. One obvious issue is the amount of time it takes up, she said. There is writing the weekly posts, responding to people who give her comments, answering the monthly questions from her editors, reviewing products and giving advice. Not to mention that she still had to go to school.

“First semester it was just super overwhelming because it was my first semester of college anyway,” she said. “Basically it was like (another) class.”

Another frustration has been that sometimes her blog posts have been shortened or altered in some way. She also said that “Seventeen” sometimes changes the tone she was going for by adding exclamation points and bolding certain words.

She has also had technological problems. Uploading her video blog hasn’t been the easiest task.

Despite these problems, she still very much enjoys it, as she has generally been able to speak her mind and get her points across while not losing herself along the way. She said that she has “a very casual style” of writing that is upbeat and that can be seen in her posts.

Her parents both agree that it is clearly their daughter’s voice that they are reading.

“I always just think that it’s absolutely her,” Kathy Pingel said. “If I didn’t know who wrote it, I’d know that it was her.”

Her dad was worried initially about her involvement with the magazine since it obviously wasn’t going to just be about going to class, but he was assuaged by who the magazine’s audience was.

“Many of their readers are minors,” he said. “I think they try to be a little bit responsible in that way.”

He also had faith that his daughter would keep her morals.

“My feeling is that Carly is just always Carly,” he said. She “stays pretty true to who she is.”

Plans for the future

In the near future, she and the other 14 girls are hoping to finally meet sometime and go on a road trip somewhere.

Professionally, Pingel wants to work in the magazine business someday and hopes to turn her work this year into an internship. She is open to working at “Seventeen” as a career but doesn’t necessarily know at which magazine she wants to work for.

She thinks that one day she may want to work for a magazine intended for an older audience, but she isn’t quite sure yet. She also would enjoy working for a magazine that focuses on travel and vacations, but that is far into the future.

“My goal right now is to stay in the ‘Seventeen’ walls,” she said. “I would love to go to New York City for a summer and live there as an intern. That would be awesome.”
She also knows for sure that she wants to get multiple internships, as that will be the most beneficial to her.

Regardless of her path, Pingel’s mother feels that she has the tools to succeed.

Kathy Pingel talked about her daughter’s last blog post, which recounted a frustrated attempt at sending in her video blog.

“Some of the things she says are so funny,” she said. “Everybody gets frustrated, but Carly can make a story out of anything. The rest of us get frustrated and just walk away.”