What It’s Like Going to College with Your Identical Twin

No, you're not seeing double.
August 8, 2017
10 mins read

We look almost the same, we grew up together and we have a strange tendency to speak in the plural “we” instead of I, since so much of what we say applies to both of us. If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m an identical twin, and my twin sister Becca and I have more in common than just a birthday and last name.

First off, we both go the University of Pennsylvania. Going to college with an identical twin is different in many ways from going to college as a singleton. And no matter if you are twins at a big state school, a tiny liberal arts college, or—like me and my twin sister—at a mid-sized university, your experience will most likely entail some similar situations.

1. You’ll Get Called the Wrong Name a Lot

This one is pretty much a given. I honestly can say that I don’t think I’ve gone twenty-four hours straight at Penn without someone calling me my sister’s name, or vice versa. Most identical twins are used to dealing with this on a daily basis even before college, but believe it or not, it gets worse once twins are away from home. You are walking past more people than ever, and the friends that you make and the people that you meet most likely don’t know you from childhood or haven’t spent enough time with you to be able to spot the differences between you.

However, close friends tend to catch on quickly, finding the tell-tale distinctions early on. Believe me, when a student tells twins, “You know, I thought you looked identical when I first met you, but now you look so different,” it is the best feeling; you’ll also earn a lot more respect from them.

2. You’ll Get Mistaken for the Other Twin

Besides just confusing your names and appearances, students will confuse details about your life with those of your twin. For example, a friend may ask one twin for a favor and then forget which twin helped them out, accidentally thanking the other. Or, a peer may have classes with both twins and forget which twin is in which class with them.

Of course, not all the confusion is related to courses and academics, but you get the idea. I’ve had people ask me about meetings I didn’t go to or ask me how a job only my twin is doing is going. And while this can get a bit old, most twins are used to it and will kindly correct your mistake.

3. Your Schedules Will Probably Overlap

Identical twins tend to not only be very similar physically, but have very similar personalities. If both twins are attending the same university, then they already clearly have similar taste and similar intelligence levels. My twin sister and I are also both planning on studying the same, very specific, thing in college—an English major with a Creative Writing concentration and a minor in Journalistic Writing, and a certificate in Spanish. Naturally, not all twins are studying the same exact subject, but many tend to have the same academic interests.

Image via Cassius

This can lead to twins having overlapping schedules and also having overlapping extracurriculars. My twin sister and I are each involved in four clubs and activities at Penn, and they happen to be the same four. We also hold the same leadership positions in them, and no we did not plan on doing all of this together, we just both happened to individually pursue our interests, which happened to be identical. It happens.

4. You’ll Get Asked a Lot of Repeat Questions

This begins before the twins even apply to college. Everyone at home wants to know if you plan on applying to the same university or not, if you want to go to school together and what you will do if only one of you gets in. These questions add a lot of stress to the process that a child without a twin doesn’t have to deal with.

Once in college, the questions change: Will you be roommates? Are you living in the same building? Will you join the same sorority? Will you play on the same sports teams? And of course, the common: How can I tell you two apart? Yes, we know you are curious—I’m sure we would be too if we were on the other side of all of this—but twins don’t always like to be interrogated. A few questions are always welcome, though. Being twins is something most close sets of twins really do enjoy talking about.

5. You Should Expect to Deal with Staring

This one is kind of self-explanatory, but yes. When there are two near-identical people walking down the street together people are going to do a double take. Twins have gotten so used to this that they often don’t even notice the stares anymore.

6. You’ll Always Have a Conversation Starter

By the end of move-in day alone, I believe at least twenty strangers came up to me and my twin sister at some point to begin a conversation by saying, “Are you two twins?” This question, with a usually rather obvious answer, is actually one that we tend to appreciate. It gives us something to talk about with new people, and it’s a topic that we can speak on for a while.

7. You’ll Make Twice as Many Friends

Becca and I are very good about introducing each other to new people we meet, allowing us to meet twice as many potential friends at college. We also have very similar personalities and ultimately get along well with basically all of the same people.

I actually often find myself waving back to random people on the street who seem to know me, or students will smile and come over to chat with me until they realize I have no idea who they are. When someone knows your twin and not you and then runs into you, it gives you a chance to get to know someone new without even having to go out of your way.

 8. You Already Know How to Share

Identical twins are used to sharing. Quite often they grew up sharing a room, clothing, a bathroom, toys—you name it. This makes adapting to dorm life easy, and it also means that twins tend to be considerate roommates.

 9. You’ll Have a Second Closet

This one is related to the sharing skills twins usually possess. Twins usually grow up wearing the same size clothing and often have similar taste in clothing. I know I can always just walk to my sister’s dorm room to snag a shirt or a dress if I can’t find something I want to wear for an occasion in my own closet.

 10. You Can Always Count on Your Twin

Let’s be real—you may love your college years, but you won’t get through them without encountering some bumps in the road, no matter how great your overall experience is. Having an identical twin at school with you means that you always have someone to talk to anything about.

Some people struggle in their first few weeks or months of school to gain close enough friends who they can talk about their problems or thoughts with, but identical twins at college together will always have each other to turn to.

Lexi Lieberman, University of Pennsylvania

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Lexi Lieberman

University of Pennsylvania

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