A young man has earned money to go to college, and he uses it to try to become popular; but he learns that success in football is what really makes one popular and win the girl.
Harold Lamb’s mother shows his father how much money he has saved to go to college by selling washing machines.
In his room the Freshman (Harold Lloyd) practices college cheers. His father tells his mother that he got China on the radio. His mother says he must have learned the cheer at that movie, The College Hero. He has a book on how to play football, and he looks at photos in the Tate College Yearbook. His father comes in his room, and the Freshman show him the movie poster. His father sees him do a jig and tells his mother that he has been influenced by that movie hero and may get hurt.
In the fall term at Tate College the dignified Dean arrives. Peggy (Jobyna Ralston) is ridng on the Tate limited train. The Freshman sits next to her at a dining table. She is working on a crossword puzzle, and he examines it. A waiter brings him food. He suggests the word “sweetheart,” and she says it might be “darling.” They offer various such terms, and an old lady thinks they are in love. The Freshman panics and runs out.
The train arrives, and the Freshman gets off, carrying a bag and golf clubs. He sees students gather around the College Hero (James Anderson). The Freshman goes to greet someone coming off the train, and a man in the train window drops a burning match on his sweater and slaps his shoulder. The Freshman turns around and slaps the Dean. The Freshman introduces himself and walks away from the Dean. A Student suggests he take a car to campus and points to the Dean’s car. The Freshman gets in the car with the Dean’s chauffeur, who drives off with him.
At the Tate auditorium students are waiting to hear the Dean. The chauffeur stops at the stage entrance, and the Freshman goes in. He rescues a kitty, and the curtain opens. He falls off a table, and they laugh. His suitcase falls open, and he gathers his stuff. A student tells him he is supposed to make a speech. He goes back on stage and starts to speak. He has a rapier and gets a shock twice. The kitty is in his sweater, and its mother bothers him. He sees a note from the College Hero and uses his lines that he is just a regular fellow, and they should call him Speedy. The students cheer, and he walks off the stage to receive handshakes. The Freshman says he will treat them to ice cream. They walk together on campus, and more join them.
After spending money the Freshman takes a modest room. He notices his shirt is dirty. Having cleaned his shirt, he cleans a mirror and sees Peggy. He says he took this room so he could study. She sews a button on his shirt. He pulls off another button and asks her to sew that one too. As she is sewing, he clips off three more buttons.
The Freshman sees his photo in the Tate Tatler as “Speedy the Spender,” who leaves a trail of empty ice cream cones. He cuts it out and tacks it on the wall.
Students show the picture to Peggy, and she cuts it out. Students rush out to join the Hero, and a student tells him he will never be as popular as Chet unless he plays football.
At football practice the head coach (Pat Harmon) gives the players a pep talk. The Freshman knocks on a door and is let in wearing a uniform with pads and a helmet. He removes his nose guard, and he listens to the coach. When the coach says he wants to see someone tackle, he tackles the coach. They get up, and he tells the coach he wants to play on his team. The coach asks him if can kick and hands him a football. He kicks the ball, and it goes behind him. He goes out the door and finds a dog on a chain. He gets the ball and makes it back before the dog. The players tackle a dummy that is suspended by a rope. The Freshman misses it, then tackles it when the coach is holding the rope. The coach tells him to get off the field. He opens the door, sees the dog, and closes it. An assistant tells the coach they need a tackling dummy. The coach gets the Freshman to be the dummy, and the players tackle him. The coach tells them to tackle harder. The coach demonstrates how to do it. He slugs the Freshman and says that is not the way to do it. The Freshman puts on his nose guard. The coach pushes him through a window, and he falls down stairs. The coach says they are going to learn to tackle, and the players line up to tackle the Freshman. After a while he is exhausted. The coach ends the practice, and the Freshman carries the dummy and says they had a great work-out. The coach tells the Hero he is sorry that the Freshman cannot make the team. The Hero suggests he keep him as a water boy and let him think he is a substitute.
The Freshman takes a taxi to his room. He can hardly walk. Inside a student says Speedy thinks he made the team, but he is only the water-boy. Peggy stands up for him. He is crawling up the stairs, and she comes to tell him something. He says he made the team, and she congratulates him.
In his room the Freshman reads that the Tattler wonders who will be the host at the Fall Frolic this year. Chet was before and became most popular.
Peggy reads a printed invitation from Speedy to his Fall Frolic, and other students are laughing about it.
The Freshman goes to a tailor for a fine suit. The tailor gets dizzy, and his wife gives him some brandy. He goes back to measuring him for his suit.
At the Fall Frolic Peggy takes coats and hats at the desk. The Freshman is still at the tailor’s waiting for his suit. He warns him he did not stitch it very securely and says he will go with him. They walk to the Frolic, and the Freshman gives Peggy a small bouquet. The Freshman is introduced as their host. Girls gather around him. He takes out his handkerchief to wave it, and his pocket comes off. The tailor is sewing in back of him and falls when a girl takes him to dance. The tailor says if anything rips, he will ring the bell. A man at a table rings for service, and the Freshman is worried. After the dance, a sleeve comes off. The tailor rings, and the Freshman looks for his sleeve. He puts his arm in a bag. He sees his sleeve is stuck on her dress, and he pulls it off. While the tailor tries to sew it, a friend borrows $10 from him. While his arm is being sewn, he talks with a girl and pulls her back to him. He picks on a loose thread and splits his pants. While they are at a table, the tailor sews his leg. The tailor becomes unsteady and weighs him down. Behind the curtain the tailor asks for a drink.
The Freshman dances with the girl and tries to steal a flask. He gets one and passes it to the tailor behind the curtain. He sees Peggy with her bouquet wondering if he loves her or not. He goes to her and kisses her. They are both happy and talk intimately. The girl he was dancing with complains, and he falls and rips his pants in back. He backs up, and another girl dances with him. He loses his suspenders and holds his pants up. He tucks in a table cloth and pulls it off the table. People notice, and his pants fall down. He takes them into a phone booth. He sees the College Cad (Brooks Benedict) molesting Peggy, comes out, and knocks him down. The College Cad tells him they all think he is a boob. Peggy is embarrassed. The Freshman smiles at Peggy and says it does not bother him because he expects it. She reaches out to him, and he puts his head on her lap. She says he has been pretending to be what they wanted him to be. She advises him to stop pretending and be himself. He says if he can get in the big game, then he can show them.
The stadium is filled for the big game. Speedy is sitting on the bench. Union State is ahead of Tate 3-0. The coach says he has only one substitute left. The Freshman tells Dave they are the only substitutes left. Another player is carried off, and a player asks the Freshman to take off his jersey so that Miller can use it. He does so and goes back to the bench. A player is injured but continues. Another player is carried off, and the Freshman wants to go in; but the coach says he is just the water-boy. The Freshman says he has to give him a chance because he has been working and fighting for this chance. The referee says he must send in a substitute or forfeit the game. So he sends in the Freshman. He runs on the field and urges the players to fight. After one play the Freshman is carried off. He wakes up and runs back on the field. He gets in the line and is on the bottom of the pile. Once again he is crushed. He becomes dizzy, but he catches a pass. On the next play he catches a hat thrown by a spectator and runs to the goal line. He takes the ball and runs, and the referee tells him when he hears the whistle he must give up the ball. The Freshman is back to receive a punt, but he sees several balloons in the air. He uses the hidden ball trick and runs down the field, but he stops on the five-yard-line and throws the ball down. One minute is left. On defense he blocks a punt. He chases a man running for a touchdown, and he fumbles it into the end zone. The Freshman picks up the ball and runs all the way back down the field for a touchdown. On the goal line they unpile, and Tate wins 6-3. The players and fans celebrate by lifting the Freshman on their shoulders. Peggy writes him a note, and he takes it into the locker-room. Outside students and the coach do his jig. He goes behind a locker and reads the love note from Peggy in the shower.
This farce satirizes the college life which makes social activities such as dances and sports such as football more important than learning.