The College Experience
Partying, drinking and a packed social calendar. This is the “College Experience”. At least according to the media it is. We see movies that glamorize what college will be like. When we go to college, we will always have fun, go to parties and be involved in everything on campus. There is a pressure to live your college years this way when this ideal college experience isn’t a reality for most. College is not what is depicted in the movies or on television yet, we feel as though we aren’t truly experiencing college right if it doesn’t match what we have seen in the media. How has society coerced us in believing that college will be the best four years of your life?
Each year, freshmen excitedly start college and shed dependence of their parents. Whether you live on campus or not, life is a little bit different. You can make your own decisions and you’re exposed to a new environment. However, every first-year expects college to be like what they see in the media. Movies like Animal House and Van Wilder (some throwbacks) convey a lifestyle of partying and hookups. This experience definitely happens in the real world but, not for everyone. There are many factors into why a college student may not be experiencing the same social life as the ones you see in the movies or on television.
For starters, commuter students have a very limited connection to the campus. Speaking from experience, we go to our classes and either go home or go to work. Many commuters have to keep a job in order to pay for gas, insurance and other bills. Meanwhile, students who live on campus have a more freeing schedule. They can walk to class and when they are done, they either “study” or plan their next social gathering. I don’t speak for all commuters but, I live about thirty minutes from campus. Between school, two jobs and homework, the last thing I want to do is drive back to school to hang out with the friends I don’t have. It’s also much harder joining clubs as a commuter. Clubs have a lot of involvement and not being a five minute walk to campus limits your ability to be there. If you do choose to stick around for clubs, you may have to sit there for hours on end because you have nowhere else to go. Therefore, when colleges talk about including commuters into the “campus life”, it doesn’t resonate with us. We already feel disconnected from the campus lifestyle.
It’s not only commuters that can be disconnected from campus life. Some students don’t partake in the campus lifestyle because they have social anxieties or have a harder time putting themselves out there to meet new people. The idea of leaving the comfort of their dorm or home is a drag. In reality, there are many students who don’t get involved on campus and don’t fit into that ideal college experience due to their own personal reasons. Not everybody is outgoing enough to join a club or a sport or go to a party thus creating more college students being detached from the college experience. Colleges are always pushing students to join clubs or sports but don’t offer exactly what the students might want. This separation of students who are involved versus not creates another lack of connection to the school.
Social media is another source that eggs on the fear of missing out (FOMO) that some students feel. Seeing the students that get to be a part of the college experience we all think we should have makes us feel even more disconnected from college. Social media will always have an impact on mental health. We see other people’s lives and feel bad that ours aren’t as “glamorous”. The same thing can be said for college life. Students can feel as though their college experience isn’t the right one. However, social media is designed to highlight anybody’s lives. So, those sharing these cool parties or “fun” college events may not be telling the full truth. In essence, social media is not the most reliable source for how to live the college lifestyle.
To those of you who feel that you haven’t had “the college experience”, don’t let the movies or social media make you feel disconnected. You don’t have to party, get involved on campus or even make a lot of friends. If you’re comfortable going to class, making a few friends and doing your own thing, then that’s okay. For those who do all of the “ideal” college experience, that’s great too. You don’t have to live your life a certain way just because others say you do. Do whatever you need to do to get through college, have fun and get that degree.