[Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

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[Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by The Wisp on Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:49 am

So, on the main site, there were some mini-discussions bemoaning the way our culture romanticizes high school. I agree that that is a problem, though I have to say that for me, my expectations were balanced by a lot of people who said high school sucked, life would get better, we swear! I feel like I wasn't as disappointed in my high school experiences as others have expressed because of that.

It seems that, at least where I live and grew up, it is the four-year university that is romanticized to an unrealistic extent rather than high school. College is where you actually get to find your passion! College is where you'll meet people like you and form life long friendships! College is where you get to experiment with dating and sex! College is where you transition from childhood to the rest of your life! College is where you'll find out with whom you truly belong.

One hears anecdotes of people who were isolated and bullied in high school blossoming in college. One hears stories of first loves and loss of virginity and community and passion.

I recently transferred to a four-year university from community college. I have to say, I've been very disappointed so far. Way more disappointed than I ever felt about high school despite the fact that high school was a worse experience. Sure, I'm a transfer student living with his parents, which I guess you could say isn't what people have in mind when they think of The College Experience TM. That doesn't dull the disappointment. To be honest, so far university has been just like community college, except the students are younger on average and there's a lot more walking. For me, at least, college was supposed to be "the best years of your life", not high school. It may be better than high school, but it's not the best years of my life.

I don't think I'm alone in experiencing this messaging. This message seems to be pretty pervasive among younger people living in well-educated areas.

Did anybody else get this kind of messaging? Were you disappointed? Or not?
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Kiskadee on Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:25 am

Yes to pretty much all of that. I didn't hate college, but I think the pressure to enjoy it so much actually made it worse. My senior year was a major low point, probably the worst of my life. I felt like a lot of my friends/acquaintances were getting "the college experience" and I wasn't (truly finding "their people," falling in love, not being hospitalized...)

I felt better after I graduated and got a change of scenery, if that's any consolation.
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Lemminkainen on Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:35 am

I think that you're right to note that this message is basically ubiquitous-- it appears in just about every piece of media made in the US which deals with college or university life.

The complicated thing about it, though, is that this message is frequently true... for a certain type of student. This sort of student lives on-campus or in a fraternity or sorority (or off-campus with friends after a year or two on) at a four year school which they started attending immediately after high school graduation, from a comfortable enough financial position that they don't have to have a job while they're there. (If you're an intellectual or artsy or hipster type seeking to find your people, it really helps to go to an elite or artgasmic or hip school-- you could go to Swarthmore or Brown if you want the trifecta.) Literati, filmmakers, and media people were almost always students of this sort at elite schools in their youth, which is a big part of the reason why they propagate this narrative-- they had the particular combination of close living with other people their age, liberty, and lack of responsibilities which made it real in their lives.

(Full disclosure: I am the type of student which I am describing, and I totally did flourish in college-- bigger circle of friends, intellectual self-actualization, romance, sex. But my life certainly didn't peak there-- I would say that on my better days in grad school, I feel more like I'm flourishing than I did as an undergrad. There's a sense of genuine expertise and achievement which is missing from undergrad life. I also only started having romantic partners who I loved after I graduated. So even though having a certain kind of undergrad experience offers opportunities for flourishing, it isn't the only or even the best place for those to happen.)

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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by The Wisp on Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:52 am

Lemminkainen wrote:I think that you're right to note that this message is basically ubiquitous-- it appears in just about every piece of media made in the US which deals with college or university life.

The complicated thing about it, though, is that this message is frequently true... for a certain type of student.  This sort of student lives on-campus or in a fraternity or sorority (or off-campus with friends after a year or two on) at a four year school which they started attending immediately after high school graduation, from a comfortable enough financial position that they don't have to have a job while they're there.  (If you're an intellectual or artsy or hipster type seeking to find your people, it really helps to go to an elite or artgasmic or hip school-- you could go to Swarthmore or Brown if you want the trifecta.)  Literati, filmmakers, and media people were almost always students of this sort at elite schools in their youth, which is a big part of the reason why they propagate this narrative-- they had the particular combination of close living with other people their age, liberty, and lack of responsibilities which made it real in their lives.  

I would add to this combination the right personality type that would easily fit into an established group and no major psychological issues.
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Lemminkainen on Sat Nov 08, 2014 5:05 am

"No major psychological issues" is important no matter where you are, but the group thing seems to vary a lot from place to place-- at a large enough school, you can probably find groups that will accommodate just about anybody.

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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by reboot on Sat Nov 08, 2014 11:47 am

I think Lenninkainen has hit on a lot of good points. Not living with your parents, even if you are a transfer student, is key to having the opportunity to have "the college experience". In addition, depending on the college you go to and where you are coming from, it may be the first time you were able to meet people like yourself.

I went to a big, left wing public university in the early consumer internet days, and for many of the LGBTQ students it was the first time they ever met other openly gay people. Or, for many of us who were from low income communities/families, it was the first time we were in a big group of people who agreed that learning was worth spending time doing.

So long story endless, for some people it can be a transformative, " best days" time. For me I would say they were good and valuable days, but I would not call them my best days. I am not sure the best days have happened yet, ask me when I am dead Smile
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by BasedBuzzed on Sat Nov 08, 2014 11:58 am

>Lenninkainen
Kek.

Anyhow, booze-filled parties, hook-up culture, folks interested in learnding, hotbeds of zany hijinks and the right time/money balance can all be located post-college(and are in some cases better because it spares the drama). That niggling feeling of missing out never goes away until you internally manage it, no matter how much you score or how many rad things you do.

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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Guest on Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:11 pm

My college experience so far has been pretty lame. But that's what happens when you can only afford community college. Neutral

But so far, in one gif, this has been my college experience:

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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Enail on Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:21 pm

I had that college experience but, while I think there are a number of factors that make college a good place for it, for me I think a big part of it was that it happened at a time when it was exactly what I was ready for. High school to me was quite a long period of 'not the right place for me,' and I spent a lot of that time figuring out exactly what I wanted from 'my people,' how I would identify them and what I could do to find them and create the sorts of friendships i wanted with them. I chose my university and my classes based in large part on whether I thought it would offer me the version of the 'college experience' that appealed to me, joined clubs I thought would have the sorts of people I wanted, and went fairly deliberately out of my comfort zone to recreate myself as the sort of person I wanted to be. And I had the advantage of parental support, scholarships and general physical and mental health to allow me to do it.

And it worked. I met many of my closest friends there, met my wife (that wasn't part of the plan, actually), got people engaged in the kinds of activities I'd always wanted to do with friends, met queer and queer-friendly people and became comfortable with being out, had intellectual discussions and felt like the person I'd been waiting all through high school to be. BUT even so, it definitely wasn't the perfect experience I'd imagined, and it was nothing like what you see in movies. The biggest part of my first three years landed up being devoted to helping friends through serious emotional crises; I spent a lot of my time feeling sleep-deprived and panicked and insufficiently grownup to know what to do, I missed a lot of opportunities I'd wanted in favour of being there for my friends, I focused on a few close friends and didn't develop the larger social group I wanted. I don't regret a moment of it, but it was hardly a wonderland of freedom and fun - and even less so for those friends and for all the many other people who go through crises or develop mental illnesses during that time. Even the good experiences are hard in ways no one really talks about.

Nothing is ever like in movies. Even the good stuff does not much resemble what we talk about; we use shorthands and skip the complicated bits and smooth over the stuff that doesn't fit the narrative. And honestly, every time of my life that I would describe as one of the best periods was also simultaneously one of the worst.

Every life phase or experience is set up in ways that tend to encourage some kinds of good experience more than others, but that doesn't mean that the only way to have those experiences is to go with the flow and hope it carries you. Developing friendships, discovering who you are, experimenting, growing up, finding where you fit, those are really things that everyone lands up having to do over and over again throughout their lives, and the people who expect to do it once in college and stick with that I think often land up being a little bit stuck and less well-fitting as time goes on, because people are made to change.
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Conreezy on Sat Nov 08, 2014 8:48 pm

The Mikey wrote:My college experience so far has been pretty lame. But that's what happens when you can only afford community college. Neutral

But so far, in one gif, this has been my college experience:

You uncovered a caveman frozen for the last 20,000 years?!

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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Autumnflame on Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:41 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:>Lenninkainen
Kek.

Anyhow, booze-filled parties, hook-up culture, folks interested in learnding, hotbeds of zany hijinks and the right time/money balance can all be located post-college(and are in some cases better because it spares the drama). That niggling feeling of missing out never goes away until you internally manage it, no matter how much you score or how many rad things you do.

Quoting for truth, especially the bolded line. The zany hijinks, boozy partying, hookups, and having time + money all came (or intensified) after college for me, honestly. (I had some weird factors and a lot of luck in that happening, but it is not out of the question, and many people I know seem to have had a similar experience - possibly because I knew so many people who were buckling down and studying all the time, not partying in college.) And FOMO (fear of missing out) is a perpetual problem that no amount of being "with it" will cure until you come to accept where you are; no matter how hip you get, there's always someone hipper and more in tune.


Last edited by Autumnflame on Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by reboundstudent on Mon Nov 10, 2014 3:14 pm

Autumnflame wrote:
BasedBuzzed wrote:>Lenninkainen
Kek.

Anyhow, booze-filled parties, hook-up culture, folks interested in learnding, hotbeds of zany hijinks and the right time/money balance can all be located post-college(and are in some cases better because it spares the drama). That niggling feeling of missing out never goes away until you internally manage it, no matter how much you score or how many rad things you do.

Quoting for truth, especially the bolded line. The zany hijinks, boozy partying, hookups, and having time + money all came (or intensified) after college, honestly. And FOMO (fear of missing out) is a perpetual problem that no amount of being "with it" will cure until you come to accept where you are; no matter how hip you get, there's always someone hipper and more in tune.

Co-sign this. I had pretty close to the typical college experience. I went right after high school, I lived in the dorms, I belonged to a ton of clubs so had a much broader and more "my people" social life than I did in high school (only difference was I started working 20-30 hours a week starting 2nd semester freshman year.) Yet I still constantly felt as if I was missing out-not socializing enough, not taking the right classes, not going to the right parties.

The feeling has only intensified after college. It frequently feels as if I am the only person who never got into grad school, or the only person who doesn't own a house, or the only person struggling with student loans. Several of my friends take frequent weekend vacations that involve plane trips, bragging online about "cheap tickets!" My social groups seem to condense into 1 of 3 groups: wild adventure havers who travel the country and go to awesome parties and meet amazing, interesting people; stable couples who have adorable children, perfectly decorated homes, and create lavish, amazing DIY all-organic recipes; creative, intelligent types who excel in grad school, and yet still have the time and money for geeky pursuits like costuming, cons and the latest video games.

In short, college was only the beginning of me feeling I was missing out.
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Re: [Disc/semi-rant] The cultural romanticizing of college

Post by Guest on Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:20 pm

Conreezy wrote:
The Mikey wrote:My college experience so far has been pretty lame. But that's what happens when you can only afford community college. Neutral

But so far, in one gif, this has been my college experience:

You uncovered a caveman frozen for the last 20,000 years?!

Yes. But it turned out to be Brendan Fraser. Shiny/thrilled

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