Tripod Editorial: The Fallacy of the College Experience

Skyler Simpkins ’23


What do you think the college experience is? Or, perhaps more accurately, how did you envision college life? I believe the overwhelming collective consciousness views college life as a breath of “freedom” from the rooms of your family home, uncovering your gregarious self, experimenting—hopefully safely—at fraternity and sorority houses, promiscuous sex, and unadulterated youth. It is this belief about the college experience, this desire to partake in these behaviors, that has led to the bitter divides on campuses around the world and contributes to the continuation of chauvinistic, racist, and classist ideologies that continue to harm our world. When college becomes a tunnel visioned k-hole of partying, the emphasis on education is lost and the ability to become “successful”—calculated through societal valuation of your first job or internship post-college—stays in the hands of those with familial luck on their side. 

By no means am I asking for you to practice sobriety or abstain from parties, I only think it is interesting how the advertised college experience with the idyllic party scene is only available in its completely unadulterated form to those in society with the most privilege. And privilege it is—especially at this college—for those that get to party multiple days a week, routinely miss their morning classes, yet still get a great job right out of college. Acknowledging this as a privilege naturally begs thought, questioning how to make things more equal for those not similarly privileged—but, you can’t. This is where I perceive a societal continuation of the damaging ideologies that impale humankind’s general consciousness. Those that get into college, engage in more rambunctious activities than you could ever imagine, don’t particularly do well in college, yet immediately jump to the top of their respective career fields become the de facto top of the class. They are the successful ones because they were bred to be the successful ones, but much of the general public doesn’t acknowledge that second clause. 

Now with these trust babies being crowned “successful,” what does that do to the community of other students that made up their graduation year? Well, yes—it implies that they were less successful. Any savant for comparative studies could choose a class year and infer success from the first job placement or grad school acceptance, and there would be a common thread seen amongst all those adults: rich, white, and, typically, male. Now we have reinforced a stereotype of success being relegated to the few with these qualities, and all the harmful ideologies plaguing humanity begin their new life cycle with every graduating class.

So what if I don’t? What if I don’t party or do anything “fun” in college? Unfortunately that won’t work out very well for you either. When your counterparts are already 10 rungs above you on the fictional ladder of the American Dream, you abstaining from party culture will maybe only lift you a rung on that ladder. Besides, you are an introverted geek if you don’t partake in the party life, but if you devote yourself fully to the college experience, your grades will slowly drop, you will begin to lose time to devote to internships, sports, or any other extracurricular activity, and, the final nail in the coffin, you don’t have a daddy to fall back on. A saturated mixture of both sides of college, then, is needed to maintain a good résumé but also maintain sanity in what can sometimes be a competitive environment. Our only solution to the problem of the privilege of enjoying the unadulterated college experience is to dismantle a system that boasts familial and societal connections over merit. But while we keep plowing through the injustices of our world, remember to play hard but study harder, because those still on their family’s silver platter don’t have to worry about the latter.

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