Essay #2 (revised)

Mollie Jutkowitz

Professor Alvarez

English 110

6 April 2012

What is College Life Really Like?


American Representation Of College

The term ‘college life’ means different things for many people. While this is the time in many people’s lives where they are are finally independent and want to take advantage of that, it is also an important time regarding education. There are many different types of schools, each giving students a different type of college experience. A school like Queens College, which is a commuter school, does not have a significant dorm life. However, a school like the University of Pennsylvania, where most students live on campus, has a large dorm life with many school related events, sports games, sororities and fraternities. As a result of the American culture and how college has been represented, most people hope to have a college experience that involves drinking, partying and a constant social events. Students often expect to be in either a fraternity or sorority in addition to going to sports games and wild parties. College is often comes as a large shock to students, because this is often not the reality.

In this essay I will argue that the way American culture has represented college is very different from the way college is in reality. Many stereotypes about ‘college life’ have been created, causing students to hope to their college experience will be primarily social and forgetting about the academics. One of the main stereotypes created about college is the fact that college is a constant party with constant drinking. College has also been made to seem as though school spirit dominates a student’s experience and the student spends most of his time at events life football games. While these two aspects of college are undoubtedly present in college, the American culture has strongly exaggerated and taken these two parts of college life to an extreme. Another popular stereotype of college is that only the classes for one’s major are important, therefore making the first two years a waste of time. People think that general education classes have nothing to do with a student’s major and as a result should not be required. These common views of college are not in fact accurate and completely change the real focus of college.

College as Represented in the Media

In the movie The Social Network the story of how facebook started is traced. It shows how facebook started and then evolved multiple times as a few Harvard students worked to improve it and make it what it is today.  In this scene from the movie, a group of Harvard students are competing to see who can hack into a server the fastest. This competition is made into a little bit of a party as there are other students around hanging out, watching the group as they hack and cheering them on. The participants are required to drink a shot every certain amount that they hack as well as every three minutes.

In this scene, it seems like the competition focuses just as much on the drinking as it does on the hacking. The actor playing Mark Zuckerberg lists about five instances after which the participants need to drink a shot. This competition should be taken seriously, as the winner becomes an intern at facebook. Instead of taking it seriously, the focus is shifted to party aspect as one of the characters says, “And can I ask, what part of the intern’s job will they need to be able to do drunk?” (“The Social Network-Hacking and Drinking scene”). This scene supports the U.S. view of college as one big party. Although these students were involved in a seemingly important task, drinking and partying were still present. In addition, this movie takes place at Harvard University, showing that people do not only think of “lower” schools as focusing on partying but a top school like Harvard as well. While this is the view many people have of American colleges, it is not the reality. College does have the drinking and partying aspect to it, but not to the extent that just this small clip implies. Many people wish to have this as their college experience, but this is not something I would add to make Queens College the perfect school. Although it is important for one to enjoy his college experience, constant partying and drinking is not necessarily the way to enjoy. The occasional, or even weekly, party occurs in most schools and in my opinion adds to the college experience but college does not need to be a constant party.

Many students across America view the first two years of college as a waste of time due to the general education (GenEd) classes they have to take. Every college has its basic requirements students need to fulfill outside of their major and many students feel that they should not have to take these classes. For example, students who are choosing to major in English feel that taking a math or science class to fulfill a requirement is a waste of their time because it is not relevant to their major. On the other hand, there are those who value GenEd classes, because even if they aren’t relevant to one’s major, these classes will make one more intelligent and worldly. The following video demonstrates both of these views very well:

According to the student in this video, the first two years of college are a “scam” because the classes he is taking to fulfill his requirements are not at all relevant to his major. While this is true in many cases, it does not mean that these are not important to one’s education but might possibly be as important as classes for one’s major. As the woman in the video says, “It is better to have a little knowledge on a variety of things, rather than have expertise in one thing and one thing only” (“Is College A Scam?”). If the first two years of college were skipped and students went straight to taking classes for their major, they would have expertise in one area and know almost nothing in other areas. GenEd classes allow students to become experts in one area, their major, while acquiring some knowledge in other areas at the same time. GenEd classes, like geology and philosophy, make students into more “well-rounded people”. While many American students are opposed to general education classes, I think they are very important and must be part of a “perfect” college. In order to be a well-adjusted person in the world, it is not enough to be knowledgeable in just one area and this is where the importance of GenEd classes comes in. In my opinion, a college that does not require students to take classes outside their major is not providing students with a complete education. By having GenEd requirements, Queens College is on its way to becoming a “perfect” school.

Lastly, another popular representation of college is the amount of school spirit that the students have. Along with this comes the idea that students are constantly having fun and involved in school related activities. When many people think of college, they think of students at football games with painted faces, but the academic aspect does not come to mind. In this short scene from Modern Family, Phil takes his daughter to visit the college he graduated from. He talks about how much he loved college and tells her all the different things he did around campus with his friends. Even many years later, Phil still had a lot of school spirit for the college he graduated from.

From the way Phil talks about his ‘college days’ with such enthusiasm, he shows his large amount of school spirit. He shows his daughter all the fun places and things he used to do, but hardly mentions anything about the academics or classes. For example, by wearing his college sweatshirt and talking about the school mascot, the Bulldog, Phil is showing his school spirit. There are those people who meet this stereotype of having great amounts of school spirit and constantly being involved in school related, fun activities. However, most students are not this way and most of college life is not this way. This video shows the fun, spirited, “football game” side of college but completely neglects the academic side of college. Just as this video did, many people focus solely on more fun parts of college and overlook the main purpose of college, the academics. This is best shown in this scene when Phil says, “I really think she is starting to see what college has to offer” because he is referring to all the fun he had, outside of class (“Phil and Haley Visit a College!-Modern Family”). School spirit is very important at a college and in my opinion is a large factor in creating the perfect Queens College. School spirit does not need to be the main part of a student’s college experience like many people think it is or hope it to be. Unlike how college is often made out to be, there should be a balance between class and studying and other school related activities. A perfect college should promote spirit among students in order to improve their overall experience, but should not make this the main focus of their college life.

The Reality of Queens College

The way college is represented in these three stereotypes is very different than what I have experienced at Queens College. Although there are parties and drinking that take place at QC, it is not nearly to the extent to which college drinking is portrayed in the scene from The Social Network. Since Queens College is a commuter school and many others are not, there is very little dorm life and this could contribute to the reduced amount of parties and drinking. Another result of being a commuter school is the fact that there is a much lower level of school spirit in Queens College than there is in other non-commuter schools. Attending sports events, such as a football game, is not a common activity for Queens College students, mostly because of the lack of dorm life. Although the short scene from Modern Family is an exaggerated portrayal of school spirit in college, Queens College has an exceptionally low ‘spirit level’ as a result of the fact that it is a commuter school. The last representation, that many students are upset with the requirements of GenEd classes, seems to be false regarding Queens College as well. Although it is difficult for me to say one way or another since I have not spoken to the majority of QC students, it seems as though most students are not particularly disturbed by the requirements outside their major. While students enjoy some classes over others, the general idea of GenEd requirements does not bother Queens College students as it bothers others.

If a film were to be made based on Queens College and what student life is like, it would be very different than many of the college films made. In my opinion, this film would would focus on the fact that QC is a commuter school and the college experience that a student living off campus has. Just like most movies, there would be the average college party although there might be differences than in most other schools. For example, instead of the party being on campus it might be off campus at a house or club. In addition, this film would highlight the diverse student body at Queens College. Instead of focusing on one main character, the film would show many students in order to emphasize the wide range of students at Queens College. While Queens College would produce a different type of college film, it would be very interesting as it would highlight different college experiences.


Works Cited

The Social Network.  Dir. David Fincher.  Perf. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield.  Columbia Pictures, 2010.  DVD.


“Phil and Haley Visit A College.”  Modern Family.  ABC, New York.  19 Oct. 2011.    Television.


“Is College A Scam?” YouTube. TYTuniversity, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 1 April 2012.

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