Frustrated student at work in classroom

5 Stereotypes Surrounding College Students

The truths of them have been debunked.
September 28, 2017
9 mins read

People look to media for everything in today’s world. Members of society are able to deem what’s acceptable to wear, how to act and what’s popular. Pop culture definitely has a side dedicated to college and students who make up the campuses across the country. They’ve almost become a mocking point for punch lines and comedic skits. Within this view of college goers in the media, a certain set of stereotypes come along with it. These standards the media sets for students has quickly become the way people define them — even if most of us would say we are beyond how we burn the midnight oil for an exam or how we seek college homework help.

While some of the stereotypes may be true to a degree and common on college campuses, they shouldn’t be the words defining college students. Labels are unnecessary and there’s more to students who work hard for their future than a false characteristic. I believe we’re truly more than the following five stereotypes.

1. Procrastinators

Picture a student in the library, a large cup of coffee by their side and their angrily banging on computer keyboards or highlighting through a thick textbook. Most people think the student probably waited until last minute to read the six chapters for tomorrow’s exam or to write the ten-page term paper, desperately thinking to themselves, “Why can’t someone write my essay online for me?” In reality, the thought may be true, but usually the student has too much to do.

On average, a full-time college undergrad takes 15 credit hours a semester, usually has at least one or two extracurricular activities to build their résumé and, most times, even hold a job or internship to support them. So while some classes assign two to three hours of homework per class, there’s other work to be done. Sometimes there is no better way but to hire an essay writer to help you avoid failing the course and repeating it later. Not all professors meet you halfway. Trust me when I say I hate being the one in the library rapidly typing to finish a paper that’s due tomorrow, but it’s usually because I had to write two other papers, an article for my internship, read, take notes and study for exam, all taking place on the same due date as the paper. So do I really procrastinate? No, I prioritize and try my best from there.

2. Lazy 

Somehow throughout pop culture, especially social media, students suddenly became portrayed as lazy. Memes appear all over the internet of the new low college students have reached this week or the “back in my day” posts by those who are older and have this odd hostility towards millennials. Apparently college goers don’t understand the value of money, don’t worry about the future or they’re living off their parents’ money with no gratitude.

While the belief may be applicable to some, I see students working their butts off to get through school with exceptional grades and work experience to get a successful job after graduation to limit their debt and better their future. Sure, there’s those who take the easy way out and pay someone to do their homework or write papers, but there’s also those who really try.

According to Java learning course CodeGym, many college and university computer science students also take some online courses to learn programming languages such as Java, Python, Javascript, etc. Some of them even start working on their own projects or become trainees in IT companies.

3. Partiers

This is undoubtedly the most well-known stereotype surrounding college students; they really just pay thousands of dollars a year to party every night. No matter what TV show or movie you turn on with a scene about college campuses, there’s partying involved. Dorms are portrayed as never ending party scenes, frat houses have ragers with kegs and ridiculously loud music every night and all students on campus attend these parties because it’s the only thing to do on campus.

So these shows forget about the RA’s who write someone up for having alcohol in a dorm room or the police who canvas the streets? Reality is, partying isn’t as big or easy as media portrays it to be. Sorry, but there are students who are taking out various loans and paying thousands a year to earn a degree, not just to be able to say they partied every night. 

4. Cheap

“How do we draw in attention to college students?” “Easy, free food.” I’ve heard that conversation before, numerous times in various contexts. College students are just portrayed as those who want free things and are unlikely to pay a lot for anything. Maybe it’s because of all those loans they’re taking out or maybe they’re secretly smart savers. Whatever the case may be, it’s true people think of millennial students as cheap.

Campus groups market their events with giant letters advertising “FREE FOOD” or “FREE T-SHIRT.” Now whether students admit it or not, the tactic works. I know I’ve gone to an event because I was promised a free t-shirt or coffee. The free coffee saves me $1.50 on the iced coffee I would have bought from Dunkin’ Donuts. So while I may not be an avid coupon cutter, I always look for a good deal or free item, because any bit helps. Just thinking about the thousands in loans I have to pay after graduation alone is enough to encourage frugal spending habits.

5. Snowflakes

The term snowflake is perhaps taking a new meaning in your vocabulary for this stereotype. Gone are the days using the word to describe the uniquely beautiful flecks that mark the winter season. I knew little about it until it came up in a class. Basically, it’s a new term for college students coming across as too sensitive.

As students across the world unite together and stand for equality on issues regarding human rights, for example, others are taking their stand as a sense of weakness. The issue surrounding it has become a game of “he said, she said” and everyone has an opinion on it. Regardless, the stereotype of sensitive college students is a new one in today’s media. Maybe it will dissipate on lists with the common ones discussed above. Only time will tell.

These stereotypes are common in the media. While some may be funny to joke about or create a 30-minute TV episode on, they’re not truly what define college students. If all these serotypes were true, they’d be contradicting themselves. There’s more to a student than the person in the library with a large coffee who just came from an event with free food and are going to spend their weekend partying.

Lauren Clohessy, Northern Illinois University

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Lauren Clohessy

Northern Illinois University

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