OP: Media portrayals of college students are out of touch

16 April 2019

Taylor Burnfield

tburnfie@uccs.edu

    When you think of Hollywood’s portrayal of college students, what comes to mind? Chances are, you might be thinking of a toga-wearing frat boy or a hard-partying sorority girl. These are stereotypes that we have been bombarded with for decades. According to the media, everyone in college is experiencing some variation of the 1978 film “Animal House.”

    However, the reality for college students today is much different. Given the high costs of college, many students choose to attend a community college first before transferring to a university. In an article from ccrc.tc.columbia.edu, “Among all students who completed a degree at a four-year college in 2015–16, 49 percent had enrolled at a two-year college in the previous 10 years.”

    Anyone who has attended UCCS for long enough knows that our university is not a stereotypical party school. Most students work full-time or work multiple part-time jobs, have children or are veterans. There are countless examples of students at UCCS who do not fit into the media’s narrow definition of what a college student is.

    According to an article by theatlantic.com, only 15 percent of college students live on campus, 37 percent are enrolled part-time, 32 percent work full time and 38 percent are over the age of 25.

    Many of the friends I have made at UCCS are hard-workers with adult responsibilities. Several students work full-time in order to pay the bills which means that what little free time they have is dedicated to attending school part-time. For a lot of students, there is not much room left in their busy schedules for a social life.      

        This past spring break, I know that for myself and many of my friends, we spent our break studying and working. However, given the way that spring break is usually portrayed in the media, you would think that all college students were partying on the beach and drinking Mai Tais.

    The only form of media that I am aware of that accurately portrays the life of a typical college student is the Peabody Award-winning TV show “Jane the Virgin” on the CW.

    In the show, the main character, Jane Villanueva, is a university student who lives at home with her family and works at a hotel. In the first few seasons of the show, she takes public transportation to school and work because she cannot afford a car.

    Other forms of media should take note from “Jane the Virgin” and become attuned with the average college student experience.

    Demographics of college students are changing, yet stereotypes remain. For many non-traditional students, it can feel as though we missed out on the true “college experience”. But what exactly is the “college experience”?

    Hollywood’s portrayal of the college experience is a fabrication that only exists for a small group of students privileged enough to party their way through college. For the majority of us, college is an investment for our future that we take very seriously.

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