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Big College Townies

This is an interesting topic for me because I have been on both ends of the equation. College towns offer a great atmosphere and an opportunity to meet diverse people who can enrich our lives. Being in such a town before ever applying to college opens one up to many things, some good, some bad.

The two stereotypes that are prevalent in many college towns are that townies of those towns are either an uneducated brood of hoodlums, or spoiled rich kids. These stereotypes are oversimplified first impressions. I believe that the brood of hoodlums stereotype arises when college students meet people of their age, who happen to not be in college. This group of people may appear different since they do not assimilate to the exact subcultures of the university. As a result, there is a lack of things in common. Does this mean that it is impossible or futile to make friends with townies? Are they going to look at your college experience with a judging eye? The answer is no. The worst thing one can do is judge a potential friend by how he or she looks on paper. My personal experience was that townies out of college came in all shapes and sizes with many life stories. And just because they were not in your psych class during freshman year, it does not mean that they’re not interesting.

The second type of townie is the student who grew up down the road from the campus. While this person looked at different universities, he or she chose their hometown university. A large fraction of high school students in the area choose to attend a local, large university with a good reputation, not only for the academics. This should be an obvious one. Having a few years to get the lay of the land, it is easier to navigate through the “new” college environment. Many of the academically accomplished townies have taken classes during the summers, attended workshops for excelling at standardized tests, and numerous academic competitions. Socially advanced students had some time to attend college parties, learn about the Greek system, and get the lowdown from friends who are already in college. This is not even including the fact that they know large portions of the campus from numerous visits. The reason that they appear spoiled is because they had a while to gather all of the resources, and learn how to live the college experience they have been craving since they started to look at college.

Before anyone becomes jealous of the hometown college student, a few disadvantages are worth sharing. The main one is obvious. For many students, attending a university is a time to learn about the world at large and everything in it. For the hometown student, the most diverse experience they have is in their program of study, not the new location, new people, new things to do, and surprises. Most hometown students take their study habits to college. Many of them save the same friends. While it is one thing to keep in touch and stay close, I feel that it is all too easy to fall to a familiar routine. Next, there is always the parent factor. They are not a time zone away, they are not a day trip away. They are down the street. The thousands of other college students do not mask the fact that parents are really just down the street. Extra input from them on various topics is expected. These disadvantages almost make knowing the lay of the land a bit less glamorous.

Overall, I think that the college townie is a unique character on the college campus. Whether this person attends college or not, it is interesting to see how much they know about the college town. They have a lot more to say than brochures and college tour guides.



jvstanley's picture

Upper Peninsula College Towns

I live directly between four different relatively large universities in the Upper Peninsula.  In Houghton, MI there is Michigan Technological University which has a very diverse student body.  Finlandia University is maybe ten miles away from Michigan Tech located in Hancock, MI and is more of a private smaller university.  In Marquette, MI there is Northern Michigan University, and that as well has a decent sized campus, and in Iron Mountain, MI there is Bay de Noc Community College.  Gogebic Community College is located in Ironwood, MI but much like University of Phoenix, has a number of campus locations outside of that where students can attend without having to relocate or commute.  There is also the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College located in Baraga, MI and those who are not of native descent are welcome to take classes there.  So at least in the UP there are a number of choices that a prospective student can make regarding their education and because of the choices of colleges that students have in the area, traveling to a different town, which I had, twice is really beneficial.  One of the perks of being a local is that with new students that come from either different states or different countries, you have the knowledge to make new friends and show them around the town, and you have that knowledge base to work from which in turn will enable you to perhaps make new friends by playing the tour guide.  


Mercer Smith's picture

The townies were always so

The townies were always so mean to us college kids. I totally understand that they were angry because this college was totally eating up all of their town and their resources, but I also feel like they should have been happy because it bolstered the local economy and brought new and interesting people in. I like that you took two perspectives on this though, and addressed the issue from both the perspective of the townie and the perspective of the college kid. So many people fail to recognize that there are unique perspectives in every situation. So, as angry as I can be towards the townies for being rude and mean to my college friends and I, I can also see how townies could be mad at us. The best example I can think of this is, now that I live somewhere and am not in undergrad, is how happy I am once all of the big college people have left for the summer. It is so much easier to get around and people aren't so rude and entitled, so I guess that is part of what the townies in my ORIGINAL college town were feeling. Makes me feel kind of bad, now, to think on it. :[

java602's picture

I attend a college that is

I attend a college that is located in a rural area where the college is pretty much the only thing going on apart from the local shops downtown.  This means that there is typically a lot of interaction between the townies and the college students, and to the extent of my knowledge, there have never been any problems between the two different groups.  In fact, most of the interaction between them is voluntary.  Since I also go to a public college, a lot the college kinds and townies have attended school together at some point in the so they have already formed friendships with one another.  I happen to be really fond of this added dynamic because my school only has a little fewer than three thousand students enrolled, so it is nice to see some additional faces around here or there that are not necessarily a part of the student body.  Townies also often have different perspectives on the issues that college students discuss frequently and it is also interesting to hear what someone from a different environment has to say on a topic.  I really enjoy having the townies around and I think most of the students would agree with me.