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.