College Survival 104: High School vs. College Social Lives

August 07, 2015
Going off to college can be overwhelming in a number of different ways. One thing that many students overlook is the huge differences between high school and college social norms. In this week’s College Survival 104, our Admits tell us more about their experiences and how things have changed. Whether it’s classes, social lives, or just regular living experiences, it’s important to get to know how things will be different.

 

A large social norm that disappeared once I got to college was the fact that cliques and social hierarchy vanished. I came from a small high-school where everyone knew each other, so it was easy to point out who was “cool” and who wasn’t. But once you get to school there are too many people to be able to pinpoint whose “popular,” so people don’t worry or think about it too much. People find their groups of friends, and they don’t think about how they are looked upon. In addition, many times people will have many different groups of friends. In high school I felt as though I had ONE group of friends, now I feel like I belong to many different groups.

 

I think to an extent, social norms are a bit different from high school because the community and environment are mostly much larger than those of high school. You don’t know everybody, so you can be who you want to be without the pressure of judgement. That’s what I love about college, you get the freedom to find where you fit in socially without the pressure of your peers looking over your shoulder. Everybody is an adult and have to worry about their own future, so they don’t have as much time to judge or scrutinize you. However, sometimes it may feel as though there are similar social norms if you constantly surround yourself with the same people.

 

Social norms in high school are very different to those in college. You’re essentially living within a stone’s throw away from your peers, so the social dynamics change. For one, there really are no such things as cliques. There’s so many chances to interact with so many different people, that it ends up being more about interconnected friend groups. Also, people are usually more socially liberal in college, so there’s a lower threshold for bad behavior. Granted, it’s to be expected, since it’s encouraged that kids try new things for the first time.

 

For me, I grew up in a very small town where everyone knew each other so college was a big change not only in location but social settings. In my high school, it was common to say hello to everyone and to see everyone over the weekend because everyone was involved in the similar activities. However, college was extremely different in that it let you really do things that you want to do. It lets you explore whether you want to head to frat row, a museum, or go to different restaurants. Also, depending what you want to do socially, the crowd changes whereas in high school, I was with the same group of friends doing similar things every weekend.

Browse Successful Application Files

Jwhitty32
UChicago ‘20


Accepted to UChicago, UVA, Purdue, GA Tech

If you're looking for that ray of hope that someone unspectactular might get lucky, you came to the right place.
ayinUChicago
UChicago ‘18


Accepted to Duke, Brown, NYU, UChicago, UNC, East Carolina, NC State

I'm a class of 2018'er at UChicago studying Economics and Psychology! Super interested in start-ups and economics.
youngch
Vanderbilt ‘18


Accepted to Baruch, Binghamton, Brooklyn College, Hunter, Macaulay Honors, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, UPenn, Brown, Cornell, SUNY Buffalo, Rice, Vanderbilt, NYU, Columbia

I grew up in New York City, Bronx and Brooklyn to be exact. I went to pretty big public schools and once you find a supportive yet motivating group of friends, teachers, advisors, and counselors to complement your family, life becomes a whole lot better!
Lia_Columbia
Columbia ‘19


Accepted to Columbia

I'm a student at Columbia. I love writing, activism, terrible jokes, and binge-watching Netflix. Aspiring English teacher.




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