Social Class Experience at College


The autobiography of our time at the colleges we attend, identifying what about your social class makes it easy or challenging for you to be in college. In other words, identify the parts of your college experiences that are shaped by social class.

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Most teenagers and college students are very similar in terms of their likes and dislikes as well as their behavior. However the social class to which they belong does have a significant effect on the experience of the students at a college and the opportunities that are presented to them. Coming from a middle class as per the social class system in the local region, it can be said that the social class can be both a hindrance as well as a catalyst for the experiences that are available to a college student.

The presence of reputation, status, wealth and popularity for a student can result in a gregarious and social experience for the student which can provide the student with innumerable opportunities for growth, acceptance into the college of their choice as well as favorability in a class and or a subject by other students or professors/counselors. ON the other hand the unavailability of sufficient financial banking, and links to the poor and low-income social class can limit the opportunities and the experience of the student in terms of acceptance to the colleges of choice, exposure of the desired experience and cultures well as the choices available to the students.

A study based on qualitative survey pertaining to 30 respondents, of which 15 were from state college and 15 from the elite college provided that “Significant disparities of wealth between students at the elite college heightened awareness of class, and led to feelings of intimidation, discomfort, inadequacy, deficiency, exclusion, and powerlessness among lower income students, feelings that were less prevalent among state college students.

Students at both colleges acquired new forms of cultural capital and coped with class-based discontinuities between who they were before college and who they were becoming, but these issues became heightened for the elite college students.” (Aries & Sieder, 2005) Students from lower social backgrounds usually tend to face issues pertaining to less access to resources while the upper class students are of the opinion that they have been able to live an easy life but the main disadvantage of their social standing was the limited independence provided to them.

Another study based on research conducted on a sample of college graduates who traveled form the lower so9cialclass to the middle or relatively upper middleclass depicted that in order to achieve their current social standing they had to go through “experiences of hardship as children, obstacles to advancement, resources that enabled academic pursuits, and thwarted belonging needs in academic environments and original referent group settings. Bicultural and tricultural identity development were identified as central phenomena for participants” (Nelson et al, 2006) this depicts that social class does play a major role in determining the opportunities presented to the student and the experience that is exposed to the student

A discussion in ways that the college requires or encourages certain social class attitude or expressions.

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It is possible for the college to encourage or explicitly demand certain attitudes pertaining to social class. This is characteristics of college and universities that are established on the bases of social class like elite schools and universities as well as the public or government run schools and universities for the underprivileged. In such universities, the discrepancy of the social standing and status as well as the social class is usually emphasized upon resulting in the preference or the encouragement of certain social class and attitudes.

Elite colleges and universities tend to have a high reputation in terms of quality, services and resources, however only the students who can afford the university can partake in education in such institutions causing a social class discrepancy and favoritism..Moreover in cases where scholarship based middle or low income students do attain positions at the elite university, they are usually require to adhere to the social norms and customs of the lifestyle as west by the higher social class based students. This can pertain to hanging out at certain spots, the behavior of the individual, the dressing as well as the appearance of the person etc. The main factors that influence the students in such circumstances are peer pressure as well as acceptance to the group they are residing or moving about in.

Other ways in which the college itself may require the students to adhere to or apply or adopt certain class attitudes can be by encouraging them to hand out in specific social circles, handled and organize events targeted for and participates in by a specific social class as well as by the orientation of the teachers, instructors and the professors towards favoritisms of certain type of behavior and social culture.

A discussion of the strategies that we use (consciously or unconsciously) to portray or overcome our social class to fit in college

When interacting in and participating in certain social groups, the students in a university and college tend to unconsciously as well as consciously change them to fit better amongst popular crowd. This is usually done by the students by adopting the socially accepted norms and the culture in the university/ college. Some of the strategies used by the students to fit much better by camouflaging or overcoming their social class at the college pertain to changing the manner of their dressing; changing the group of people and peers they hang around with, changing their aspirations as well as careers to fit the social class.

Other strategies or steps that are taken by the students to better fit into the social circle can include specifically taking up certain hobbies and activities which are better suited to the social class which is norm in the university, joining groups or organizations which establish and instill the values based on the dominant social class of the university and in certain extreme cases disassociation with people different social class in order to be accepted by the dominant society at the college or the university.

Other Sources of Change

Despite the socio-cultural elements, the innovations and technologies that are present in the world of today have also significantly affected the experience of college for the students. These innovations pertain to the cell phones, MM Online Role Playing games, digital video compression, the internet, VoIP, Google & search engines. FTP and sharing applications, textbooks in the CD and DVD formats, laptops and printers, SMS texting, PDA and Tablet computers with touch screens, virtual environments for learning, web based applications, as well as TIVO, mini coffee makers, energy drinks, WIFI and Community based file sharing and communicating platforms like Facebook and MySpace.

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The attainment and availability of these services and innovations however is totally dependent on the social status as well as the wealth that is deposable at the hands of the students. Infact these innovations tend to establish a university/ college culture for the students, setting a social standard for the students.


Aries, E., Seider, M., ‘The Interactive Relationship between Class Identity and the College Experience: The Case of Lower Income Students’, Qualitative Sociology, (2005), Vol. 28 Issue 4, p419-443, 25p, 1 chart. Web.

Miller, J., Perrucci, R., Brimeyer, T., (2006), ‘SOCIAL CLASS SENTIMENTS IN FORMATION: Influence of Class Socialization, College Socialization, and Class Aspirations’, Sociological Quarterly, (2006), Vol. 47 Issue 3, p471-495, 25p, 7 charts. Web.

Nelson, M.L., Englar-Carlson, M., Tierney, S.C., Hau, J.M., ‘Identities for Counseling Academics’, Journal of Counseling Psychology, (2006), Vol. 53 Issue 1, p1-14, 14p. Web.

Ostrove, J., ‘Social class and belonging: Implications for college adjustment’, McAlester College Faculty Publications, (2007). Web.

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