Social hierarchy continues into college from high school

Natalie A. Cole

When I was preparing to go to college people told me that it was not a popularity contest like it was in high school. College is supposed to be free from the popularity rulebook. I have been here for four years and the more I am here, the more I see cliques forming in college. College is slowly becoming infested with cliques, and slowly resembling a high school. The question is: Is this college or high school?

There is even a specific hangout spot for every group and the guidelines to hang out in those specific spots are subconsciously followed. Meaning if you are not a part of the clique, then you better find somewhere else to relax between classes.

A place to explore your personality and a space to be who you truly are is slowly becoming more restricted. Long ago, college was a space where students could dress the way the way they want without getting strange looks walking through campus. Any type of music was open to all people as long as it was for your personal enjoyment, not because you had to listen to it.

People I used to see as freshmen still hang out with the same group of people. Although that does exemplify some form of loyalty, but it closes them off from other people. People do not say hello when they walk past other students on campus who they do not know. In the upper division classes, I have noticed that students are less open and friendly with each other as compared to students in lower division classes.

A few days ago, I was walking up the stairs in my building with a friend of mine and a guy was walking down the stairs. I looked at the guy and said “Hi, what is your name?” My friend who was accompanying me was shocked and so was the guy but he responded with a laugh and told me his name. To this day, every time I see that guy he always says hi to me. As a result of just greeting a random person, one less stranger became an acquaintance. My friend later told me that I was crazy, but my question is: What is so crazy about introducing yourself to new people?

I have also seen some people walk into a class on the first day and group themselves by race. I commend those people who introduce themselves to a total stranger on the first day of class. It shows courage and an open mind, especially if the person is a different race than you.

A friend of mine told me that in her class there are two girls who have known each other since high school who sit together and separate themselves from the rest of the class each day. My friend has the same view I do about meeting new people, so she sits by a different group every class period just so she can get to know everybody in the class. She once told me that her professor approached her and thanked her for choosing not to shut everybody out, but instead welcoming them.

You will never know what you can learn from other people if you do not take a chance. I think that people are too scared to take that big step or just too close minded to introduce themselves to a complete stranger. It is a sad dilemma because meeting new people is what college is supposed to and should be all about. Sometimes people you meet in class can become your best friends in the future, or at least someone you would like to go party with.

Befriending someone of a different race, sexuality, or even gender can teach you so much about other types of people. My first two years of college, I took advantage and hung out with so many types of people. Now I have a very eclectic group of friends of all races, genders and sexualities, and it is constantly growing. I even learned more about my culture by meeting other people and talking to them about the problems I had with my own culture. You could be very surprised by how much you may have in common with the person sitting next to you.

I went to a Halloween party and met up with some friends. I started making small talk with one of the guys who was with my friends. We discovered that we are so alike, it is scary, but in a good way. He is now a close friend of mine who I consider my twin because he is the male version of me. I would have never discovered that if I chose to keep to myself and to the people I knew previously.

Granted, there are people who cannot function or breathe properly if they are not a part of a clique. It seems like they need a clique to have some sort of self-worth and they have no self-identity because they can’t stand on their own. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be loyal to your group of friends. I myself know many people at this school and have close friends who I love to hang out with and am very loyal to, but I also welcome more new friends.

Cliques have a negative connotation to them because they exclude everybody else. It does not give people the opportunity to get to know you. It is so sad the way people have that need to be part of a clique so they can feel like they are worth something.

If that is the case, the answer is not being in a clique, but seeking some sort of psychiatric help because that is the first stage in an identity crisis, and it is all downhill from there. Those issues probably stem from being ignored and turned away from cliques in middle and high school, which can eventually result in an unhealthy need to join a clique.

This college is very diverse and has a wide variety of people, but students do not utilize the diversity. Diversity at this college gives students an opportunity to become acquainted with all types of cultures, religions and ethnicities. It expands the learning process, which makes you more knowledgeable and more prepared for the “real world.”

It is sad that the social politics are becoming more and more visible each day. Students can change the social hierarchy but since we are not doing so, it is not going anywhere unless you decide to do something about it.