Monday, 27 August 2012

Guest Post: 4 Novels and Movies Examining the College Experience

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When with think about college before ever actually going there, there are a lot of things that come to mind. Many of us likely picture grassy knolls, red brick buildings, toga parties, decorated dorm rooms, late nights studying, and all those iconic "college" experiences. These images are instilled in our minds through books, television shows, movies that show us what the college experience is. While some of these depictions may be sensationalized some, many of them bare some truth to what your college life looks like. Of course, this is not to say that you'll be wearing togas every weekend or scribbling unintelligible math proofs across a dusty chalkboard, but many of those scene will feel familiar and more so many of the emotions and characters will feel relatable. These two books and two movies give apt insight into the world of college academics and society.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
As one of the absolute classic novelist of the modern age, F. Scott Fitzgerald has attributed many things to the world of literature. While his better known work, The Great Gatsby, deals with issues of money and adulthood, This Side of Paradise explores the life of a young man going to school at Princeton. Amory Blaine is the central character of this novel and one that many individuals in college can connect with. Blaine goes on quest for self-knowledge and power throughout his colligate career. Though he has many dreams and aspirations the end of the book ends with one final lament: "I know myself, but that is all". This famous line speaks volumes about the college experience. College is not so much about learning new facts. It's about learning who you are and what you are all about. All you can truly gain from your college experience is a greater understanding of yourself and your own passions.

Good Will Hunting
This film is often referred to as the film that put hugely famous Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on road to stardom. Good Will Hunting tells the tale of a "common" janitor that holds a secret gift for mathematics. While this particular plotline likely won't be very familiar to you in college, the themes and topics that the film explores should be recognizable. The film delves into issues of class, fitting in, and growing up. One of the biggest struggles \students just entering the world of higher education face is leaving behind the things that are most familiar to you. College is a huge stepping stone towards living an adult life away from all aspects of your childhood. The main character in the movie struggles with leaving behind his best friend and old neighborhood for the world of academia.

Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
While this novel doesn't exactly take place in college, it does have many useful and illuminating insights into the world of academics and living away from home. Lee Fiora is the central character of this novel which takes place at an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. Though Lee is only a freshman in high school, she experiences many of the challenges freshmen in college deal with. She is in an unfamiliar town, with complete strangers, and thrown into an entirely new academic structure. While she was once a shining student in her hometown, in boarding school she is surrounded by students equally as bright and eager as she is about learning and pleasing the teacher. Lee struggles to find her place within the school atmosphere and ends up feeling like an outsider. Lee's experience may feel very familiar to young college students. She struggles with roommates and living in a co-ed situation—all things very familiar to the college experience.

Legally Blonde
While this one may raise some questions for making the list, there are many things relatable about this movie. While the film's plot is a bit of a stretch and most of the characters are over the top versions of real stereotypes, there is something underneath all this. Legally Blonde communicates something very strong about college relationships that are formed over the course of four years and college aspirations that are built in classrooms and dorm rooms. No, you won't make it into law school by sporting a bikini in your entrance video, but you will meet characters that share something in common with each one depicted in this film. There's always going to be that one girl in your English 101 class that says the right things and knows what she wants.

Samantha Gray. She is now a freelance writer who enjoys guiding readers through the sometimes labyrinthine process of pursuing a college education and a rewarding career. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact Samantha at 

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