Are Colgate Students Happy?

I wasn’t astonished to read in a survey that almost half of Americans are unhappy with where they live. Not all groups want to move to the same city or state, but the bottom line is many people are unhappy where they are and want a way out.

What about Colgate? Are students happy here? Or would they also prefer a change of scenery? I’m in the last few months of my collegiate career; inevitable questions are entering my mind. Now that the full “Colgate Experience” has revealed itself to me, am I satisfied? What if I had gone to X college in Y city instead? How would I be different? One of the inherent problems with the college application process is that we trust our 18-year-old high school selves with a decision that will affect the rest of our lives (where to attend college). As we know, 18 year-old high school seniors don’t necessarily have the best decision making skills.

What attracts high school seniors to Colgate? The scenery helps. When you visit during the summer, like many high school students do, Colgate’s natural beauty is undeniable. What about the interesting classes? You can’t get a good perspective on the Colgate faculty by attending one or two class sessions. What about the reputation? Colgate’s reputation is strong, but so are the reputations of many other colleges.

What about the favorable student to faculty ratio, diversity initiatives and opportunities to help the community? All good things, but they are not characteristics that would necessarily seal the $50K+ a year deal. I doubt that many people’s expectations of Colgate match up perfectly with their experiences at Colgate. We can’t really point to a solid reason why we decided to come to Colgate.

The decision to come to Colgate is already made on shaky grounds, so what do students discover when they enter the second semester of their freshmen year? The “wow, I’m in college” factor wears off. They come to the realization that they will be spending the next three years hours from a major city, with an unchanging pattern of nightlife, all the while surrounded by three feet of snow. This leaves many students questioning their decisions to come here. Some students come to the conclusion that they are unhappy at Colgate.

How do individuals deal with this realization? We do so through a particular type of collective experience. Together, the negative experiences that students have with life at Colgate form stronger friendships. In other words, social groups bond over their collective dislike of life at Colgate. Struggling together is easier than struggling alone. How often have you complained to one of your friends about the ridiculous and unfair assignment your professor just gave? How often have you complained to your friends about the food at Frank? How often have you walked downtown on a Friday night in the freezing cold with friends? The negative aspects of life at Colgate bring us together. These experiences are struggles, but they are collective ones. After four years, I’ve realized that these collective struggles are what form the most enduring friendships.