Beware the College Group Chat

By this time of year, seniors like me are caught in a state of utter confusion. None of us know if our grades matter, if we should care about APs or whether we want to hug or kill every last one of our peers. Most of us know what we are doing next year and have started trying to mentally prepare for it, but we do still have a few months left here and don’t know how to make the best of it. We are caught between a multitude of opposites : feeling ready to start fresh but intensely nostalgic about our first days at Mamaroneck, feeling like there’s no use in being here but like there isn’t half enough time to check off all the things we want to do before we leave.

The goal for those of us going to college is to find a balance between feeling excited for the future and holding onto our last moments with our Mamaroneck friends. And the first showing of being excited for college is joining your school’s respective Facebook group. These groups are overwhelming to say the least. They contain posts from inquisitive students asking about a certain major, posts from hardcore sports fans perpetually updating scores and—most of all—posts from the bold and fearless: the miscellaneous posts.

Any senior in a college Facebook group has seen the posts. You know exactly which ones I’m talking about. “I want to get to know you all! If you were a color, what would you be? I’m 100% terra cotta.” “Are we allowed to keep swords in our dorm rooms?” “So excited to eat mango with you guys next year!!!” It’s frightening enough to make any prospective student rethink their college decision, if only for a second.

So we “normal” Mamaroneck High School seniors, along with others, have created a solution. We get added to GroupMe group chats by our friends’ camp friends— filled with girls with whom you played field hockey in middle school and girls your camp friend’s cousin knows and girls who—just like you—love Red Plum in Mamaroneck. And it is reassuring, for sure. It’s nice to know that you aren’t going to college with only people who are concerningly geeky or people who post odd Facebook collages for the entire class of 2020 to see. It’s a nice way to familiarize yourself with people and possibly find a roommate if you are nervous about going random.

This is all innocent enough. There is certainly an understandable comfort in the familiar, in kids who grew up with similar backgrounds and who you know are not serial killers or extreme nerds. But these group chats create microcosms of our home lives, considering they are purely created on the basis of pre-existing friendships and acquaintances. And as much as we all have grown to know and love Mamaroneck High School and our lives here, we cannot go to college in search of recreating those lives.

We’ve all heard the speech about how college is a time to expand our comfort zone and explore new options. From what I can tell, college freshmen do a great job of this in the classroom. With so many fresh course options, it is exciting to try out something new. And for the students who don’t possess that drive, a majority of schools utilize distribution requirements, pushing you to expand your intellectual horizons in areas you wouldn’t naturally feel compelled to do so.

Where students fall short in being receptive to this “expanding your horizons” speech is in these “normal” group chats. I’m not suggesting that “distribution requirements” or quotas should exist within these group chats; that isn’t natural or productive. But we need to be aware that these group chats are just a sliver of the college we’ll attend, an even smaller sliver of the real world. We just have to be aware that if we are going to college to hopefully burst the bubble that is Westchester, these group chats and the kids within them aren’t going to get the job done. It’s not that we should close ourselves off to prospective students similar to us, it’s just that we should be open to students a bit different as well. (But maybe not as different as the 100% terra cotta student.)

There is a fairly simple danger in letting these group chats go too far: you end up closing yourself off to a large percentage of what could be your next four years. And I am not saying that attending a meetup or being a member of one of these group chats is “going too far.” It’s one thing to attend a meetup. It’s another to only talk to the five girls there that you’ve already hung out with twelve times. It’s one thing to be a member of a group chat with 55 girls. It’s another to form a solidified “friend group” or “clique” or “XX university bffs forever” group chat to which you refuse to add other people. It is one thing to use these groups to dip your toes in, get a taste for people you’ll be meeting next year, knowing that you’ll also be meeting thousands of others. It is another to lock yourself into a clique before you even step on campus and pretend that your group of five or six represent the entirety of your school and your next four years.

By Hannah Lachow

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