A recent study by Indiana University found that the amount of debt you accrue seriously impacts how you conduct yourself socially in college. In short, they found that those who must take out student loans to pay for school party less and may apply themselves more to their studies. The Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences study found “real and significant differences in experiences” that led them to categorize students in one of three ways.
#1 Partyers – This group of largely debtless students spend a great amount of time socializing and are far more invested in extracurricular activities than in academics or studying and do a lot of partying.
#2 Disengaged – These poor kids are so bummed about debt they neither socialize nor study leaving me to question what’s keeping them in school. Societal pressure? Parental expectation?
#3 Studiers – This group eschewed partying, spent a fair amount of time studying and also worked to help pay for school. This sounds perfect to me, but they study suggests there are problems here.
The study authors – Daniel Rudel and Natasha Yurk – believe that shortchanging yourself socially while in college can have far-reaching implications. Rudel says, “These patterns could affect the social connections and networking students develop in college, where these relationships can lead to friendships, employment, marriage partners and other benefits.” He then added that the third category of experience diverges “from the script people have of what college should be like.”
I’m not so certain that I rush to agree with the conclusions they are drawing from this study. The three categories seem sound. I myself fell into category number three in school because my parents had no money to contribute. I was purely a scholarship and student loan kid who also had an on-campus job and summers spent slaving away so save cash for books, fees and reams of Ramen. That being said, I was active in college theater and sports but intentionally avoided the party scene because it was a question of how much my schedule could give.
I had friends down the hall in my dorm who had new cars parked in the dorm lot, big TVs in their room and no financial worries. They studied enough to get by and certainly enjoyed parties but I never envied them that. What I did envy was when I dragged in from late night hours working in the campus AV department to see them stretched out on their beds watching TV. Or to see them come yawning into the common room in PJs at noon on the weekends when I was pulling a shift at the RA desk to earn a spare twenty.
It wasn’t the money I begrudged them or the funds to go out partying or to concerts. It was the unaccounted for leisure time. The only time I wasn’t running from class to job to rehearsal to library to dorm to sleep was when I had my wisdom teeth pulled and ended up in bed for a full week recovering. In as much pain as I was, it was blissful to have a legitimate excuse not to get out of bed and to watch daytime TV on my miniscule set while I fought off a fever.
I firmly believe that my time spent on the school newspaper, spouting Shakespeare on stage (albeit in a minor supporting role) and unsuccessfully goal tending on our last-ranked women’s soccer team formed relationships that were easily as valuable than any I could have developed under more festive social circumstances. I bonded with my study buddies, lab partners and others toiling deep in the bowels of the social science building where the AV nerds dwelled. Long bus rides for off campus soccer bouts and endless hours of play rehearsal left me with relationships that have lasted for years, are strong and have (thankfully) outlasted my student loan debts!
So for all who read this study and fear that they fall into the dreaded second category because you occasionally resent your debt and envy those carefree party animals you watch sleep off hangovers in advanced econ – fear not! You’ll likely get far more from college than academics – you’re getting an education in financial responsibility. And no doubt graduating with five digits of debt is a bummer – but you did graduate – and you should be proud that you earned your own way – even if it was on the back of student loans. And if the trend continues, more and more students will find themselves in category three as parents have less money to kick in than they did years ago.
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