Nerdfighters. Hipsters. Speedy seniors. Dropouts. Superfans. Slackliners. Drunkorexics. Tanorexics. Adderall addicts. Longboarders. Sleep texters. Thrifters. Illegall downloaders. And one very bold halftime streaker.
Over the past 18 months, for my Campus Beat column, I have written about an array of students involved in a ton of different activities, organizations, scandals and states of mind.
My most popular piece: a glimpse at the rise of college Quidditch teams. The most poignant piece, in my opinion: a Q&A with a student journalist who reported on the surprisingly high number of undergraduates who lose a parent while still in school. The most infuriating piece: a rundown of a university testing center that temporarily banned students who were wearing skinny jeans. And the silliest piece, among the most shared on social media: the student embrace of the “YOLO” craze.
In recognition of my 100th column — posted late last month — here is a quick top 10 list of things I have learned about college life and the world at-large through Campus Beat.
1. College students’ grades are going up — and it may have nothing to do with the quality of their work. As The Student Voice at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls reports, “For the past 30 years, grades and grade point averages in private and public universities have risen significantly. …[S]tudents should be aware that the ‘A’ they are striving for may not be as big a deal as they once thought it was.”
2. The Freshman 15 is actually the Freshman 3. According to a study featured in Social Science Quarterly, first-year students at colleges and universities only gain a bit more than three pounds during their first two semesters in school. As the study’s co-author tells The Daily Texan, “There are a lot of things to worry about when you go to college. However, gaining 15 pounds your freshman year is not one of them.”
3. Nerdfighting, a cult movement, is increasingly gaining traction on campuses nationwide. Nerdfighters are a loose collection of geeky do-gooders who attempt to enact positive change in the real world and online. As a Butler Collegian student staffer at Butler University explains, “[A] nerdfighter just tries to fight against world suck.” Nerdfighters’ favorite acronym — and call-to-arms — is DFTBA, or “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.”
4. One in 10 individuals deals with the death of mom or dad before turning 25, including during their time in college. As The University Daily Kansan shares, “College students who lose a parent are affected emotionally, psychologically, physically, academically and financially. At the very time they are about to launch independent lives, they lose the people they rely on most for direction.”
5. Sleep texting has become a common activity on college campuses. As The Lantern at Ohio State University reports, “Sleep texting is as simple as it sounds: a person will respond or send out a text message in the middle of their sleep. Most people who do this usually do not remember doing it and it usually doesn’t make much sense.” A University of Georgia student admits once sending a sleep text that led to an accidental pizza delivery.
6. A hyphenated buzzword receiving evermore attention within higher education: gender-neutral. At a growing number of colleges and universities — in middle America and along the coasts — students are protesting, passing resolutions and publishing commentaries calling for more gender-neutral housing and restroom options. The push appears to be part of a larger student-led fight on some campuses for greater “transgender inclusiveness,” something The Oklahoma Daily hails as the heart of “this generation’s civil rights movement.”
7) Students are becoming increasingly vocal champions of thrifting and the culture it represents. Most broadly, the thrifting movement appears to embody a generational shift built atop five basic tenets: old is new, mixing trumps matching, swapping beats shopping, the best things in life are free (or incredibly cheap) and social responsibility is the new black.
8. It is possible to eat too healthy. It is at the heart of a disorder known as orthorexia nervosa. As The Signpost, the student newspaper at Weber State University, explains, “Orthorexia is the fixation on righteous eating and an unhealthy obsession with eating only healthy foods. Like anorexia and bulimia, it can wreak serious damage on the health of someone trapped in the obsession.”
9. For a brief time earlier this year, the acronym YOLO (You Only Live Once) reached a critical mass among college students. As a Chapman University student wrote in March in The Panther, “[I]t is quickly becoming the new motto of our generation. Found on T-shirts, people’s arms and all over Facebook, YOLO is a new craze that many here at Chapman follow with an almost religious fervor.” By comparison, the following month, a Penn State University student argued via Onward State, “Plain and simple, YOLO needs to die. …While the philosophy is nothing new, the saying has gone way beyond too far to the point that it is being abused.”
10. Quidditch is cool. Among the many phenomena the Harry Potter book and film series has spawned — a theme park, post-Potter depression, the Pottermore website, HP fan fiction and Daniel Radcliffe’s film career — perhaps none is as quirky and currently en vogue as Quidditch. The sport, based in fiction, is catching on among real-world students at an astonishingly prodigious rate. Hundreds of teams have formed at schools in almost every state and more than a dozen countries. A Quidditch World Cup is held. And the NCAA officially recognizes it as a sport.
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