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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students have same goals even if they have different backgrounds

Published: April 4, 2014
Section: Opinions

As someone who has attended her fair share of car shows as a child, it is in my nature to appreciate a quality vehicle. I am biased to the classics, but how could I ignore some of the new BMWs and Audis parked around campus? I think there might even be a Maserati driving around Loop Road. In the past, I always just admired the car itself. But a quote from Michelle Obama has made me think twice. As she wrote in her thesis at Princeton, “I remember being shocked by college students who drove BMWs. I didn’t even know parents who drove BMWs.” Earlier this year, the first lady visited a Virginia college to discuss the same issues that she acknowledged in this quote. I think the larger issue she has touched upon is the socioeconomic divide that seems to be accentuated in college.

Starting at the application process, financial means becomes a defining attribute for a student. We are forced to answer countless questions on the FAFSA and submit our taxes and other documentation, determining if we can even afford to go to these schools. Not to mention, all this hassle takes place after the stressful process of trying to get accepted into these colleges. Many students scramble to earn other scholarships or figure out which loans to take out to continue on with their education after high school. Just getting to college can be a struggle for many. Then actually being in college, staying in college, is a whole other set of obstacles on its own.

Students juggle classes, extra curricular activities, a social life and not to mention often a job. Thus, on top of the workload and hectic lifestyle of a college student, there are students who are constantly aware and concerned with the financial balance beam they have to walk on in order to get by each semester. The varying cost of attending an institution from student to student is just a big picture view, however. These students differ in more than just how much they pay for college.

Not everyone is “well off” and not everyone is “struggling.” People’s socioeconomic background contributes to the experiences that make them an individual. Some students have stories about living in a cramped two-bedroom apartment, while others may know about the loneliness of an empty house and workaholic parents. There are a lot of factors to a person, and I do not think it fair to summarize them based off their financial background.

I am not going to think someone with a nicer car than me is better off. Sure, I would love to have Beamer of my very own. Nevertheless, there could be a lot more going on in their life that I do not know about. For those of us not so well endowed, we have something to work toward, a Maserati if that is what you so please. Maybe we can just be aware that socioeconomic differences exist and realize that it is a part of what makes each of us unique.

Money is such a material facet of our society but such a significant one that is noticeable even on your walk to class. Sometimes you may see someone who wears the same pair of jeans constantly. Now, maybe that is their favorite pair of jeans, but I am not going to sugar coat it for you. Fads such as North Face coats, Uggs, Sperry’s and so on are another way clothes illustrate such a subtle but real difference between students. Some people will wait for Christmas or their birthday to just have one of these things. Others can go out and buy it any day of the year.

Clothes are such a superficial aspect, but as students with ambitions, the way we dress can represent something more. They don’t tell you to dress for the job you want for nothing. Unfortunately, even on a day-to-day basis, students feel pressure to put their best foot forward and sometimes to wear those name brands.

People have always been separated according to their economic status in society, but these different social classes look different on a college campus. In high school, middle school or even elementary school, there were always indicators of who was well off and who was not. One almost sure-fire marker was the divide between private school students and public school students. This difference extends even to the college atmosphere. Almost every student on this campus has a friend who is going to a state school or community college, and for many, their choice in school pertains to cost.

No matter what you wear on your back or on your feet, college is a diverse place where all kinds of different people come to develop, fulfill goals and take another step toward their future. Michelle Obama was shocked at the cars she saw around her campus, and the ones on ours might make us turn our heads. Whether we like it or not, our socioeconomic status is just another one of our characteristics that adds the total diversity of our campus. Even though we may be different in college and have different hometowns, we all have the same intentions to have a better tomorrow. So I am going to appreciate a nice car when I see one today, even if it reflects a certain contrast between me and another student.