Breaking the Stereotypes

Doug Hardman

You have emptied your lockers, you have packed up your room, and you are about to say goodbye to your parents and friends. You find yourself sitting on another campus surrounded by strangers and a sense of unfamiliarity. You are in college now.
One of the biggest things about college, especially Virginia Wesleyan, is feeling like you are part of something bigger. There is definitely a community and familial sense here and it is very welcoming. But what I have seen freshmen do is try too hard to fit into a community that is already offering its welcoming hand.
Freshmen, I think, come into college with their high­school mentality still intact: we need to be popular and get in with the “cool” kids. I hate to break it to you so early, but there is no such thing as “cool” in college. At least, it doesn’t mean the same thing that is meant in high school.
I’m not trying to be rude; I’m just trying to make a point. Incoming freshmen are just out of high school, so I can understand how they might think the same way when they begin their transition into college life. But, within the first month, maybe even the first week, it is obvious that no one cares what kind of car you drive or how many Twitter and Instagram followers you have. None of that matters anymore.
Instead of trying to be popular, why not just be yourself? The minute you continue your high­school routine of trying to be popular is the minute you become a stereotype.
I came into Virginia Wesleyan thinking I knew who I was and who I was going to be. I found a group of people with similar personalities and senses of humor and I clung to them. I have always had a small group of friends that I stuck with, and I never needed more. I knew I did not need to alter who I was to fit in because the only person I have to fit in with is myself.
I pride myself in breaking stereotypes and societal norms. People look at me and when I tell them about myself, they get surprised. The most common phrase I hear out of people’s mouths about me is, “Wow, I would have never guessed that about you!” When you actually show people your real self, they will always be surprised by you. When you show the fake, popularity­seeking side of yourself, it becomes expected of you to maintain that stereotype and you’re reduced to a label. Reality is, that’s just how it goes.
In no way am I trying to be discouraging. I want you to come into Wesleyan open­minded, ready to learn, ready to grow, and ready to live. But, you are not going to have a quality college experience if you stick to your stereotypes. You are going to have to learn to be more than just who you were in high school.
If you are a nice person, know how to take a joke, and know how to balance maturity with hilarity, then you will have no problem making friends here at Virginia Wesleyan. Life is not a popularity contest, and if it was, that ended with your high­school career. Just be yourself and know that you don’t have to fit into someone’s mold to feel at home. Being a stereotype only gets you so far. Once you start breaking the stereotypes, you are as free as the minute you walked through these doors.