College Identity: If I Didn’t Go to U of M, Would That Still Be Me?

December 13, 2011

Political Theory


As I have done often, and maybe more often than I should, I think about what would have happened to me if I had gone to another school. As outrageous as this may seem to die-hard Michiganers who have always lived here and taken pride in this school, I did not even know about the University of Michigan until I was filling out my applications. My dad made me apply, even though I did not want to send an application to some freezing place all the way in the midwest that I had never heard of. I am an out-of-stater who applied to 11 schools, and Michigan was not even on my list until the last second. As it turns out, I was accepted to some schools, denied from others, and waitlisted at a few others as well. Even when I got my acceptance to the U of M, even though I was happy, it was not the kind of stunning ecstasy that I would have experienced had I gotten into my first choice: Dartmouth. I did not just apply because it’s a great school, but because my older brother went there and I had already gotten to know the campus and the school so well. I was friends with a lot of the people in his fraternity, I loved the school, and honestly it just would have been awesome to go to school with my big brother.

But, as Appiah has asked, would that still be me? He speaks in terms of race, ethnicity and gender, but I believe that the university which you go to just as profoundly shapes your personality. For instance, my mom wanted me to go to William and Mary but I would have been miserable; all of the kids are bookworms who don’t share my notions of fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; they can do whatever they want, but I just shudder to think of the effect that a student body like that would have had on my personality. I think of all of the times that I have gotten up at 6 AM to go to a crazy pregame and then followed that up by stumbling to a screaming, over-the-top experience at the football stadium. I can’t even think of doing anything else on Saturday morning (and indeed, I haven’t been up before 2 PM since). I was never a professional or college sports fan; all of my friends were but I could never keep up with their conversations. However, since I got to the U of M I have become one of the many crazy fans that go here, and the incredible game against Notre Dame this year was one of the best nights of my entire life. In addition, on the other side of the spectrum, I never thought that I could hate a large group of people with with such a passion as I do now: FUCK MSU and FUCK Ohio State. As I learned about the history between these schools, I have come to regard them as something in between spiders and the Nazi SS. It would be quite the different lifestyle if I were going to the school that basically has nothing but IM sports. I don’t think that I ever could have felt the kind of connection to my school that I do now.

When I came to the U of M I knew one person from my town (I come from New Jersey), and so far I have met hundreds, if not thousands of new people who have each influenced my very character in their own way. I cannot imagine where I would be today if I had made a different decision of if I had been accepted somewhere else. It is a very scary concept to think about the factors in your life that have made you who you are. In fact, “scientists calculate the probability of your existing as you, today, at about one in 400 trillion (4×1014).” Your school is a big part of that. But going to a huge school like this is a very unique experience in itself – I can walk around to all of my classes without seeing a single person that I know, while a college like Dartmouth is practically the size of a large high school. I think that the difference can be illustrated by the classification: I go to the University of Michigan, not Dartmouth College. LSA is bigger than their entire school! That also affects how things like classes are managed: once you have been accepted to Harvard, Yale, and the like, the experience is very different that that of a big school such as Michigan. While they have already identified successful and driven students, U of M still has to do that – I feel as though I’ll be here second semester senior year and still taking weeder classes. This kind of competition is pretty extreme; it’s the reason why I’ll be here in the UGLi until 6 AM (when it was announced that the library would become 24-hours, those of us who remained cheered). The Michigan student body has definitely embraced a “work hard, play hard” lifestyle, which I have taken on myself.

How do you feel about your own identity in regard to the University of Michigan? I feel as though in-staters will have a pretty unanimous reaction, but I’m sure that for plenty of people this was not their first choice. But for everyone, how have you changed since you came here?

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10 Comments on “College Identity: If I Didn’t Go to U of M, Would That Still Be Me?”

  1. cobyj17 Says:

    It is true that we are in a very impressionable time in our lives, and because of this, our college experience makes a huge impression on our growth. Much of our future selves are shaped in these four years. It is hard to image what we it would be like to have gone to a different school because we would be different people if we didn’t go to Michigan.

    You also talk about the unity which Michigan has made you feel. One of the benefits of this large a school is the school spirit. When you go to the University of Michigan you feel as if you are part of a family that will greatly affect the rest of your future.

  2. abswang Says:

    I’m from Michigan and every year 80-100 students from my high school come to this school, which is why I grew up not wanting to come here at all. However, when I started applying to colleges, I realized that there weren’t very many schools out of state that were worth the 30 grand extra tuition when I had a perfectly good university in state. Coming to U of M I was really hesitant if I’d like it, but now I can’t see myself at any other school. I know it’s common among Michigan students to be arrogant, but I find this school to have a perfect atmosphere for anyone. It’s cool to be seen in the library studying during the week, and yet if you want to blow off some steam, there’s always a party you can find. I can’t imagine myself at any other school, and I feel like the University of Michigan has been a perfect fit for me.

    • lukeythekid Says:

      I definitely agree that I was hesitant…I basically didn’t know anything about it, and it was the only school over 6,000ish that I applied to. All of the kids from my high school went to smaller colleges, only a few went to big universities. Honestly, if you had told me five years ago that I’d be going to a place with over 30,000 I would never have believed it. And I definitely feel the pinch about the cost – I’m pretty sure that the University of Michigan is the most expensive public school in the world. But at this point, if I were offered the opportunity to transfer to Dartmouth I do not think I’d do it – within the first semester I formed a pretty strong bond with this school. I wonder if I would have done so anywhere, or if this place really has converted me.

  3. mimirofl Says:

    I am from LA, California and would never had gone to the University of Michigan if I did not get recruited. I had other options to choose that not only rivaled UM in academics and athletics but was also close to home and my friends and family. Why did I choose Michigan then? Well, I came on a recruiting trip one weekend when I was a senior in high school just for shits and giggles to visit my friends who were on the team. Little did I know that the visit was going to turn out to be amazing; it first started when I was able to step onto the field of the Big House, the biggest stadium in the world, and experience an amazing football game. I also got to meet a lot of new people and realized how friendly, different and how wonderful UM’s college campus atmosphere is.

    Looking back, if I had chosen UCLA or Pepperdine, I would not have been able to experience a different world out there. I would have been sheltered and wouldn’t be able to be independent and learn new things. Furthermore, the friends and relationships that I made here are so memorable and I could say that I have a few best friends here even though it has only been two years.

  4. jkb34383 Says:

    The University of Michigan is one of the most prestigious public schools. Obviously it was the renowned academics that attracted the majority of the out of state students. The social benefits that you described as your lifestyle just happens to be a sweet little bonus during our U of M career. I personally believe that I have been enjoying the benefits of attending a great university to the fullest extent possible. In comparison to my friends experiences at other schools, I am happy to say that Michigan was definitely the right choice.

  5. Brandon Baxter Says:

    Your environment and the things you have access to certainly will help develop who you are. And I am sure a student will develop slight differences due to his school of choice. However, I think at the end of the day what makes us who we are is a very stubborn and natural thing within us. While some people do convert to other religions or abandon their faith, the vast majority of people keep their religion when they go to college and I think that would hold true wherever they go. I would argue that unchanging characteristics for the majority of us include our politics, interests, desires, perception of ourselves, and more. I find it difficult to believe that I would be a massively different person if I went to another school than U of M. It has certainly given me an outlet to explore new things and develop new interests and goals in my life, but I believe these interests have always been deep seated, and would have came out no matter what school I went to.

  6. mzselig Says:

    As a fellow out-of-stater, I can say that the feelings back home are not the same as they are here in Michigan, but I totally agree with your feelings about how Michigan has become a part of you. I too have that same feeling; Michigan has become a serious part of who I am and has transformed how I view the world and with whom I associate. When I went back to California for Thanksgiving, not only did I not need a sweatshirt, all I would and seemingly could talk about was Michigan. My mom, just as yours, wanted me to go to a smaller liberal arts institution because she felt that I needed a more personalized education. Clearly I took a different route in coming to Michigan and I feel that it was for the better. Michigan offers a world class education while also providing the college lifestyle every kid wants. The opportunities at this university are endless, both educationally as well as sports-wise. Michigan is and will forever be a serious part of my life….GO BLUE!!

  7. zrobbins24 Says:

    Like the author, I am an out-of-state student. When I was putting my college list together and deciding where to apply, Michigan was just thrown in there. I did not know much about U of M except that it was cold and had a great sports reputation and prestige. My mom wanted me to apply because her brother, my uncle, went here. The more research I did about the university, the more effort and enthusiasm I put into my application essays.

    Once here, I believe I have made the right choice. Not only are the athletics amazing, but so are the academics. Though challenging, classes are fun and emphasize critical thinking. As to the topic about identity, I feel that wherever you go and whatever you do will define who you are. Therefore, I believe that if I had decided to attend a different school, I would not be a different person, per se, but I would have different social interactions and different friends. The learning process may also be different, with different professors, teaching styles, and courses. I feel that your environment helps define you, and if I were in a different environment, my interests, identity, and personality would likely be different.

  8. verlong Says:

    I grew up in Ann Arbor. Both my parents went to U of M, and fell in love with the city, so they decided to stay. I’ve been the biggest Michigan fan ever since I was born. I chose trombone as my instrument in 5th grade because I thought it looked cool in the Michigan Marching Band and wanted to join them. Where am I now? A part of the Michigan Marching Band (you think attending the night game versus Notre Dame was cool? Try doing pregame in front of 114,000 screaming people…). I have taken advantage of many of the opportunities presented to me here, and have realized that people really do hear “the University of Michigan” and respect it.

    I only applied to one other school; Eastern Michigan. I’m going to be a teacher, so it made sense to apply to Eastern. I know that being at Michigan has shaped how I look at other schools. I don’t necessarily look down upon EMU students, but I know they don’t automatically gain the kind of respect that U of M students get (based off of school alone). It will most likely be easier for me to get a job after school with a Michigan degree than an Eastern degree (even if it is in teaching which EMU is known for).

    I can’t even go into detail about how different my life would be in regards to academics, friends, and programs. Many of the best experiences of my life have been here. I’m sure the same would have happened at Eastern, they just would have been different experiences with different people. There are a lot of “what ifs” involved in life. Sometimes thinking about it can be fun, and other times it can be overwhelmed. Even a mistake can possibly lead to something good in the future. You never know.

    I wouldn’t change my decision to come here for the world (even though it was actually pretty difficult to make). The influence that people and events here have had upon me is shocking. I know I wouldn’t have had access to many of the things at Eastern that I cherish so much. The atmosphere at Michigan is such a big factor in so many things, and ended up being how I made my final decision between U of M and EMU. It was the right choice. This is the correct environment between the two for me. I would have flourished at Eastern, but I completely thrive here at Michigan.

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