No One-Size-Fits-All: What is a Stereotypical Student?

A couple of weeks ago I watched the first episode of Channel 4’s ‘The Secret Life of Students’: a four part documentary following 12 freshers through their first year at University. By displaying on screen their texts, tweets, Facebook statuses, photos and videos, the programme was able to follow every antic, concern and piece of gossip as it unfolded throughout their first term.

secret life of student

As expected, a good 50 minutes of the hour was dedicated to apparently ‘revealing’ the so-called ‘secret’ life of students that involved heavy drinking, bar crawls, hangovers, ‘smashing and dashing’, STI’s caught from said smashing and oh yeah, some more drinking. Only tee-total Lauren broke the mould of your ‘typical’ student, and the effects of not wanting to join in with the shinannigans were only too obvious. There was one scene in which the students were shown going to a lecture, but texts such as ‘First lecture today, only 3 hours sleep’ appearing above their heads wrote off any suggestion that the students actually did any, dare we say it, studying.

Now before you all start calling me Buzz McKillington, this is not a post about how we should all stop drinking and start behaving like responsible adults, because I for one have enjoyed the fun, freedom and alcohol-fueled happenings of first year life. However there is a general idea around freshers year that this is the only way to be a ‘proper’ student; If you’re not one for 3 nights out a week and still being drunk in your 10am lectures, you’re not making the most of your time at University. During the programme the reaction on twitter echoed much of the pressure at university, for example one girl asked, when referring to Lauren, ‘How can she be a student and not drink? Very confused’, whilst many other tweets followed the reaction often met should you dare to not go on a night out, such as ‘Well Lauren’s a barrel of laughs isn’t she…’

But perhaps the tweets that worried me most were the ones from freshers-to-be. Yes, many were saying how the programme was making them even more excited about starting university, but there were also plenty of tweets from concerned non-party-animals who were beginning to dread what was ahead of them. So whether you’re about to start university at the end of the summer, or whether you’re already a student, the most important thing to remember is that there is no right way to be a student. If you love a big night out, or if you would rather go down the pub, or if you would simply rather be at the Battle Reenactment Society, fear not, there is room for every type of student at university. To prove there’s more than one way to be a student, I asked some of my lovely pals to say a bit about what ‘student life’ means to them:

Nora – Nora is all about getting the most out of the unique experience university has to offer. She is great fun and loves a good ol’ rant – check out her nail-on-the-head opinions at nolite te bastardes carborundorum


“Life as a university student is about the expansion of your knowledge facilitated by academics in your area of study. Coming to uni you have the opportunity to meet and befriend people you wouldn’t have done back home and broaden your social and cultural knowledge. I think it’s a shame that people want to reduce university life to an endless cycle of being horrendously drunk then battling through the grimmest hangovers.Clubbing isn’t for everyone, I’d much prefer a sit-down at the pub where I can actually hear what my friends are saying.”

Beth – Beth lives far out from campus, but has proven that this doesn’t mean not being involved in student life. Beth is super sweet and has made plenty of good friends despite the distance.


“To me, being a student simply means being enrolled in a university course, but other than that I am somewhat unlike most people’s ‘typical’ idea of a student; I live on my own, two bus rides away from campus, and I don’t drink or go clubbing. This doesn’t mean I’m detached from uni life, I am very lucky to be enrolled in a degree that I love, I have great friends who I really value, am involved in the Christian Union society and genuinely enjoy my life as a student.”

Sophie – Sophie is a top class social butterfly and is always busy. She loves a good party, but her dedication to her course proves you can have the best of both worlds. For her style and beauty tips head over to Sophie etc.


“For me, being a student is one big learning curve – not just in regard to the degree, but all aspects of life. You learn to be part of a community, be independent, and tolerant. I’ve become more self assured and comfortable with myself as well as broadening academic horizons. Student life is about learning and adapting, being fulfilled by knowledge and forging connections and friendships to last a lifetime.”


  1. July 14, 2014 / 10:04 pm

    I watched that too and I really take issue with the way students are portrayed by these programmes! I’m like you, I’m not saying I was an angel and I definitely had my share of nights out but I feel like they did completely ignore the fact that not all students are going to uni to get drunk. And I do feel like Lauren was made to look like a loser because of that :/ it’s a shame!

    • Emily
      July 14, 2014 / 10:24 pm

      I know it’s really annoying 🙁 I almost felt like the ‘secret’ was that we actually do a degree! We get a bad press, but uni is bloody hard work! And yeah, Lauren was made to look really weird – but there are plenty of non-drinkers who aren’t left out and ‘odd’.

  2. July 15, 2014 / 12:49 am

    As you already know, I love what you have to say on this topic bc it’s all stuff that /needs/ to be said so prospective students out there aren’t left feeling anxious about what life at university has to offer. Although it’s obvious not all students spend 70% of their time at university drunk, I feel like so much of the media likes to target the young as a bunch of scrounging unambitious turds and I will not give old white men the satisfaction. Go Emily!

    (p.s. ur too sweet thx for the plug <3)

    • Emily
      July 15, 2014 / 8:58 am

      Haha living up to your reputation Nora 😉 You are completely right though! I just watched the next programme in the series and it was all about (immature) relationships and how the girls at uni were wasting the opportunity and getting distracted by boys! So apparently when we are not wasted we are so obsessed with the opposite gender that we still don’t care about the degree!

Let me know what you think!