- College tours all follow the same formula and do very little to give prospective students an honest understanding of the culture on campus.
- Teens are now turning to meme pages on Facebook as a genuine tool to help decide which college to attend.
- Meme pages face no barrier to post and are made by students, for students. They are quickly becoming the primary news source for students and reflect current issues on campus.
As I watch high schoolers trudge through my college campus in ninety-degree heat, I can’t help but wonder why there isn’t a better way to show prospective students their potential universities. The admissions spiel has not changed since I first heard it four years ago, during my own college search. From my sophomore to senior year of high school, I sat through eighteen tours and information sessions across twenty-one different college campuses.
Yet as I look back at the notebook I kept during that time (nerd alert), each university has the same bullet points: “liberal arts education;” “dining hall looks like Hogwarts;” “students from all 50 states and ‘x’ number of countries;” “study abroad everywhere but Antarctica, and I’m sure if you want to go to Antarctica, our study abroad office could arrange it hahaha.” Throw in some facts about holistic application review, academics, and the university seal you’re not supposed to step on, and that’s your tour experience. It’s a formula, and one universities need to follow to attract students and their paying parents.
“I’m not paid to lie to prospies [prospective students],” said a University of Chicago student tour guide. “I just show them the vision of the school they want to see and, uh, admissions wants to show them. It’s like… academic Disneyland. You have the princesses and rollercoasters up top and all the employees and stressed people running around secret tunnels under the park. It’s a business.”
Teens are now turning to social media accounts to help them decide between colleges.
For an age where we won’t invest two hours in a movie without checking its Rotten Tomatoes score, asking seventeen-year-olds to invest four years and (hundreds of) thousands of dollars in an illusion seems wrong. There needs to be a better way, and, in my experience, there is. It’s just hidden, never mentioned on College Confidential or Prepscholar or dozens of other services designed to help students choose their right school.
Prospective students need university meme pages to provide the authenticity other admissions tools lack.
Made by and for university students to discuss (read: mock) the culture-specific to their school, a meme page is anarchy waving a school pennant. Meme pages are operated through Facebook, so there is no barrier to post. Only the boldest racists and cyberbullies find themselves banned.
Posters just have to be funny and willing to expose their humor to the free market of likes. On a meme page, you can joke about professors or classes or mock your peers-econ bros, touchy-feely poetry majors, sorority girls, condescending physics dudes. You can tease mindsets within the university. You can even advance meaningful conversations about your school as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Made by students, for students, these pages are honest reflections of a school’s culture.
The comments section is full of students tagging friends with captions like “lol us next year” and “who does this remind you of.” Because everything is cultivated to relate to this specific student body and their campus life, you can learn about dozens of campus quirks in a five-minute scroll. University meme pages are rarely silent. Whether it’s a dorm whose sidewalk ices over or the failings of campus police, some student somewhere will have posted about it. Unlike a campus newspaper with its journalistic ethics, university funding, and limited student participation, a meme page molds to student will and student will alone.
Often, meme pages are flooded with complaints about student workload, dining hall standards, or mouse spottings on the quad. For every subsection of the student life website, there will be a meme discussing the same campus feature without the rose-tinted glasses. If the admissions website is 2001 Britney with a python draped on her shoulders, the university meme page is bald, umbrella-wielding Britney: the same at their core, but one more controversial, out-of-control, and ultimately, more honest.
For students, meme pages have become the primary source for campus news.
My university’s meme page, “UChicago Memes for Theoretical Midwest Teens,” has become one of the most up-to-date sources on campus politics. This year, for example, UChicago grad student workers voted to strike after their unionization and collective bargaining efforts throughout 2017 and 2018 went unrecognized by campus administration. With the strike looming, campus administration sent several emails to the student body encouraging students to cross picket lines, report striking professors and teaching assistants, and call campus police. While our school newspaper reported this the day after emails were sent out, the meme page responded immediately, and the comical responses to these emails encouraged many students to reply to the provost, dean, and dean of undergraduate students. Student support for graduate student workers was so encoded in the university’s meme culture that many undergrad students also joined the picket lines.
When a Student Government representative proposed to cut emergency funding for students seeking abortions, UChicago Memes for Theoretical Midwest Teens was again at the forefront of political discourse. I first heard about the proposal through the meme page, and when both a protest and a counter-protest broke out outside the Student Government meeting, the meme page was first to highlight the event. A small incident that transpired during the protest- an egg thrown at a pro-life protestor yelling slurs at a pro-choice protestor- starred in dozens of absurdist memes. The infamous egg was a throwaway line in our campus newspaper’s report, but the photo (since deleted) and description of the event will live in memetic history. While I read the campus newspaper occasionally, I likely would have missed the protest (and the egg) had I never joined the meme page.
Discursive memes are not unique to UChicago, either. Ohio and Penn State meme pages have commented on sexual abuse within sports leagues. Georgetown’s “Memes for Non-Conforming Jesuit Teens” slammed Georgetown’s disruption of forests on indigenous land. USC students flooded Facebook with memes after the Olivia Jade scandal that continue to resurface to this day.
Meme pages give prospective students an honest understanding of campus life.
Applying to college has become as overwhelming as choosing a ($70,000) shampoo at Ulta. You have shelves and shelves of options with some bottles prohibitively exclusive or expensive (I’m looking at you Ten Voss, what are you putting in there?) and dozens of others seemingly perfect for you. They all have slight differences that the packaging wants to highlight, but you don’t know how that one differs from the one-two rows up. Do I want jojoba oil or avocado oil? Core classes or gen ed requirements? Do I need shea proteins? What about a twenty-four-hour gym? The woman online said this product didn’t work for her dry roots… do I have dry roots? This review said this school lacks “intense academic rigor”… would I like intense academic rigor?
While meme pages can’t do the heavy lifting for the admissions department, they can cut through the confusing language that universities use to lure in students. Where you read “intense academic rigor”, the meme page whispers “crying in the library.” When your tour guide says “state of the art dorms,” the meme page points to a spider infestation in your crisp, modern room.
Anyone at any age can use a meme page for some degree of research.
Even if you’re not applying to college or raising someone who is, that realism is helpful. Current college student? Watch your last Tinder date post a meme about how awful dating culture is at your school and mope sufficiently. Nostalgic for your college years? See what your alma mater is doing to disgruntle students now. Considering a professorship? Peruse the meme page to see how amusing (or unamusing) your potential students might be. Writing a college movie? Meme page, and for the love of Natty Light and Red Bull, realize that no one has dewy fresh skin for their 8 AM lecture.
Everyone needs a fix of depressing youth humor to stay hip, right?