College TikTok Gives Inside Look at Student Experience

October 29, 2021 · Updated on November 16, 2021

College TikTok Gives Inside Look at Student Experience

  • College students are increasingly using TikTok to share their stories about campus life.
  • Many videos point out nuances of the college experience prospective students may not expect.
  • Though college TikTok is filled with humor, it also covers serious issues.

Early this fall, "RushTok" took over the internet. Incoming first-year women used TikTok to detail their experiences rushing the sororities they hoped to join. Though much of the content centered around the outfits they wore, the competitiveness of rush week, and students' desire to get bids from their favorite houses, it also spurred another trend on the popular video app: Former students began to share the not-so-nice truths of joining Greek life, including instances of racism, bullying, and sexual assault.

This wasn't the first time students used the app to shine a light on what college is actually like. Over the last couple of years, students have increasingly used TikTok​​ to share their personal experiences about on-campus life and ways that college may surprise prospective students. Hashtags like "collegelife" and "university" each have billions of views and new videos on college topics are added to the app daily.

While many of these videos include humor specific to the college experience, they also aim to address numerous issues important to students including campus diversity efforts, financial woes, and mental health.

Here are some of the most popular college TikTok topics, influencers, and videos:

The Realistic Checklist

College checklists can be found all over the internet, but they often include items you'll never need or even think of using during your time at school. Students on TikTok have taken it upon themselves to let future students know what they do or don't actually need, and the best ways to prepare before arriving on campus.

@niki_patton

things you DON’T actually need in college 😮 follow for more college vids 😏 #nikadvice #college #collegelife #dorm #dormessentials #collegeadvice

♬ Blue Blood - Heinz Kiessling & Various Artists

Student Loan Debt and Financial Strains

Student loan debt impacts nearly 45 million Americans, so it's no surprise that it's a popular topic of discussion on social media. On TikTok alone, videos found under the hashtag "studentloans" have a combined 246 million views. While some students dread their financial futures due to student debt, others laugh off the amounts they owe and emphasize that they will most likely never pay it back.

@ebonie_qt

#stitch with @morganwithpolish clear those student loans NEOW🗣 #BestSeatInTheHouse #studentloans #comedy #funnyvideo

♬ original sound - Cindy Noir✨
@tawnyaschultz

Student loans will not be cancelled anytime soon... #studentloandebt #collegedebt #studentloanforgiveness #studentloansforlife

♬ Sure Thing (cover version) - Jay😌

Diversity Efforts, Racism, and Discrimination

As schools make a conscious effort to increase diversity, equity and inclusion on campuses, some students reveal that they aren't entirely convinced by these plans.

@alexnfranklin24

this is what working in student affairs is #schittscreek #studentaffairs #highered #dei #diversity #college #fyp #IDeserveTuitionContest

♬ Fold in the cheese - Jake Wolfe

Students continue to face instances of racism and discrimination on campus from faculty, staff, and other students. In February, one student took to TikTok to reveal an incident where an Oxnard College professor had made insensitive remarks to a hard of hearing student facing technical difficulties over Zoom. After the video gained traction, the professor was placed on administrative leave.

@zizi_underwater

Ventura college Professor treats deaf student bad 😡 pt 2 [wait until the end!!] pt3 posted #zoom #teacher #deaf #fyp #deafstudent #discrimination

♬ original sound - zizi

People of Color at Predominantly White Institutions

Nonwhite students often have a much different experience than their white peers at predominantly white institutions (PWIs). So much so that the "PWI" hashtag on TikTok has nearly 76 million views. Some videos laugh off differences in cultural experiences.

@clifford

Y’all can’t tell me this ain’t true 🤣 especially @ufbarstool 🤣 #college #dj #party #pwi #fax

♬ original sound - ALTÉGO

But others reveal that many people of color feel that their experiences at PWIs have negatively impacted their long-term mental health.

@nothowie

Late night thoughts but it def affected me as a kid and still affects me today #pwi #poc

♬ original sound - 𝖎𝖓𝖉𝖎𝖎

Mental Health and Post-Grad Life

The "postgrad" hashtag on TikTok has over 48 million views. It includes videos of recent graduates, those about to graduate, and former students who graduated many years ago all discussing what happens — or may happen — after graduation and the daunting feelings that often accompany it.

@ebonie_qt

#stitch with @kaelamaloneyy the post grad transition is REAL. #CandyCrushAllStars #Postgrad

♬ original sound - Cindy Noir✨

As TikTok's popularity among younger generations holds strong, students will continue to use the app to reveal their stories, values, and concerns about the college experience.


Feature Image: LOIC VENANCE / Contributor / AFP / Getty Images