As a home to 80 colleges and universities, Boston has earned itself the nickname “America’s College Town.” With so many people engaged in higher education living in one area, one would think students intermingling would almost be inevitable. In fact, many Boston area colleges and universities use this idea of the “college town” as a selling point in admissions; they paint a picture of a city-wide community with a close-knit, welcoming feel. While most students feel the sense of community within their own university, in the experience of many college kids, Boston just doesn't live up to its reputation as a unified college town.
The city of Boston is different than a typical college town in several regards. Most colleges fuel their towns—the colleges are the reason the town exists. For example, the city of Ann Arbor thrives on University of Michigan’s culture, created by its sports teams and student body, causing bars and restaurants to develop around the university. However, in Boston this isn’t necessarily the case.
Boston does not exist solely to serve its colleges—it is a real city that offers its own history and culture. This is not to say that the role of students in Boston’s culture is totally unimportant, but the culture of the city itself overpowers whatever effect the colleges may have. Therefore, the colleges are not necessarily a driving force that creates the culture of Boston.
The colleges and universities are also sprawled across the greater Boston area, often separated by a T ride on multiple lines. Therefore, very few students make the trek to another university’s campus for a regular Friday night party, and it is typical for students to enjoy the comfort of their own university, creating a bubble of sorts.
Elise Maturo, Boston University Class of 2018, explains her take on the lack of interaction amongst Boston students: “I think that Boston students don’t interact that much because we stay where we are comfortable, and as a sophomore I have my friends who I am always with, so there is no reason for us to travel to other schools.”
Mary Posillico, MCAS ’18, gave a similar comment, saying that a fear of missing out, or FOMO, is to blame.
“I think a lot of students are hesitant to visit other schools because it means missing out on things they could be doing at their own school which they know would be fun, in exchange for doing something at another school that may not be fun,” Posillico said. Most often, students choose the familiar over the foreign setting of another college.
Where Boston students do seem to interact, however, seems to be at public events in Boston. As Maturo tells it, she “usually [meets] people from other schools at stores on Newbury Street or other events and places the city of Boston has.” Posillico said the most common time students interact is on weeknights at Boston-area bars "because they know they won’t be missing out at their own school.” When FOMO isn’t at risk, students are much more willing to step out of their immediate school communities.
Despite the lack of interaction amongst Boston students, many schools, including BC, market the concept of Boston as college town in admissions.
“The concept of Boston as a college town is most definitely a selling point of ours," asserts BC student tour guide, Will Pisano, MCAS ’18. "We really stress it as one of the most likeable characteristics of the city. Parents ask about it a lot on tours—some feel uneasy but I think it’s very helpful in picking [BC] for a lot of people.”
Although Boston is filled with college students, many don’t feel the sense of community that admissions representatives market— the concept of Boston as a college town. However, this is not to say creating a sense of community throughout the colleges in the Boston area is impossible.
If you’re looking to take advantage of your proximity to countless other universities, check out MFA College Night: Throwback Thursday at the Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, Oct. 29 for a chance to mingle with fellow college students. The event is from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and admission is free, as is the gelato, live music, photo booths, great art and, of course, intellectual conversation.