The essays in the series “Why Davidson, Sociologically Speaking” represent submissions from students in Dr. Joseph Ewoodzie’s Sociology 101 course this fall, all in response to the above question.

By: Alexis Richard ’24 (she/her)

Photo courtesy of Alexis Richard ’24

In a society where the expectation to receive a collegiate education is greatly normalized, the choice of what school to attend is anything but arbitrary. Choice is an intricate concept; there is not one intrapersonal or societal factor that determines such a momentous decision. Every single component, from the superficial to the most substantial, is deemed critical in choosing what many consider “the most important four years of your life.” When I chose to attend Davidson College, it was a decision that I was expected to make without any hesitation, but in a life that demands conformity, I wonder how much of my college decision was truly through personal agency. As I analyzed why I chose Davidson, I realized that the depth of my choice was not quite what it seemed¹. I thought I applied to Davidson in order to engender academic success, but outside influences such as family, community, and gender identity greatly contributed to the most prominent decision I have made in my life thus far.

From internal conflict, to the everchanging fluidity of societal norms, an immense amount of reflection prompted me to truly discover the seemingly ambiguous nature of my choice to attend Davidson. A major intrinsic component of my decision was the desire to set myself apart from the norms established in my hometown. Although I was not aware of it at the time, I was trapped in a situation that required me to prove my intellectual security to others while also attempting to discover what I truly wanted in my future. Nonetheless, I realized that I subconsciously felt the need to escape from the obscure apathy of my routine and understand myself as a singular person within society, rather than a product of society². Moreover, my community and family strongly upheld the expectation to attend college. Living with this presumption instilled a great amount of pressure within me, but it also came from a place of privilege. The ability to invest in a privatized collegiate education presented me with many opportunities that were not available to everybody, and coming from a family with high academic standards, I almost exclusively looked at small liberal arts colleges. Although I know that being able to apply to these schools was partly a result of my determination, I cannot help but acknowledge the fact that my consideration of these institutions stemmed from economic advantage.

 I also must recognize that my twin brother, who presented a starkly similar application to myself, showed interest in more reputable schools than me. At the time, I thought he simply wished to apply to more “reach” schools, but the truth is that men and women are socially conditioned to have different academic expectations depending on their gender identity³. Even though women tend to perform better in high school, we still have lower collegiate expectations for ourselves because we live in a society built upon the oppressive foundation of male-driven success. Of course, it is easy to imagine the perfect alternative of earning an education at another prestigious institution, but that is not to say my gender identity did not present me with limitations. Choosing a college to attend was complicated by an internal conflict between self and social acceptance, but I believe that my self-determination led me to make the correct decision.

While I continue to better understand the different aspects of sociology, I am becoming more aware of the conscious and subconscious influences that have caused me to make past decisions, such as that to attend Davidson. While this decision seemed to be my very first monumental choice, the external impacts of community, family, and society as a whole formed the person who I have become and the decisions I have made. As I strive to understand others and the intricacies of this world, I hope to learn where I fall in the greater picture of society through my experiences here at Davidson. Self-reflection is a major component of what makes a person an individual, yet I catch myself repeating the same story so often that I forget to look outside of myself for a new perspective. I can only hope that as I continue the study of sociology, I become more enlightened to change and gain a greater understanding of what it means to be an individual in today’s society.

¹Berger, Peter L. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York, Anchor Books, 1963.

²Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York, Oxford University Press, 2000.

³Quadlin, Natasha Yurk. “Gender and Time Use in College: Converging or Diverging Pathways?” Gender & Society, Sept. 2015. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA, journals.sagepub.com, doi:10.1177/0891243215599648.