In Focus
Sep 17, 2023

Can Students Sustain The Stereotypical College Lifestyle?

We hear of people going to the Pav twice a week and partying constantly, but how much of this is true and is this lifestyle sustainable?

Ella SextonFeatures Editor

A few years ago when I thought about what college would be like, my mind was immediately transported to the ideals one could only hope would become a reality. It seemed like the inauguration of the college lifestyle was obsessively drinking your way through freshers’ week – amidst partying and other social shenanigans – and showing up to class styled to perfection every day, all while somehow achieving an effortless First in modules despite missing most classes due to a crippling hangover from said partying. I too, had fallen victim to the Normal People and Legally Blonde romanticised depictions of university. I thought there was no alternative way college could be other than years of sailing through socialising, but within a few weeks of being a Junior Fresher in Trinity, this image no longer withstood the test of time. 

I am nearly certain some people are just like me in this regard when it comes to realising the stereotypical college lifestyle is, in fact, not sustainable. Yet as we welcome our freshers of the academic year of 2023/2024 I think it might be nice to remind people that not all of what you see is true or attainable. We hear of people going to the Pav twice a week and partying constantly, but how much of this is true and how much is a facade? Is this lifestyle even sustainable financially, academically, and emotionally? Arguably, it is almost impossible to keep up with this expectation of what life should look like. Not only is living like this mentally and physically draining, it is costly and can have a knock-on effect when it comes to academics. 

One of the main things that is considered part of the college experience is drinking, especially as almost all students are over the age of 18. The combination of being the legal drinking age along with living away from home in student accommodation leads to – what seems like – an extrinsic expectation that students should take this opportunity to go out as much as possible. As the famous saying goes: “You only live once,” and some take this quite literally to the point of blacking out from alcohol or having to go to the hospital after one too many shots of tequila. The mindset is that once you are out in a pub, you have to buy at least two drinks: one as a courtesy for being in the bar, and another to show people you are there to have a good time and are not just planning to leave before the LUAS stops running for the night. 


Within the last eight months, the price of pints has increased twice. On August 14th, the Irish Examiner stated: “the company – whose brands include Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp, Hop House 13, Rockshore and Carlsberg – told publicans it would be raising its prices by the equivalent of 4c a pint.” Although this may not seem like a lot at first glance, with the average price of a pint now being “€5.50, up from €5.13 the same time last year”, it adds up quickly – not to mention the entry fees that some bars and clubs charge. Take the example of The Academy Dublin (‘The Academy’), one of the most popular clubs for its size and renowned musicians that perform there regularly. The Academy charges €8 for most of their club nights. In addition to that fee, when you combine it with the cost of two drinks it averages out to around €13.50 – and that is just for one night excluding transport to and from the club, the price of pre-drinks and the potential cost of the outfit bought for that occasion. 

It’s quite a knock on one’s self-esteem after a night out to realise that what they considered to be a time of laughter and tomfoolery ended up with tears, vomit and confusion.

There are also the emotional effects of being a regular partier which, as mentioned by the HSE, are: “getting drunk or spending too much time drinking can cause arguments. It can also result in neglecting or hurting the people you care about.” In some ways, this is slightly ironic as alcohol is seen as being a substance that can help you ‘loosen up’ and get to know other people due to its effect on our inhibitions, but when getting drunk becomes a priority over friendship, nothing good can come of it. We can all probably generalise the different types of drunk people (the aggressive drunk, the happy drunk, the tired drunk…) but what they all have in common – other than the drinking aspect – is that there is a point of sobering up. A term often used when referring to reflections on the previous night is ‘The Fear,’ deemed by as “a social term used in Ireland to describe the feelings of anxiety the day after drinking” due to the depressant effect that alcohol has on our system. It’s quite a knock on one’s self-esteem after a night out to realise that what they considered to be a time of laughter and tomfoolery ended up with tears, vomit and confusion. 

This not only leads to dread within the individual in question but also concern for those who were witnesses to the aforementioned ‘events’. Although not exactly the most original experience, the feeling of extreme worry that ensues from seeing a friend fall down the rabbit hole of testing their limits is not addressed often enough. No one wants to be the person who causes a friendship breakup because they voiced their concern and are now perceived as being ‘dull’ and ‘controlling’. At the same time, no one wants to admit to themselves or others that enough is enough, even when it begins to take a physical toll. So, it becomes an endless cycle that you are either judged for being a part of or excluded for taking yourself out of it.

Moving away from the subject of drinking, being up all night at the club is all fun and games until it comes to the next morning when you have a 9am lecture. It leaves you with two options in this situation: option one, you attend the lecture tired and/or hungover meaning you are unable to retain much information, or option two, you don’t go to your lecture at all – which can then become an escalating pattern. It is easy to say that only one lecture will be missed this week, but what about next week when you go out again and think ‘missing two lectures isn’t that bad’ and before you know it, you barely go to college for anything that is not mandatory? Sometimes there will be  things we prioritise our college work and this is completely normal. But for the most part, college is about education. For something that costs a lot of money to attend – even with the government subsidising college fees and SUSI grants being available as a financial resource – the actual lecture part of college shouldn’t be taking a backseat all of the time. There comes a point where you will have to write that essay, give that presentation or take an exam, despite the fact that you may not be in the right state of mind from being out late the night before. 

Some people are incredibly lucky in the way they seem to pull amazing marks out of thin air without having to sacrifice any aspect of going out. The American Journal of Multidisciplinary Research & Development (AJMRD) did a study investigating the correlation between students’ drinking habits and their grades. The AJMRD concluded: “alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on academic performance by impairing cognitive function, increasing absenteeism, and decreasing motivation and focus.” Based on this it looks like that represents the majority of students, so to say that one could sustain the academic workload whilst not putting in much effort would be unrealistic given most students’ experience. 

None of this article is to say that going out and partying is bad, but instead to demonstrate that this lifestyle may not be as idyllic as portrayed in films, on social media, or even through word-of-mouth. Of course, socialising is incredibly important for our development, however, as with everything, moderation is key. Sometimes the key to socialising is not what you have at the table, but what you bring to the table. There are many other ways to socialise that don’t involve partying or drinking such as being part of a society or meeting people for a coffee between classes. Each of these examples make it much easier to maintain both a balanced social life and a balanced academic life. If this type of lifestyle resonated with you it might be beneficial to re-evaluate whether this is something that you can sustain, and if not maybe dial it back a notch. On the other hand, if you can handle going to Dicey’s nightclub for Reggaeton on Thursdays or Doyle’s for a 21st birthday, don’t let me or anyone else stop you from having a good time! 

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