Why I'm Happy To Attend A Preppy School Where I Don't Really Fit In

by Max Rosenbaum

“What the hell is a Bean boot?”

In the last two semesters, I have been let in on a subculture that, prior to college, I never knew existed outside of television shows like “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

The culture I’m talking about revolves around the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in the summers, Vineyard Vines wearing individual.

Hailing from Nassau County, Long Island, I am no stranger to people with excessive wealth.

Everywhere you turn in Long Island, you can probably spot a luxury sports car or a designer handbag worn by a woman wearing Chanel sunglasses and an overpriced iced coffee in hand.

However, the preppy lifestyle is a totally different entity. It’s a society of monogrammed everything, worshipping “Lilly prints” and not owning a piece of clothing that isn’t pastel colored.

When I was initially on the college hunt, I insisted on attending a small, liberal arts school. I didn’t want a massive state college with a campus that felt like a small city.

But most of all, I wanted to get far from what my town has dubbed the “Long Island Bubble.”

I longed for a bunch of like-minded individuals who discussed things beyond who wore what and who hooked up with whom.

I applied to Lehigh, a 4,500 undergraduate private university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, under my mom’s force. I knew virtually nothing about the school, but I assumed it was a bunch of the same type I was trying to escape.

However, after a visit, I knew Lehigh was the place I wanted to call my home for the next four years.

Once I walked on the campus for the first time, I was overcome with an overwhelming sensation of belonging.

The majority of the students walking around were wearing Lehigh merchandise, and all I could think was, “Wow, these kids must like it here.”

My first semester of college was not easy. 

From the moment I shuffled around campus on my first day, scouting out my classes and trying to understand the geography of the school, I felt like an alien.

For as long as I could recall, I’ve always been a people watcher. So for a while, I sat down on a bench in the front lawn and observed.

I was intimidated and out of my element. It seemed to me like I was at an aquarium with a sea of frat guys bumping past me in salmon-colored shorts.

The girls sported flowery sundresses and workout clothes, even if they weren't going to the gym.

I couldn’t begin to comprehend that notion. Stitched sorority letters were printed on every other girl's shirt.

That brought me face-to-face with one of the first situations I had to consider: Was Greek life something I wanted to join?

My entire knowledge of Greek life stemmed from “The House Bunny,” “Legally Blonde” and the obscenely girly pledge class pictures girls I disliked from high school posted on Facebook.

On my first night out to a party, I met my first real-life sorority girls.

To my surprise, they weren’t bending and snapping or performing any other sorority girl stereotypes I expected.

They were all eager to meet and talk to me, but there was something about their kindness that made me feel even more isolated.

“Wow, you dress so differently. That’s awesome!”

Looking at myself in the mirror, I didn’t think I dressed so “alternatively,” as one girl put it. I just wasn’t wearing a crop top and booty shorts or a bodycon dress like most other girls were.

I didn’t feel comfortable doing so, and I didn’t even know what a bodycon was at that point.

There wasn’t a day during the first two to three weeks when I didn’t call home in tears, wanting to do nothing more but pack up my stuff and transfer to the small liberal arts school I turned down for Lehigh.

But I didn’t do that — I stuck it out. I joined the radio station and met people who love music in the obsessive way that I do.

Subsequently, those people introduced me hundreds of new artists and vastly expanded my musical horizons.

Eventually, I decided to take a gamble and rush a sorority. Although rush was arguably — no, definitely — the worst week of my life, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I met a group of women with whom I am proud to post nauseating Facebook photos.

Admittedly, roughly 60 percent of my friends, both male and female, are people I would have scoffed at and immediately dismissed in high school.

I would have taken one look at the pink whale in the corner of their bright yellow and orange shirts and rolled my eyes.

Being the misplaced chocolate sprinkle in a tub of rainbow sprinkles has been a difficult but rewarding ride.

Sure, there are many cases when I question my identity and the person I’m becoming.

There are these microseconds when I catch myself saying or doing things I would have surely laughed at someone for doing only a year before.

I’ve shaped up to be a much more diverse, worldly person with friends of every size, shape, color and personality.

My freshman year warrants an “American Pie”-style college movie with the misfit toy cast of characters I’ve made as friends.

I’d call it “Brooks Brothers, Patagonia and Frat Stars, Oh My!”  And, my “don’t judge a book by its cover” moral would be to challenge the status quo.

Be the “alternative,” vinyl loving, journalism student at a preppy, frat-governed engineering and business school.

When I was debating filling out a transfer application for the 47th time, my sorority big sat me down and said something that has since resonated with me:

“Why would you want to go somewhere where everyone is the same as you?”

She’s right. I would hate being at a school where everyone had the same values and interests as me.

If I went to a school I planned to go to at the beginning of my college search, I would never have the opportunity to argue politics with my right wing friends.

I would probably have never discovered that I semi-enjoy listening to Drake. And, I certainly would have never understood how to embrace the inner basic sorority girl within.

So, my answer is no. I don’t want to be like everyone else. That would be a dull life to live.