The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Why Mary Washington Can Feel Like Thirteenth Grade

2 min read


At the University of Mary Washington, everyone knows everybody’s business. More than once have I heard a fellow student describe their UMW experience as something of a “thirteenth grade,” a petty continuation of high school interaction.

As someone deeply interested in psychology and how societies work, I’ve tried to analyze this observation and have found that this is probably a result of our school’s size. Having transferred from a university of over 20,000 students, to just over 4,000, showed me just how much of an effect campus size has on a college’s social structure.

We’re at the large end of small schools, which provides a community large enough to enable social distinctions to form, but remains small enough to eliminate anonymity. At my former school, Ohio University, you could meet anyone and there stood a significant chance that they did not know anyone in your social circle.

In essence, you were a nobody.

People didn’t know who you were unless you somehow managed to introduce yourself to students at all corners of the huge campus. Here, however, anyone you meet will be no more than two degrees separated from you. Anything that goes on in your personal life is subject to become public simply because of the size-related interconnectedness.

Everyone knows everyone, and subsequently, everyone knows everyone’s business.

This definitely proves to be a problem on campus time and time again, but I feel that this specific issue is merely the cost of something very positive. The size of this school allows each student to feel as though their presence is significant. The extent to which I feel integrated here at Mary Washington cannot compare to how unimportant I felt at a large school.

If the price for that sense of connectedness is some lack of privacy, then I can be at peace with some inevitable cattiness and try my best not to contribute to it.