Perpetuated by being named a top partying University by various magazines (such as Playboy) as well as ranked as a top public education institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has an unique public image. It is at once viewed as an alcohol-fueled party center as well as a home for those committed to growing and learning as not only a student but as a person. In my experience, both these stereotypes have a basis, but the focus here at UW-Madison truly is academics. While its true that Badgers do not shy away from having a great time--especially during the crazy football season--anyone who applies here is aware that if accepted, they enter a university that is demanding, prestigious and worth one's effort.A typical week for my friends and myself here is going to class and working hard Monday through Friday, with only Saturday night reserved for blowing off steam. Even Sunday is saved for homework by almost all students (seriously, try finding a seat at College Library on a Sunday - impossible!). Although the work load is demanding and sometimes keeping up is a challenge, it seems all students here know that their effort is worth it, that recieving a degree from UW-Madison is a special, honorable achievement. It's a nice thought to keep you motivated during the thick of the semester. Aside from the drinking scene here, there is also an amazingly diverse social scene as well. I've met people from all over the country (and even world) while here at Madison and it amazes me that all are here for the same reason: to learn. This unifying commonality really provides a strong sense of community here. I've made great friends from joining groups and organizations and enjoy getting to know the varied groups of people here. UW-Madison is one of the most unique schools in the country, and I couldn't be happier to be a part of it.
The stereotype of students at UW Madison cannot be generalized into a single category. However, the main groupings include Coasties, Hippies, and Jocks. Coasties can be spotted by their black leggings, baggy t-shirts, and large sunglasses. They are known for their exceptional talent for partying, but nonetheless manage to achieve commendable GPA's. For this reason, the tendency to stereotype Coasties as lacking intelligence is often proved inaccurate. Secondly, there is a large hippy influence at Madison. It becomes apparent in the abundance of co-ops on the outskirts of campus, the presence of a strong environmental consciousness throughout the school, and the tendency to detect wafts of marijuana in the most unlikely of places. The stereotype of hippies being hygienically challenged and absent-minded to current technologies tends to be inaccurate as well; almost all hippy-types on campus are successful at balancing their earth-friendly ways with rational lifestyles. Finally, the jocks can be found slouching in the back of the class and are expected to devote as little effort as possible to their studies in order to maintain their sports positions. This stereotype is also erroneous much of the time. Jocks are often the first to volunteer in class and the last to leave the classroom. Therefore, one single stereotype for students at UW Madison does not exist; the student body is a blend of party-loving, nature-embracing sports fanatics.
At UW Madison, there is a vast amount of stereotypes of students that can fit almost any student profile. UW Madison takes pride in its overwhelming amount of diversity among students and staff on campus, and while many stereotypes exist, it is easy for almost any prospective student to find their niche. As a leading university in research, Madison has so many brainy overachieving students in almost every field you can think of. Also being a Division 1, Big Ten school, athletics are very important, and you can easily spot the many athletes on campus. Madison has a very large Greek community with several fraternities and sororities, and many of the students can apply to the "coastie" stereotype of a privileged student from either the west or east coast. This is by no means a negative description of certain students, just a recitation of what a common profile for Greek students can be; there are also many branches of the Greek community that attract a wide and diverse range of students as well. Since Madison is known as a liberal city/ college town, many students are passionate about politics and environmental initiatives, and some can even apply to a sort of "hipster" stereotype. While many of these stereotypes are targeted at specific groups of students, there are still so many other types of students that portray others stereotypes at such a large and diverse university.
The predominant stereotype about the University of Wisconsin is that the students are heavy, frequent drinkers. This is an issue that the university and the city have taken positive steps to address. In recent years, the city has implemented more police regulation at all-campus parties. The university sends out emails about the dangers of alcohol abuse and now mandates students with drinking-related citations to attend a course about the risks of binge drinking. Regardless of preventive measures taken by the city and the university, access to alcohol is a fact that every young person has to come to terms with. An important part of growing up is the ability to make decisions independent of peer pressure. I think that, because the student body is so diverse in terms of background, attitude, and talent, students have many outlets for social interaction. While drinking may be the least common denominator for student interaction (as it is at every campus), it in no way encompasses the full extent of student interaction at the University of Wisconsin. Students engage themselves in student government, intramural sports, social activism, and clubs that range between business, lacrosse, cheese tasting, Spanish, business, running, and scuba diving. The best antidote of substance abuse is a having a broad range of activities, which are in ample supply here.
Within the University of Wisconsin - Madison, there are two main types of stereotypes for students: cheeseheads and coasties. Cheeseheads are from almost anywhere in Wisconsin but consist of the following traits: they love their cheese, Badgers, football, Packers, and they love to drink. For those of us in Wisconsin, it's common knowledge that every town has more bars than churches with Wisconsin cities having the most bars per capita in the entire country. The stereotype of cheeseheads drinking then can be seen as representative of Wisconsin on the whole but is not necessarily true. While plenty of students on campus drink, just like any other school, there are only a small minority that drink to excess. The other common stereotype at UW Madison is that of a coastie. Coasties are regarded as upper class, sorority girls from the East Coast who wear leggings, Uggs, and who do not pay for their education. This stereotype is regarded as slightly more negative than the Cheesehead stereotype but is one that the general campus body still accepts. If you want to know more about a Coastie, just check out this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw9ODIZj40w
In a school of 45,000 students it is more than impossible to apply a stereotype to the student body as a whole. Maybe the one defining and uniting characteristic of all Wisconsin students is that we work hard, and play harder. Wisconsin is undoubtedly the hardest partying cold-weather school in the nation. However, I truly mean it when I say we work hard, whether it's a credit to our inferiority complex towards Michigan our admissions board, no one can say. The prevailing stereotype is that of the Sconnies. As a non-Sconnie who associates with mostly Sconnies, I can say these are the down to earth people on campus. Humble kids who like to drink and work their asses off. I would fit into the next big stereotype, that of the Coastie, or anyone from the East or West Coast. Most of us are Jewish, and even the ones that aren't are pretty wealthy and exclusive. If you like people from Long Island, then this your crew, just be careful what you wish for. Other than those two distinctions, the size of the student body allows for all walks of people, this campus is truly a microcosm of society.
UW is made up of so many different groups of students that its hard to pinpoint one stereotype. Much of our cultural hybridity includes Greeks, "Coasties" (a term recently coined by a couple of students), a lot of Asian-Americans, and a large homosexual group. There isn't a lot of stock that can be put into these stereotypes, but I would say that they tell you a lot about our campus. Our immense numbers of fraternities and sororities shows that our students enjoy coming together in large groups for social, academic, and community service opportunities. The Coasties prove that we have students from literally all over the country, and the Asian-Americans are just a small portion of the students we have from all over the world. Lastly, our constantly-growing group of homosexuals on campus is not necessarily any larger than similar groups on other campuses--we here at Madison just happen to be more accepting of all lifestyles and walks of life, helping the gay community to fit in better than they might at other schools that are not as open minded as the Badgers.
Madison is, and will continue to be seen as, a party school. If you're coming for the parties, they're here. If you're coming for the lenient laws, they're here. And if you're coming for world-class sports teams that make all that raucous partying happen, they're here. But UW-Madison is much more than that, and this is true because of scale. Madison is a college town, and as such the student body largely lives on campus for only their first and perhaps second year. Students are active in the communities they reside in off-campus, and help blend the line between student community and All The Rest. What does this mean? It means that here, you have access to anything. Politics are right down State Street at the Capitol, world-class research (even for Undergrads!) is done on campus and on the near west side, numerous companies hire students constantly, and there is always good food.
Madison has a reputation for being THE party school. In fact, many friends and relatives were genuinely concerned when I told them where I was going to college. But this is a quite limited view that does not encompass the scope of UW. Yes, Madison has an active drinking culture, but there's so much more to going to school here than alcohol. We have some of the best academic programs in the area, especially for a public school. In my experience, there is a niche that will suit almost any student. Between the wide variety of academic departments and other clubs and groups, it's difficult to not find someone that shares your interests. Our party school reputation, while holding some truth, detracts from the fact that Madison is a diverse community of people of all backgrounds and lifestyles. There's a place to fit almost anyone at UW, just look for it.
An overwhelming percentage of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are school athletes, involved in club or intramural sports or runners. I always seem to notice how healthy and in shape our campus is. Other than being physically active, students at UW-Madison are extremely involved in campus and other off-campus activities. Since we are fortunate enough to have the State Capitol blocks away from our campus, many students are interns or are involved with the Capitol. Personally, I am a communications intern for a senator. On campus, our student government, two student run newspapers and many major orientated clubs keep our students busy. Just a few of my roommates are involved in activities such as Psychology Club, a women's sexual health and abuse prevention organization called PAVE and The Badger Herald.