On University Identity Jargon

A short post on one aspect of university identity and the jargon that comes with it

“Hi I’m Michael, a third year student… …at the college.”

I don’t always introduce myself like that, but when I do, it’s usually in the context of meeting someone new in school, but not necessarily in college. One of the great things about where I go to school is the relative ease in taking grad-level classes1 as an undergrad (doing well in them is another matter). Additionally, certain opportunities and professors seem to be especially keen with working with undergrads. But while this is great and all, a byproduct of these interactions is the potential for added complexity in how to introduce yourself, because how old you are and which actual school you go to continue to be a central part of a student’s identity considering the university at large.

While pondering the meaning behind one’s identity always has potential to kickoff deep and meaningful prose, I’m going to sidestep all of that and just bring up a much pettier point2.

I’ve found that over the years, in regular conversation I might hear someone refer to someone else as an “L2” (meaning a second-year law student) or that so-and-so is a “G3” in the Statistics department (currently in their third year of graduate school). Why isn’t there an equivalent for college students? While it could be argued that the standard jargon of “freshman” (now called a “first-year”), “sophomore”, “junior” and “senior” is pretty unique to the college, it could also be argued that these names don’t mean much and only have the potential to do bad. I’ve seen some instances where college students start to refer to themselves by their year beyond the first year (e.g. “junior” to “third year”), but why risk the potential for extra confusion and an awkward clarification of ”…at the college”?

If it’s efficiency and meaningfulness that we’re after, then borrowing the system that law school and grad students already seem to have in place, we might as well refer to college students as “U1s”, “U2s”, “U3s”, and “U4s”.

Yes I get this is introducing more jargon, and again is probably entirely unneeded in the majority of day-to-day life. But as a university-wide system it works! Plus at least it’s more immediately intuitive jargon. And finally it’s shorter to say (if you’re into that).

So while I will probably not be obsessively trying to make “U3” happen, I do think life will be all the better if it does catch on. Until then, catch me calling myself a rising U4.

Gratuitous GIFs too much? At least we avoided a Mean Girls reference.

  1. I speak with experience regarding statistics and computer science classes. It might be different in other departments. [return]
  2. Please don’t take what I say too seriously. I’m aware that there are more important things in the world to solve. [return]