5 Archetypes of College Students and How To Write Them // GUEST POST BY CATHERINE

*flies in with frizzy hair and notes sticking every which-way out her backpack*

Now there’s an entrance for you. BUT, since I’m running close to being totally late with this post, 
we’re just gonna roll with it.

Hello everyone!

In case MK didn’t introduce me before….my name is Catherine Hawthorn, and 
I’ll be your substitute blogger for today.

Today, I’ll be lecturing about Realistic Characterizations - a topic near and dear 
to my heart. I think it’s safe to say among this group that we all hate it when authors
 totally botch the characterization…especially, when it’s your own age group!

Being a recent college graduate, I’m always interested in a book with college characters.
 In all the books that I’ve read that feature a cast of college characters, I’ve noticed one thing:
 While the “person” characterization seems to be spot on, the “student” characterization is often 
very lacking. Sure, school is often boring - but oftentimes…..a college student’s life REVOLVES
 around school.

So, to help my fellow writers out, I’m creating a “Write What You Know” post of “student”
 archetypes. These will answer the questions like: how does the student interact on campus?, 
What are their study habits?, etc. I’ll give a general overview, some realistic and unrealistic 
ways that the archetype can be portrayed in a story, and an example character profile.

And yes, I totally hijacked one of MK’s trademark posts and made my own version - in true
 substitute teacher/blogger fashion. #sorrynotsorry

There are 5 different archetypes of students:
  1. The student leader. They are the ones who involved in various clubs, 
    fraternity/sororities - often holding officer positions. They also hold work-study jobs 
    and in honor societies as well. In spite of their busy schedule, they are everybody’s friends.
     They’re at most, if not all, the campus activities. And yes, these are the ones at the top of 
    their class.

Where are they found out of class?: They could be anywhere on campus. And I do mean
 anywhere. It depends on what their schedule is and what social habits they have.  

Realistic Characterizations: tutor to other students, leader/officer in clubs, leader in class
 discussions. Also share a lot with the “studious” students.  
Unrealistic Characterizations: Giving that “one” piece of advice that changes a character 
(unless it’s indirect, like in a graduation speech), dating one of the party animals, never 
having any down time or problems. Being always in a crowd.

Things of Note
  • These are students that are going to be recognized by a large amount of students, 
    at least by name if not face. They are the type that give student speeches at
     graduation, graduate summa cum laude, etc. They are more often than not, extroverts.

Character Profile: Autumn, aged 22. Senior in college, majoring in Communications. 
Is taking a full load of classes, involved in Kappa Delta (a sorority), is president of the 
Photography Club, plays flute in the pep band, is on the Student Activities Board, and is 
also part of the Psi Sigma Psi Honor Society. She also has a work-study position at the 
college library. GPA is 3.94.  
  1. The studious students. They are at the top of their class, the brainiacs. They do the extra
     credit. They are great friends of their professors. Often there on academic scholarships.
     Their involvement in campus activities can vary, but most of the time, it is little. They
     are mostly likely going to be involved in the special interest or “major” clubs, like 
    music groups or International Club, Aggies, etc.  

Where are they found out of class?: Most of the time, it is in their room or in the library
 - depending on where they feel comfortable studying. Sometimes, they are in a 
professor's’ office (just to chat) or they are outside.  

Realistic Characterizations: being asked what the reading is for the next class period, 
reminding roommates of assignments, devoting 3-4 hours a day to studying or reading, 
leaders in group projects, being alert and paying close attention in class and taking 
detailed notes, A and B grades (almost always).   
Unrealistic Characterizations: walking dictionaries or textbooks (they don’t know
 everything, guys!), not going to any social events, being teachers’ pet.

Things of Note:
  • Most of these students are introverts by nature.  

Character Profile: Thomas, aged 20. Sophomore in college, majoring in English. 
Besides taking the maximum credit limit of courses, and being involved in the 
Poetry Club, he is involved in a service organization that provides meals for the
 homeless once a week. He is working a work study position as office assistant to
 the Department of English. GPA is 3.86. Is attending on a half-tuition scholarship,
 awarded via a scholarship competition.

  1. The average student. These students balance full or part-time work and school and
     social events. They do fairly well, for the most part. Involvement in campus activities
     varies, depending on their priorities and interests. They drink and party occasionally,
     but not nearly as much as a party animal.

Where are they found out of class?: Like the student leader, it depends on what their 
schedule is and what social habits they have.

Realistic Characterizations: participating in class, groaning at assignments or tests,
 going out with friends to a restaurant like El Dorados or to the cafeteria.   
Unrealistic Characterizations: one-upping the class leaders, getting high grades all
 the time, frequent partying.  

Things to Note:
  • These students are often the easiest college characters to write, and the ones 
    with the most variety. Play around with them!

Character Profile: Cindy, aged 21. Junior in college, majoring in Business. She takes
 the minimum course load, and is part of the International Club. She also works
 part-time as a waitress at The Grand Hotel Restaurant in town. She likes to go to 
sports games to cheer on her boyfriend. GPA is 2.75.

  1. The student athlete. They often skip class due to practice, or a game. They tend to
     be average students, and their involvement in campus activities can vary - though 
    they usually are involved in something. They also are often there on scholarships - 
    athletic ones to be exact.  

Where are they outside of class?: Practice, gym, room, or cafeteria. Sometimes go 
to the library to study.  

Realistic Characterizations: working around the sport schedule, being in the gym 
often or working out, eating multiple plates of food, boys can be a little rowdy.
Unrealistic Characterizations: being fawned over and popular 
(THIS IS NOT HIGH SCHOOL), sports are not a free ride out of doing work 
(often, there is extra work!), superstar athletes,

Things to note:
  • Sports are divided by seasons - fall and spring. Football, track and field, 
    basketball, etc are considered fall sports. Swimming, lacrosse, volleyball etc. 
    are considered spring sports. Designations can vary from campus to campus.    

Character Profile:  Ethan, aged 19. Freshman in college, majoring in Biology. He 
takes a medium-heavy course load, is part of the Tau Kappa Delta fraternity, and 
works a non-work study job as a groundskeeper on campus. He is attending university
 on a basketball scholarship, and he plays for the university basketball team as a 
shooting guard. GPA is 3.0.

  1. The party animal. These students are often the worst in their class. They often ask 
    for extensions and frequently don’t show up to class. The thorn in most students’ and 
    professors sides. They are great at cramming, BSing, drinking alcohol...you get the idea.  

Where are they found out of class?: In their room, their friends’ rooms, or at the Greek
 Houses is where you are most likely to find them. IF they are even on campus, LOL.

Realistic: skipping a morning class due to a hangover, rushing to do a paper at the last 
minute, moving their car around so that they avoid getting ticketed for not having a permit,
 watching Netflix more often than not, constantly eating junk food, bringing friends over 
without permission, very loud music (pop for the most part).    
Unrealistic: Alcohol bottles everywhere (unless it’s the immediate aftermath of a party), 
getting everything wrong or always giving shoddy work in class, totally brainless, total slob.
 Also not necessarily the class clown (class jerk is another story).

Things to note:
  • Because of a loophole in Housing searches, illegal alcohol is hidden from plain
     sight - in sock drawers, closets, and even under beds.

Character Profile: Harper, aged 19. Sophomore in college, majoring in International 
Studies. Inactive member of the Delta Omega Theta sorority (due to her grades),
 but actively around the Greek houses every weekend. Is never without her phone, 
and has a more boho style of clothing. Works at a retail place near campus. Is on 
academic probation (again, due to her grades), GPA is 1.5.

While this may seem stereotyping, it really helps to have these types in mind as you build 
your college characters. Your character’s priorities and work ethic are going to influence a 
lot of decisions that the character comes across - especially the nitty-gritty ones.

As you may have noticed, some of these archetypes can overlap. I basically categorized them 
by “main priority” but it is possible to have athletes that are also student leaders, etc.  

Each of these college student archetypes can apply to both males and females equally, and 
at any age or year in college. Experiment with a character arc that goes from party animal 
to average or studious, or studious to student leader - how does that happen?

Also, knowing these types will help build roommate and friend relationships. A lot of 
tension can be built from a roommate relationship between a party animal and a 
studious student!

Remember, while knowing what kind of student your college character is can tell you 
a lot about them, it doesn’t tell you everything about their personal character. Explore
 especially their religious and political views - these can have a huge effect on their
 college experience!

Your turn to talk!
Those of you who were/are in college, have you found these “archetypes”
 around your campus? Did I miss anything major/minor?
Those of you who are not in college, did this help at all in understanding 
a little about college life? I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have!

Scribblingly yours,



  1. This is awesome! I'm probably a cross between the studious and average student with maybe a touch of student athlete mixed in.

    1. Thank you, Sarah!!!

      Oh wow, neat! I was the studious student in college - I loved learning and didn't hold much stock in social stuff (though I did get better during my junior and senior years!).

  2. This is a great post, Catherine! I’m not in college yet, but since I might write a college student in one of my books, this will be very handy!

  3. Great post, Catherine. I'm not in college, nor will I be going, but this is pretty helpful for me. Thank you! <3

  4. I didn't go to college, so this will be really helpful if I decide to write about college.

    1. Really? I didn't know that, Skye - I thought you did! I'm glad to be of service!

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