For Your Enrichment: Jay Gatsby Goes to College

Laura Barrett, Ridie Ghezzi, Jay Satterfield


Jay Gatsby, the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, is a self-made man. He entered St. Olaf College in Minnesota but then dropped out during his first term because of the humiliating circumstances of his poverty. Gatsby’s flight from college contrasts with the Ivy League education of Fitzgerald’s narrator, Nick Carraway, the Yale graduate better equipped to navigate East Egg’s social world. Gatsby’s experience is still relevant today: while the transition to higher education is often difficult for young people, it is especially so for first-generation students. Many students can call on the experiences of family members to help them acclimate to the college environment, but first-generation students lack a road map for academic success and social comfort in what can feel like an alien world. These students often face even greater hurdles at highly selective institutions such as Dartmouth College, where expectations for academic achievement are high and the social climate is often unfamiliar.

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