ENTERING college comparatively late in life has its disadvantages. The boy who goes there directly from his preparation has the exhilarating experience of a new freedom, a release from the stop-watch regulations of school or from close parental supervision. The man who resumes his formal education after a lapse of years not only misses this, but actually surrenders a good deal of what has passed for freedom (if the interval has been spent in working for a living) when he engages to live under administrative rules designed for students a half-dozen or more years younger than he.

There are, however, offsetting advantages. The most obvious, that of bringing a more mature mind to college work, is pointed out ad tœdium. But there are two benefits, not foretold to the writer, which came as a pleasant surprise. One is the likelihood of being frequently mistaken for a proctor in the dining hall, and served with an individual portion of heavy cream for the breakfast cereal, instead of sharing the communal milk pitcher. This advantage needs no comment. The other concealed asset is the belated undergraduate’s privilege of being in, but not of, the world of freshmen. A difference in age of six or seven years, a trifle among oldsters, is a yawning chasm in the teens and twenties. Whether he wishes it or not, it puts the older student into a position of detached observation among those with whom he eats, sleeps, and studies.

Having lived during pre-college days in a university town on the Pacific Coast, the writer is led to believe that there are at least two kinds of freshmen, the general variety and Harvard freshmen. There may be others.

At a state university the September crop brings in two general types, describable as City and Country. One comes from a large city high school, and has ‘gone collegiate’ long before he steps into a college hall. He is well posted on matters of clothes, night clubs, liquor, women, and similar extra-curricular activities. The boy from the crossroads high school has all this to learn, though he is not lacking in what might be called fundamental sophistication. His training has been as complete as the automobile and small-town dances can make it. In many cases he has sown a greater acreage of eighteen-year-old wild oats than the city product. But when he comes to college he enters a probationary period during which this training must be translated into terms of tuxedos, taxis, city hotels, and fraternity affairs. This is rather quickly accomplished. Before the end of the freshman year the only great divisions are those of the fraternity men and the ‘non-orgs,’ and this continues for the remaining three years.

The incoming class at Harvard presents a puzzling variety of types. The preliminary general division would be that of preparatory-school and highschool graduates. But closer observation shows that these lines are often ignored by other groupings. The large rural representation at the state university does not seem to exist at Harvard. The facilities afforded by the city of San Francisco for amusement and entertainment awe and fascinate a great number of new arrivals at the University of California, across the bay; while Boston means very little to boys who come to Cambridge from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, or Cleveland. Similarly, the fraternity cleavage does not exist in the Harvard freshman class, because of the upperclass status of Harvard clubs, and the workings of the Freshman Dormitory plan, devised with the opposite effect in view.

But of course there are typical divisions into which the first-year men at Harvard readily fall, and to this observer the following five stand out: Silver Spooners, Athletes, Æsthetes, Ohioans, and Grubbers.

The Silver Spooners are further divided into those whose mouth held at birth a spoon of solid silver and those whose spoon was only plated. The first are a rather congenial lot. Secure in their positions, they have nothing to fear from tossing careless ‘hello’s’ about to anyone. A number engage in activities, and some even study. The majority simply enjoy life. They have come to college because men in their group always have. With the help of God and the Widow most of them get a degree.

The Plated Silver Spooners lead more strenuous lives, because they are under the constant strain of having to buttress their positions. They may engage in the conventional activities, the exact choice being determined by the available contacts, or they may make ‘climbing’ their sole activity. Lacking the secure footing of their Solid Silver brethren, they must of course be more cautious, and cannot take such chances as speaking to a student waiter.

In some cases it is difficult to tell a Plated from a Solid Silver Spooner. Here is a good test: if a Silver Spooner is engaged in an activity necessitating personal soliciting, and his friendly greetings to all potential customers disappear the minute competitions are closed, his spoon is likely to be plated.

The Athletes, while a definite species, increase the difficulty of this attempt at classification because they cut across the lines of other varieties. Silver Spooners are represented, with democratizing effect even on Plateds. They must fight with all comers for places on teams; college athletic activity, like the mediæval Church, opens a career to talent of lowly birth. In general, a Soldiers’ Field aspirant becomes first an Athlete and only second a Silver Spooner, or a Grubber, or whatever the case may be.

Athletes are as a rule hearty and likable chaps, because, I suppose, like Solid Silver Spooners, their position is so secure that they can afford to be. They are engaged in the most aweinspiring undergraduate activity, and are respected accordingly, whatever their democratic indiscretions may be. They cannot afford, of course, to let too much studying interfere with their major interest, though this is probably less true at Harvard than at any other American college.

Æsthetes, like Athletes, invade other classifications, but unlike them they do not bring forth a type, for individuality is the battle cry of æsthetes in general, and especially the freshman Æsthete. It is impossible to describe a typical member of this group; there is no such thing. Let it be said that if you ever meet one you will recognize him instantly. Some express themselves by writing poetry for harried English instructors. Nearly all are devoted to one or more of the Fine Arts. Some add to their thirst for culture a hunger for social justice, and join the Liberal Club or take courses in Social Ethics.

Æsthetes are not very numerous, but they make up for it in earnestness. Two or three of them conversing in the dining hall can make a whole tableful of lesser mortals cringe with the conviction of their own ignorance.

The paraphrase, ‘East is East and West is West, but the Middle West is terrible,’ does great injustice to the fourth group of Harvard freshmen, the only one which I have classified geographically. They come from any place in that vast section bounded on the East by the Alleghanies and on the West by the Rockies, but their favorite habitat seems to be the good old president-producing state of Ohio.

Better than any other group this one can be described by a typical member. He probably comes from a high school in a small but prosperous city. Normally destined for the state university, or perhaps a sectarian institution, he develops talents in school that bring the choice around to Harvard, despite some question of doctrinal soundness on the banks of the Charles. Arrived in Cambridge, he is a bit perturbed to learn that his prominence in highschool activities means very little there. When the reason becomes clear he makes a fierce resolve to join the Harvard Club the minute he is graduated, and to send his sons to Exeter.

But he is likely to be a serious youth whose chief interest really is his studies. He generally lands on the Dean’s List at the first Midyears, and stays there until he carries off his cum laude. He is not only a likable boy, but the one who gives University Hall least trouble.

One quality which the Ohioan may lack is color, and that is supplied in superabundance by the Grubbers. Here is the most interesting lot in college, the boys who are hanging on by the skin of their teeth; whose great problem is to satisfy both the Dean and the Bursar. Most of them earn their way by the ready-to-hand work available, that of waiting on table, but the complete list of their sparetime occupations is almost limitless. It may be read in the proud reports of the Student Employment Office of any college in the country.

‘Bright college days’ is a meaningless phrase to your true Grubber. College to him is a serious business, the value of which he has probably precalculated in dollars and cents, over the horrified protests of every educator in the world. But he can’t be blamed. Unless gifted with a little more than ordinary mental facility, the boy who is earning all or nearly all of his way has a hard time of it. He becomes something of a cynic. It could hardly be otherwise. A normal American boy who must act as servant to other normal American boys cannot help taking on thought once in a while, exposed as he is to bits of conversation about cars and week-ends and summer jaunts to Europe.

But Grubbers have their joys, cynics though they may be. Each course passed and each term bill met is a new accomplishment, and the joy of accomplishment is traditionally assumed to be the greatest.

Perhaps the ideal college of the future will be the one in which, without upsetting the normal balance, there may be just a little averaging up for Grubbers and Silver Spooners. If a jaded Silver Spooner would like to enjoy a new experience, it is a pity that he cannot know the peculiar sensation of wondering how a term bill mailed to him on the twelfth is going to be met on the thirteenth. And if a Grubber feels like following a mere whim, whether to buy a new suit or to go on a terrific ‘bender,’ he ought once in a while to have the privilege of doing so without counting the cost.