From Cult to Kin: Trinity Redefined

By Lindsay Liu, Staff Writer

Choosing a college in your first year can be an arduous and confusing task. As a first-year Arts & Science student, I was perplexed about which colleges to apply to and the distinctions between them. Aside from meal plans and location, I was most interested in the culture of the communities at each of the respective colleges. After all, these people and staff may become your second home for the next few years and beyond!

Before applying to Trinity College, I heard many negative opinions about its community and culture: a cult-ish atmosphere filled with self-absorbed rich and elitist students all co-existing in a Hogwarts-like setting. Although the last part may be positive, the majority of things I heard were scathingly negative. However, as a current Trinity College student living in residence, these rumors and speculations could not be further from the truth. Everyone I met so far, be it staff or students, have been nothing but welcoming, inclusive, kind, and friendly. The majority of Trinity students I’ve encountered are just like students from the other colleges. Does Trinity have a very tight-knit community with some long-standing traditions? Yes. However, interacting with the individual students and the community as a whole have left completely different impressions on me from what has been described and disseminated on Reddit threads.

Given that Reddit isn’t the most reliable and credible source of information and can quickly devolve into a cesspool of negativity, I wanted to ask real first-year UofT students from both inside and outside of Trinity College about their pre-university and current impressions of the culture at Trinity College.

According to these conversations, the majority of students I spoke with at colleges other than Trinity had opinions ranging from indifferent to positive. Some students described interest towards the traditions at Trinity College, such as the High Table Dinners which were reminiscent of something they “would’ve imagined as a kid,” while experiencing College. Other students expressed an appreciation for the beautiful architecture and surrounding greenery. Generally, students from colleges outside of Trinity did not have a differential impression of the culture from when they started university. However, this was not true of all students.

Several students with membership in other colleges expressed strong cynical views of Trinity’s community culture during my conversations and data collection, which were only reaffirmed upon their admission to university. These students shared their concerns regarding Trinity’s “uncomfortable and off-putting” exclusivity. These specific concerns led to some students deciding to apply to other colleges. According to several, the supplementary application required by Trinity College during the application process prompted some of these thoughts as well. Although Trinity College is not the only College that requires a supplementary application, one student suggested that their negative impression was exacerbated by a combination of the aforementioned factors. It was interesting to note, however, that many of these students have yet to take a tour of and visit Trinity College themselves.

Like the majority of students in other colleges, students currently in Trinity had overwhelmingly positive impressions and opinions of the community culture. Some students cited their initial concerns immersing themselves into the community, but many Trinity students, commuter and residence alike, cited that the superb experience of Welcome week and Orientation quelled their fears. There was a general consensus that the tight-knit nature of Trinity College allowed more opportunities to meet a group of caring and understanding individuals. In fact, the relatively smaller population of Trinity College was a favorable factor for many students, who found that the size made it easier to get to know people and get involved in the community. Students refuted the perceived judgment and elitist culture of Trinity College, affirming that there was never any serious judgment for “not going to a top high school or for not taking AP/IB courses.”

Overall, I would say that these concerns about a general lack of inclusivity and other negative impressions are completely valid. However, when it comes to the more extreme claims that Trinity is a ‘cult’ with ‘elitist and superior students,’ I believe that they are in the loud minority. It’s easy for a site like Reddit to become an echo chamber infested with negative opinions of the minority—after all, a negative opinion is more interesting and stands out more than a neutral or even positive one. I would strongly advise any prospective student or current student with questions about the Trinity community to experience the College for themselves through tours, chats with Trinity students, Q&As with upper years, or other forms of personal experience. I was once in your position of doubt about the College, but since joining and establishing myself in the wonderful community, I have no regrets coming to Trinity College.