While sociological research exists on the role of consumption in shaping identity formation of college students, there is limited work that examines the intersectional factors of the consumer culture at elite institutions. Over the course of my study, I seek to fill these gaps. In my study, I ask, why do students consume in patterned ways at an elite institution? Entering college is a transitional moment for students in which one's sense of self is often reconstructed due to the influential environment around them (Kaufman and Feldman, 2004). Examining college students allows for a variety of variables to come into play such as the formation of subcultural identities as well as peer and social influence (Folomeeva, 2019). Furthermore, the class-based variation that exists on college campuses allows for a look at the impact that one’s financial status has on their decisions as a consumer. Ultimately, the examination of the consumer culture at an elite level will allow for a deeper understanding of the factors that influence students' spending habits.

In my paper, I explore how the consumer culture acts as a catalyst of behaviors for students at The College. I examine the ways in which purchasing habits affect individual identity construction as well as the formation of social networks. For this study, the setting of The College is crucial in understanding how students use the consumer culture to navigate their collegiate experience. This includes the people students interact with as well as their presentation of self. Through this research, it becomes apparent that the consumer culture is more than just an individual choice, but rather something influenced by the context of a student's surroundings.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen Ellingson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.