Connor Rice, who came from a low-income background, recounted several frustrating encounters with his affluent peers during his time at the university.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 14, 2023. It has since been updated.
We all come from different financial backgrounds. It sometimes affects us in various ways throughout our lives. Even in educational institutions that aim to provide equal and quality education, students that come from low-income households often face several challenges. A Harvard graduate named Connor Rice—also known as @connor.rice on TikTok—is sharing his experience of going to the university with wealthy classmates. Rice went viral after posting a video in which he recounted some of his most exasperating encounters with affluent classmates during his time at Harvard. Through his humorous and pointed storytelling, Rice criticized the disconnect between him and his more privileged peers.
He said in the video, "I was fortunate enough to go to Harvard for four years on a full scholarship. Over those four years, I did write in my Notes app on my phone every time someone rich said something stupid. So let’s go through it!" Rice began by stating that social clubs, which were the Harvard equivalent of sororities and fraternities, require members to pay thousands of dollars annually. Rice's classmates were perplexed when he informed them that he couldn't afford to join one.
He explained, "Their immediate response was, ‘I think they take Venmo.' Bro thought I meant, I didn’t have the cash for that." Rice recounts feeling ashamed when he was repeatedly labeled as "the neediest of students" by both the university and his peers. He remembers receiving an email from the university regarding a winter coat fund intended for financially disadvantaged students. He added, "The email said it was dedicated to ‘the neediest of students,’ and while from a definitional perspective that may be true, I don’t want to be called ‘needy’ let alone ‘the neediest.' That doesn’t feel good."
On occasion, Rice's peers made an effort to empathize with his financial difficulties by trying to find common ground. He shared, "When I talked about how my family might have struggled to make ends meet at times, it would always come up in conversation, people would say, ‘My parents had a really tough time growing up.' I guess they were trying to relate and I appreciate that. But it didn’t really help." What was even more distressing for Rice was when he overheard a fellow student lamenting about "poor people" and how they don't "work hard."
He said, "She was like, ‘My dad works 55 to 60 hours a week, and he’s built a big business for himself.’ And I’m like, ‘Brilliant, well good. What about the hundreds of thousands of single parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet?’" Despite all this, he acknowledges the value of the education he received at Harvard. TikTok users empathized with his experiences, while some even shared their own.
TikTok user @thaberlanga said, "Going to rich kids' college, not being rich changed my brain chemistry." @jaclynann419, commented, "I just saw one where a girl said she couldn’t afford brunch. Her sorority sister said, no you look great. She thought she couldn’t afford the calories." TikTok user @sweet_dreams811 asked Rice if he is in touch with any of them and he replied, "With a lot of the others I was friends with! Fortunately, there were also plenty of lovely people who completely understood and were incredibly kind." @tiannasviews commented, "It scares me that the rich people who are so out of touch with reality will most likely have jobs that will influence the rest."