in: Career, Career & Wealth

• Last updated: May 30, 2021

Manliness in Higher Education

Vintage college student carrying books.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Brad Revare. Mr. Revare is a junior at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Robert Redford, the iconic actor of “The Natural,” is considered to be the most famous alumnus of the University of Colorado. His square jaw is plastered around campus and in alumni magazines. The story of his employment at a burger joint across the street from campus is common Colorado lore. However, I came across another famous alum that embodies manliness in physical prowess, intellectual ability, and pure leadership. I was surprised to find that no one casually mentions him in conversation about notable alumni of the university.

Housed in the Club Section of the football stadium at CU is an unobtrusive plaque and bust of Byron White. Some may know him as the Supreme Court Justice appointed by John F. Kennedy. However, there is a long trail of achievement and leadership left by him, including an impeccable resume that I feel should be the model for young men entering college today.

AoM recently published an article suggesting Senior Military Colleges as a worthy option for young men who wish to acquire the necessary chutzpah to become manly men later in life.Yet it is also very possible to develop the skills necessary to lead a purposeful and manly life at any ordinary state school or non-military institution.

Take Byron White for example. Here is a short list of his accomplishments in or right after college:

  • Football scholarship to CU-Boulder
  • All-American honors as running back for CU
  • Elected student body president
  • Received Phi Beta Kappa honors (usually top 10% of graduating class)
  • Won the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship
  • Led the NFL in rushing his rookie season (right after college)
  • Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale Law School

After reading just a few of his accomplishments, most would exclaim “What a man!” Of course, not every male in college right now aspires to any of those accomplishments. While I do think the stereotype of cheap beer drinking, lazy, and videogame playing male is overstated, it is prevalent and things need to change. The problem resides in that when a man steps onto a college campus along 25,000 other students, no one hands him a guide to becoming the best man he can be in four years time. This is that guide.

There are two maxims one should abide by if they intend to be a virulis vir (Latin for manly man) in college.  One is the cliché Carpe Diem. No one is going to guide you through; you have to seize every moment to be your best. The second is one from Jim Collins, a well-known business performance researcher. In his research of Fortune 500 company CEO’s; the most successful were the ones who could exert professional will in the extreme. They were able to will themselves to change the business and exert influence over themselves and others, all for the achievement of the end goal. Keep these in mind as you read the article and go out to become a better man in college.

The guide is broken up into three areas: academics, leadership/service, and sports/discipline. Each section contains practical tips on how to excel in each area. We will start with academics.


Vintage professor giving lecture to classroom students.

The manliest men in today’s society are smart, as they were in previous generations. If you go to college and coast through, you are wasting the golden opportunity in life that not everyone gets. Here are a few suggestions to make sure your academic rigor is up to snuff compared to great men in history:

  • Research: Most universities have piles of money and programs in place to let undergraduates conduct research or assist professors in doing so. You can even get grants to travel, or write an essay on a topic of interest, usually in the $1000 range. You don’t need prior experience and almost no one does as an undergraduate, so get going!
  • Rigor of Major: Pick a discipline that represents your intellectual passion and presents continual excitement and challenge. If this doesn’t describe your major, then find one that does, or create your own.
  • Study Abroad: Although not always affordable (look for grants and scholarships), traveling and studying abroad stretches your mind and causes you to consider many different viewpoints. Plus it’s not a bad way to spend a semester.
  • Top Scholarships: Look into applying for the top graduate scholarships, mainly, the Rhodes, Fulbright, and Truman. Not only are these incredibly prestigious, but also the end result often benefits mankind.


Today’s effective and honorable men developed their leadership skills on college campuses. Barack Obama honed his oratorical skills as a student activist and his leadership ability as the editor of the Harvard Law Review. Most universities have a multitude of leadership opportunities; here are a few to get you started:

  • Student Groups/Clubs: Put in time and effort to gain credibility so one day you can lead the group, holding yourself accountable to others based on your performance. This is a very effective way to determine what you are capable of doing in a leadership position.
  • Student Government: Serve your fellow students in a legitimate governance position. You can affect change and lead through policy changes, allocation of student fees, and representing student interests to the university’s administration.
  • Internships: Besides gaining work experience, internships allow you to wield skills learned in the classroom while making a legitimate contribution to an organization. Most of your CEO’s and superiors will take the time to impart wisdom and advice, putting you ahead of the pack when it comes to applying for a full time job. Plus you’ll be doing something other than sleeping in or watching Full House reruns in between classes.
  • Local Government: Most college towns have low age requirements to hold office, often 18 years old. Look into serving on commissions in your community or even running for city council if the opportunity looks right. Public service is a fantastic way to augment your leadership credentials.

Sports & Discipline

A group photo of sports men.

Many great men participated in sports in their college careers. Byron White was an all-American football player, Theodore Roosevelt boxed, and Bill Bradley was a star basketball player for Princeton. Sports, regardless of competitive level, give men in college a reason to stay in shape, and provide a discipline-focused framework for training and achieving. Here are a few examples of how you could do the same:

  • Club Sports: Can’t dunk or throw a baseball 90mph? Why not join a club sport, where the true amateur trains and plays by his own grit, rather than the money tinged arena that is Division I sports? Most club teams field serious teams, and play a rigorous schedule and travel regionally, sometimes nationally.
  • Individual Physical Goals: Set some sort of goal designed to push your physical limits and train in a disciplined manner to accomplish it. Vow to hike the Appalachian Trail this summer and begin hiking immediately. Sign up for a triathlon so you have to start swimming laps.
  • Get outdoors: Ditch the gym once or twice a week for a run around the surrounding area, a hike to a nearby mountain, or a bike ride through varied terrain. Outside activity inspires greater workouts and fills you with vigor. Remember, Teddy Roosevelt in his college summers would hike mountains while reciting epic poetry. What are you doing, besides drinking Coors Light?

Book Recommendations

By simply acting to change your life with these steps, you can make a huge difference in your ambition. In addition, here are a few books that will help you reach these goals:

  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Norris: Worth it for the section on Teddy’s college years alone, but the entire book should inspire you to start doing instead of lounging.
  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren: A silly sounding title, this is an intellectual how-to book on how to get the most out of books. Even those who consider themselves well read may find their analytical skills when it comes to reading lacking. Easy to implement tips, guidelines for all types of books, and a suggested reading list in the back will make any college man able to devour the best books of human history.


College is a time of self-improvement and unsupervised fun. I’m not advocating work all the time and a serious, dour demeanor in the name of achievement. Rather, a healthy dose of ambition, achievement, and responsibility to improve yours and others’ circumstance can lead to a new generation of male leaders emerging from college campuses.

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