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How to Use ‘dispositions’ to Your Advantage at University or College

Going to university or college? Here’s how to use Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘habitus’ to your social advantage.

You might find it challenging to ‘fit in’ when attending university for the first time – withholding a different social background, or having a different religious belief to everyone else; we call these ‘dispositions’. Renowned sociologist Pierre Bourdieu deduced a concept called ‘habitus’; effectively deploying this could be helpful to preclude you from becoming an outlander. 

What is a ‘habitus’?

Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘habitus‘ means “the systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures” (Outline of a theory of practice, 1977). In simple words, this means a system that coaches you to move about in the world so that you can succeed in your goals. Don’t let the fancy-sounding jargon put you off, in fact, you might have already been deploying various ‘habitus’ yourself. For instance, think about how to ask your parents for something you want – a phone for example; you might shift to a more sincere tone, try to present yourself as worthy of the phone by quoting your excellent grade or altering your posture to a more attentive one.

This is, in fact, ‘toning’ your habitus to allow you to achieve your goal of attaining the phone. In college, you need to learn to rapidly tone your habitus if you want to make new friends. Some students are really good at ‘toning’ their habitus which means they are better at developing different modes of engagement with different people they talk to. They make friends quicker, integrate into the new environment more smoothly and are less likely to indulge in the constant sense of homesickness.

How to ‘tone’ your habitus

So how do you develop or improve this ability to ‘tone’ your habitus? One of the most effective ways is to actively improve your personal skillset, such as partaking in a painting lesson, joining the debate club or trying out a sport. On the other hand, they can also be as small as learning a new joke, a new way to rephrase your words or even a new body language. Reflect upon yourself, think about what you can do to make yourself feel less detached from the group and what skills you need to make yourself feel more comfortable in this new environment.

You can also use your habitus to alleviate the sense of disposition people around you might experience. For instance, when interacting with a gender-nonconforming person, keep vigilant of the pronoun you use. When interacting with someone hard of hearing, always ensure to deliberate yourself. Effectively understanding and utilising this concept will not only benefit yourself, but it could also help others, which is a great way to establish a new friendship.

One thing to take notice of…

It is important to note that it is not always necessary to tone your habitus. You might experience some maladjustments when you find a university’s institutional habitus and your personal habitus contradicting. It is indeed important to keep an open mind and make constant adaptations or dwell efforts in adjusting your personal habitus; however, that is not always the case. For example, you may disagree with certain school rules, if you feel they are in opposition to your value or personal belief, ask others for their opinions, if they feel the same, make collective actions to get these rules changed.

Universities are places to ignite changes and improvements and students are usually at the centre of these changes. HE listens to student voices, if you feel you have something to say, don’t be afraid to speak up to prevent future students from being affected by these misalignments.

Huge thanks to Yifei for this article. Yifei is a second-year Language, Culture and Society student at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He deduces various social theories to reflect upon student experiences in higher education institutions. He writes in English, Chinese and French.

Is a Career in Higher Education Right For You?


If you’re currently doing some soul searching to figure out what career might be a good fit for you, a career in higher education may be the answer.

Working in higher education is rewarding because you would be part of an institution that has a higher mission to educate and empower others who are hoping to make a better future for themselves and the world at large. You may think that becoming a professor is the only option in higher education, but there are many job roles at an institute of higher learning.

Universities, although many are non-profit, function very much like businesses. They need people with varying experience and backgrounds to fill different job positions. Here are a few jobs to consider.

Admissions Representative

Every college will have a department focused on outreach and admissions. Without admissions, it’d be hard to recruit new students. Being an admissions representative means having the ability to connect with people, speaking eloquently about the benefits of attending your college, and promoting the school overall.

In these roles, you will get to meet and talk with a wide variety of people. You’d serve as a link to college for potential students and families. This would be a great job to get at your college alma mater since you chose to attend that school yourself and would be a great ambassador for its good qualities.

Student Advisor/Counsellor

There are many opportunities to serve as a resource for the most important people on campus – the students. Students usually don’t realize they need support. Many are away from home for the first time or they are the first in their family to attend college. They go through a transition period and some can benefit from the support of counsellors and advisors.

Consider roles such as residential advisers, academic student advisers, career counsellors, and personal counsellors. Some jobs may require advanced degrees and some may only require a bachelor’s degree. Be assured that these roles are vital for the student body’s health and wellness.


If you love to teach and instruct others, consider becoming a professor on campus. Professors will usually have both teaching and research roles. Academia can be very rewarding as you can lead groundbreaking research.

It is also rewarding to pass on your knowledge to students. You may think that you require years of study to get an advanced degree, but today there are options of getting an online degree in teaching. Some online universities offer doctoral degrees as well, which you can complete remotely, conveniently, and in a timely manner.


If sports are something you are passionate about, consider working for a school with an athletic department and programs. Those with large athletic departments have a full array of staffing needs, from marketing to support staff, to coaching. With a background in playing or coaching, consider getting a job as a coach.

It can be very rewarding to serve as both a coach and mentor to college students. If you like to write and liaison with media, consider working in the media relations department where you can report on game outcomes and athletes, and attend games.

Alumni Relations

Consider working in alumni relations, the department that plans and implements alumni and donor events. They ensure that alumni remain connected to the college and focus on fundraising events. Alumni relations specialists help to create networking opportunities for students and alumni. They help to create a tight-knit community of past, current, and even future university members.

Whether in an administrative or academic role, working in higher education offers numerous benefits. You would be part of something bigger and have the opportunity to truly believe in what you are doing. Consider working in higher education, as it may be the path to a fulfilling life and career.

Special thanks to Eileen O’Shanassy for providing us with this article. Eileen is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking, and you can find her on Twitter @eileenoshanassy.

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