A graduated Simulation.
The Sims 3 has always had a strange absence. Babies would grow into children who attended school until their teenage years and then, suddenly, they could immediately enter the workforce. Apparently, Sims only reach as far as a GED. What happened to all those formative years, hopefully away from home, at the universitas magistrorum et scholarium, that place of knowledge, scholarship, and freedom. Or at least that's what Sims are supposed to say about college in between Juice Keg parties and woo-hoos.
Of course, the first step to college begins well before it. Teen Sims who achieve academic excellence and learn any number of skills will have an advantage taking the "Sims University Aptitude Test" (the SUAT?) which is like our SAT, GRE, and AP exams all rolled up into one (except it only takes a few moments to finish and it's free of charge). Based on the testing results, the Sim will receive a proportional amount of financial aid and additional credits toward one of the six majors offered—Business, Physical Education, Science & Medicine, Technology, Communications, or Fine Arts. The selection of majors could have been wider, and the lack of Masters and Ph.D degrees is a little disappointing.
On the upside, unlike The Sims 2: University Life, college admission is not as ageist: Any Sim aged teen to elder may take the SUAT and enter the university. The integration of University Life into the Sims 3 universe is generally smooth, though Sims will have to uproot their lives to enter college. Fans who also have Seasons expansion will experience the change in weather with time. With the Supernatural expansion, I have a magical university that rivals the awesomeness of Hogwarts.
After selecting the number of courses, terms, and Sims attending, they will immediately pack their bags and head directly to the Sims University college town, where they must choose proper living quarters—perhaps a unisex dormitory, a fraternity, a sorority, or a quiet condo away from the hustle and bustle of people (you loner). Either way, Sims must juggle their social life with their class workload. Completing a degree with high marks nets a higher starting salary, better starting position, and faster promotions, so making sure that Sims have time to study and attend class is worth the trouble. For extra credit, Sims can ask the professor for special assignments and interact with their major-specific object, like doing presentations (Business) or researching the Brain Enhancing Machine (Technology).
With a new town comes an abundance of new social opportunities with the student body dispersed into three distinct groups: nerds, jocks, and rebels. Though this segregation is stereotypical and rather droll in this day and age, there's no reason that a Sim needs to select any one group to fit in. However, it's worth extending a Sim's social circle to include as many people as possible, as doing so opens new socials and Superjobs unlocked at reaching maximum social influence in any one group. That said, how can I not be a super nerd and unlock the Video Game Developer career path?
Unsurprisingly, each social group demands certain actions to build social influence. Where jocks specialize in collegiate sports, hang out at the sports bar, and hold bonfire parties and Juice Keg parties, rebels specialize in street art, hang out at the barista coffee shop, and hold protests against the status quo—and clowns. Nerds would rather chill at the comic book shop and spend hours gaming online (because I enjoy playing a game with a world where I play a game with a world where I play a game…).
The only downside is that it only costs 2,000 lifetime happiness to increase a Sim's social standing significantly in any one group, which ruins the challenge of building it with focused effort. Luckily, all of the social groups mingle well with one another, and there's nothing wrong with trying to be the ultimate triple threat "rebel nerdjock" otherwise known as Robert Downey Jr.
Three new skills accompany this three-way split in social groups: Street Art, Science, and Social Networking. Street Art turns a Sim into the next rebel Banksy by tagging walls and streets hopefully without being caught by the cops. Science lets nerds strut their stuff by analyzing experimental samples and ultimately learning how to clone items. The Social Networking skill isn't jock-specific, though it's the only social group where having more more jock friends builds influence, and is incredibly powerful as it levels. Every Sim starts with a smartphone where they can create blogs, learn how to find Sims with specific characteristics, and eventually change the relationship status between any two Sims at the press of a button. It's cheating, really.
Among the stronger expansions for The Sims 3, University Life fills in the time gap missing from the series and offers enough depth to extend the life of every Sim meaningfully. In addition to introducing a new plant-based Sim type, the added social content broadens the interaction of the Sim universe. It also makes possible the dream of virtually recreating the best study group ever—the cast members of Community. I mean, you know someone's got to do it.