My second thought.
We tend to pooh-pooh how difficult college life is, because in its externals it is very much a golden ghetto. I worked very little at it except for a few weeks at the end of every semester, and there is something very nice about having your food paid for, even if it is cafeteria fare, housing you don't have to worry about, and a whole social life installed around you.
Yet the internal difficulties of moving from childhood to adulthood can be miserable while you are going through it. After one has developed the strength of personality to choose whose opinions you will value and whose you will shrug off, it looks easy. Why should you care what they think? Ignore them. It looks easy now. For some, it was never a big deal. Whether by inborn personality or good upbringing, some young people never had serious doubts about finding a place in the world.
For others, moving out of the house leads to the questions Will I have friends? Will I be able to get some good job, one that is useful and pays me enough to live on? Will someone want to marry me? Will I screw it all up and always be some lowlife or failure, like some others in my family/neighborhood/community? Do I have what it takes to become a ______?
One of Jonathan's highschool classmates asked me out of the blue "Mr. Wyman, are these really the best years of our lives?" I was quick to say No. You may have your best memories from your high school or college years, but the insecurities of them can make them difficult. And your impulsive, emotional biology is against you as well. I used to say half-seriously that the teen suicide rate may stem from adults telling them "These are the best years of your life." That's just not true. To reason back that you could breeze through the workload and expectations now is to miss the point. Sure, after you learn to walk it's easy. After you have passed Algebra II, adding fractions looks trivial. After someone has proposed marriage, your fear of never getting asked on a date looks silly.
So I take some of what the protesters say at face value - they are just blaming all the wrong people.
They do feel inadequate and rejected. I think a certain amount of that feeling is just going to happen to you. And it does feel awful. If you are smart, you will think others reject you because of that. If you are poor, you will put all your sense of rejection into that basket. If you are black or have a foreign accent, or are the Wrong Sort Of Kid, or were abused, or have some disability, or have some unattractive feature, those will become the explanation why the world isn't fair and you are always one down and trying to stay afloat.
That is not all imaginary. Of course there are bigots out there, and some soft racism that undermines your status. Of course people are jealous because you are smart. Of course being in a wheelchair can make you socially invisible and adds an extra layer of difficulty to even the simplest acts. It's just not everything. Some of it is just you, and you would have felt that way anyway.
Because sometimes life is hard. It really is. I'm sorry no one told you that, or if they did, you weren't listening. Adults, especially conservatives, tend to wave that off because...you shouldn't be feeling sorry for yourself, children in Africa are starving, etc. They are in a sense right because that is the eventual answer. If you look around, you will find that others have it much tougher than you, and they get through the day somehow anyway. They envy you. (I think foreign mission trips can be hugely important for the Christian growth of children, for that reason if no other. Life is hard, yet people with much harder lives get through. Go and do likewise.)
Try being old. Try being schizophrenic. Try having a chronic illness. Try finding a parent who committed suicide. I'm not saying this to tell you that you aren't feeling real pain. You are. Finding a place in the world is hard for 90-99% of humanity. Always has been. The good news is that if you accomplish getting to moderately responsible adulthood, you deserve real credit for that. No one's going to give you a medal, but you actually have accomplished something.
I thought Buddhism was popular at colleges these days. Have you never heard that Life Is Suffering, or do they leave that out of the new, improved American Buddhism? It's true, and your pain is not just something you made up in your head. You might be a whining baby, but not necessarily. Some of it's real. Insofar as we can improve society so that racism or lookism or whatever don't add to your problems, we should do that. But don't hold your breath.
And even if we do, life is still going to be hard.