This September, tens of thousands of college freshmen arrived at the colleges that they chose so carefully. I am willing to bet that at least a third of them are having doubts that they made the right college choice.
What should you do if you are one of them – if your college match isn’t matching up so well? Here are some suggestions . . .
- Skype with high school friends who have started at other colleges. This is critically important! You’ll probably find that they are having doubts too, and that they can shed some light on what you are going through. Remember that you are not alone, you already have a support network in place.
- Take a deep breath and wait a while before deciding that you made the wrong college choice. Before you arrived at your college, you built up a mental image of what the place was going to be like, but the place is not the same as what you expected. It couldn’t possibly be the same, could it? So allow a few months to decide whether the college really is right for you. In time, you might decide that it is even better than what you predicted it would be. (It could turn out to be worse too, but it will realistically take a while to tell.)
- Don’t hit the panic button. Sure, you just spent four years visiting campuses, making a college list, taking standardized tests, filling out applications, and jumping through all the other flaming hoops. All those experiences probably made you think that you had to find your perfect college match on the first try. But guess what? You didn’t! If you finally determine that your college is not the best for you, you have options. Like thousands of students every year, you can transfer to another school or take a little time off to regroup. So try to relax and view your first months as a continuation of the “college shopping” experience.
- Wait for your social network to build. The first months on any campus are often lonely, because it takes a while for you to find your best friends on campus, and for them to find you. When you do find them, you will have a support network where you can share frustrations, doubts – as well as stories of little triumphs and progress. But remember, it could take a few weeks or even months for your network to form.
- Consider visiting the college counseling center. If your college has a good one, there should be someone there who can help you get perspective on why you are having doubts about your college choice. Even though some counselors in these offices might be prone to give you a renewed sales pitch for why your school is so wonderful, a lot of them really are caring professionals who will support you and help you review your college choice. Make one appointment and if your counselor is helpful, consider going back again.
And here’s some very important advice . . .
This is critically important. Go to your college counseling center and ask to speak to someone if you think you are genuinely depressed about your college choice. It’s not uncommon for this to happen to freshmen! You have been under intense pressure for years to pick the right college. Now that you are there, chances are that your parents are expecting you to fit right in and be perfectly happy with your college match. If you’re not, that can make you think that there is something wrong with you. And there isn’t. These exaggerated expectations, followed by letdown, are built into the way Americans get into college. And it’s not your fault if it happens to you.