Remember the Common Application website? The website that haunted your dreams and plagued your weekends? Now, imagine that midway through your freshman year of college, you find yourself trying to piece together the password containing “at least one capital letter and one special character” that allowed you access to your Common App profile. You painstakingly substitute one arbitrary combination after another, only to log back on and start the process over again. Not what you imagined for yourself, right?
My freshman year, I hated college. I was frustrated with every aspect of my collegiate life—the things I was learning, people I was spending time with, clubs I was involved in. And based off of my glimpses of friends' college life on social media, I was the only one of my friends from high school that felt so lost and unhappy.
I decided to transfer early in the year. It was a trying decision—going back on the first real grown-up choice I had ever made just to start over again. I teetered back and forth between staying and leaving. Some days the haphazard array of numbers and letters that made up my password came easier than others. Nonetheless, I sent out my applications, yet again, and I started over.
There is great pressure in loving the school you pick, so much so that those who feel anything contrary are forced to process their experiences alone. Though it took a bit of time and a hearty glass of perspective, I now understand that transferring, and disliking college in general, is incredibly common.
According to the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment, 39% of college students will feel hopeless over the course of the school year, while an even larger 84% will find themselves overwhelmed at some point during the school year. Despite these statistics, there remains a negative stigma around disliking college.
David Leibow, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, sees a large number of students each year who are overwhelmed and unhappy with their college experience. Leibow says that a large portion of this disillusionment with the college experience can be traced to a stigma about disliking college. This stigma is rooted, Leibow argues, in two things: for most of our childhoods, we hear various superlatives about our impending college years, notably that college will be the “best four years of your life.” Also, social media presents a skewed perspective where students are constantly comparing their experiences. Because of this, many students are embarrassed to admit that they’re unhappy, and many, likewise, think themselves alone in their predicament.
These statistics reveal something that is important for every college student to understand; if you do not instantly take to college, you are not a social pariah. It is okay to dislike college, to be lost in a sea of academia and hormones, to question your college decision. It is important to listen, experience, and act on these emotions. This may mean giving yourself some more time to acclimate to the environment or it may mean transferring, which one in three college students will do.
For me, transferring to BC was a great decision. I am much happier with my college experience, though it was a long, hard road getting to this place. I wish I had known that I wasn’t alone. And so when my little sister, who is currently a freshman, texted me, “I hate college,” I let her know that it runs in the family.