As Thanksgiving approaches and the first semester enters its final weeks, now is the appropriate time for freshmen to take stock of their choice of a college. If you were like virtually every other student in America, you began the year experiencing some real feelings of homesickness. Not only did you miss the high school friends you no longer get to see, you found yourself missing that family dinner table.
Many a day you felt like an outsider. Not only was everyone older than you, they all seemed to know the routines you were still trying to figure out. Even so, you all faced yet another challenge, living with a complete stranger in a tiny dorm room that had you feeling that your privacy had been compromised forever.
All of it only added layer upon layer of stress to the significant academic demands of your classes.
But by now, if you are like most college students, you find you have picked the perfect place. You have had the chance to meet many wonderful new friends and adapted to the give and take of living with another student. Though you still feel a sense of wanting to communicate with former friends and family, you now have ample social opportunities and a host of people that help lessen the emotional tugs of those you have not been able to see.
Most importantly, you have a sense of the academic rigor and how to meet the educational demands being placed upon you. In sum total, if you are the typical student, you have been able to carve out a new place that should now feel like home.
Whereas in September and early October we would counsel patience, as Thanksgiving approaches if you have found that you still have not made any friends or are not feeling positive about college, it could well be that you did not select the right school for you. Here are five warning signs you may have picked the wrong college.
Feeling totally Out of Place Socially
Do you continue to feel out of place socially? Have you had real difficulty finding at least two other students who match your values and view regarding college?
Does your school seem to be a steady stream of parties with few folks focused in on academics? Or, does the atmosphere appear too stuffy and intense as everyone seems to hunker down and study incessantly?
Perhaps you have not found a single classmate that shares your particular religious views or who shares your interests in environmental or political issues. Maybe you feel out of place wearing Walmart jeans amongst folks who see JCrew as cheap fashion.
While it is natural to feel alone the first month or two at school, by now you should have come across a few individuals that match your values. If you truly have made a strong effort to find classmates yet still feel like an outsider, you may well have selected the wrong school for you.
The Wrong Physical Location
Were you concerned that your choice of college was going to get in the way of the friendships you began developing in early childhood? Or worse yet, did you select your school based on your desire to still be able to see a certain boy or girl?
And because of those concerns, did you choose your school simply to be closer to home only now to find your high school friends showing up on campus every weekend or worse yet stopping by during the week?
Perhaps it was the opposite, in a desire to be on your own, you chose a place that put some serious miles between you and your former life. But perhaps you chose such a distance that as Thanksgiving approaches you are now stuck on campus with not enough money to fly home and too far to hop in a car and ride.
Experts advise students to be sure they choose their school based on the programs it offers and their personal academic interests. If instead you selected your school based on a specific location you may well find yourself regretting that choice.
To be at your best facing the rigors of a college education, you positively must feel safe on your college campus. If for any reason you find yourself with such concerns then you likely have made the wrong choice of school.
For different students, feeling afraid comes from very different elements. Those used to an urban lifestyle may well be uncomfortable at night walking on a rural campus where there are far fewer lights and fewer people around. For those students, the rural setting appears devoid of a truly well lit path to follow at night.
In contrast, those who have grown up in a rural setting may find the noise and the hub bub of people constantly milling around very intimidating. Such a feeling can be doubly strong when combined with an urban feel where many of the people you encounter are not necessarily fellow students.
The bottom line is your campus must feel safe to you – that includes your dorm and the walkways to and from all class buildings. And while it is easy to say buck up, fears are not easily overcome, no matter how hard you try to rationalize them.
If for some reason you constantly find yourself confined to your dorm room in fear of what lies beyond, then you most definitely have chosen the wrong college for you.
Did you select your school based on a desire to be part of a specific athletic team or club? If so, are you finding the activity to be everything you thought it would be?
Or is the commitment much larger than you expected? Is the focus solely on winning? Is the coach or moderator unwilling to modify practice or the scheduled meeting expectations in light of your academic workload?
Are you enjoying the activity but finding the academic setting ridiculously easy or boring? Do your professors inspire you and are you learning new skills? Or do you find yourself tolerating your academics and focusing solely on the co-curricular?
If any of these options describes your setting you may well have chosen the wrong school. Remember, the goal is to obtain a diploma and position oneself for career options.
A great co-curricular program cannot make up for a lackluster academic experience – worse yet, your co-curricular program should not interfere with your fundamental reason for attending college in the first place.
Work Is Too Easy
While at first thought it may seem better to be finding the work too easy than too hard, the harsh reality is that you are paying significant amounts of money for the opportunity to learn new things.
Perhaps you were just unlucky and got a weak professor that knows that placing demands on students also means more work for him or her.
Or maybe you have chosen the wrong level of courses and the wrong area of focus for you.
However, if you are taking five courses and you find that not one of the five is challenging you or providing you with new learning, this also reflects on the school and the assignment of courses.
Most students find the college workload adjustment significant, so challenging that they feel overwhelmed at first. That is the normal setting for students – so if you find you are coasting through your first semester you should definitely take stock of your program choice, your choice of courses, and your selection of a college.
Again, after two plus months of effort you should now be settling into the place you are excited about spending the remainder of this year and the next three as well. If that is not the case, then you may well have made the wrong choice of school for you.
If you are beginning to feel as if the college you chose just isn’t right for you, the last thing you should do is pack up and go home. Instead, you need to focus in on the academic task ahead to ensure you complete the semester in good standing. There is simply too much money invested to simply give up.
In fact, most experts insist you should proceed onward to your second semester even as you begin looking at alternatives. The rationale is simple, if you stay on and prove you can handle the academics, you will be able to demonstrate that you are not simply a weak student looking for an easier place to attend school.
Those same experts insist you should stay involved in your respective activities and perhaps even seek out new ones. With solid grades and a demonstrated commitment to the task at hand, you will be more able to successfully pursue an option at another school.
Remember, the goal will be to transfer to a school that you desire, not one that will simply accept you. The fact of the matter is if you cut and run, you may well eliminate any chance of transferring to your chosen alternative.