10 Signs You Picked the Wrong CollegeLaura Donovan

Like many doe-eyed 18-year-olds, I walked into freshman year of college with unrealistic expectations: I’d have a social circle within a month, be delightfully challenged by classes and view my hallmates as family. The reality was vastly different. I was the only person on my floor who’d opted out of Greek life, 101 courses were easier than anything I’d taken in high school and my L.A. native roomie got invited to frat parties and events I’d never be cool or conventionally pretty enough for.

Holding onto a dying relationship didn’t exactly inspire me to embrace my new environment, nor did the recent passing of my father. These misfortunes created a parade of horribles and I blamed the University of Arizona.

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After I was accepted as a transfer student to CSU-Chico, I assumed that was where I’d finish out my schooling. Though he’d had a blast at “Chico State,” my brother Michael posed the question of a lifetime to me: “Are you running towards something or away from something?” I realized I didn’t actually want to start over again. I needed to give Arizona another shot.

Sometimes you have to be patient before a college can really speak to you and other times you should just transfer. Here are ten signs you chose the wrong college and would be better off elsewhere.

10. You’re still mopey after 1.5-2 years

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It’s normal to face adjustment problems the first year, but if nothing improves over the course of 1.5-2 years, you might want to consider a new school.

9. Your program isn’t there
What happens if your school doesn’t offer the major you need? Do you settle for a lesser program or research colleges that cater to your scholarly aspirations? Higher education is pricey. Why put all that money towards an area of study that isn’t going to leverage your learning experience?

8. You want to graduate early for the wrong reasons
One of my best friends from UofA didn’t particularly like college. She took 21 units a semester and buried herself in assignments. All she wanted was to knit and watch Lost to kill time before graduating a year early. She wasn’t finishing ahead of time to save money on tuition or dive into law school, but to get out of our university, which wasn’t a good fit for her. If you want to wrap up early because you hate your school, you may want to look at other places.

7. You stop making an effort

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The aforementioned friend is still a huge part of my life, but when UofA became absolutely unbearable for her, she shut everyone out, including me. Suddenly I wasn’t invited over for Lost marathons or asked out for late night Starbucks gossip sessions. When I confronted her about it, she just said she was over UofA and “past the point of no return.” You know you’re in the same boat when even good friends can’t make the experience at least slightly better.

6. Expenses
I graduated almost four years ago and don’t even want to think about the cost of higher education now. Unless you’re studying to be a lawyer, doctor or other high-paying professional, a $60,000 per year degree probably isn’t a wise investment. If you’re swimming in loans before sophomore year and aren’t pursuing a line of work that’s going to pay it all back and beyond, the benefits just won’t outweigh the costs.

5. The “best years of your life” aphorism scares the pants off you
I grew up under the false notion that college represents the “best years” of a person’s life. If this horrifies you, worry not. Most likely you just went to the wrong school and things will pick up after you move on and obtain your degree.

4. It’s too rural (or busy)

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If you love cities, a school in the middle of nowhere is going to put you to sleep. If cosmopolitan hotspots like NYC give you high blood pressure or panic episodes, city life isn’t for you. Rural or urban, make sure it works with what you need at this point in your young life.

3. You want Greek life and it isn’t there (or vice versa)
If you think college is nothing without the Animal House lifestyle, don’t choose a school without a strong Greek system. If you find Greeks archaic and disturbing, a college that isn’t dominated by frats and sororities could be more of your cup of tea.

2. The weather brings you down

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I crave year-round sunshine, dry heat, Palm trees and warmth, so the University of Arizona turned out to be the perfect school for my personality. Those who’d rather freeze than melt under the blazing Southwestern sun wouldn’t be so content in the desert or anywhere toasty.

1. You’re constantly reaching out to old pals from home
It’s common to contact high school friends before you have a tight-knit group in college. Calling, texting, Skypeing and emailing these folks 24/7 is another story. Either you’re not clicking with people at your school or should reside closer to home, where you can return to the familiar and hopefully be a lot more comfortable.

If you feel like you failed at college because it’s not the Great American Experience, consider this: Tina Fey is the coolest woman in the world, but she didn’t pick the best college for her creative needs. In fact, college was anything but a high point for the multi-Emmy award winner. A curly-haired Northeasterner, she was disoriented and at the University of Virginia: “At [UVA] in 1990, I was Mexican. I looked Mexican, that is, next to my 15,000 blond and blue-eyed classmates, most of whom owned horses, or at least resembled them. What 19-year-old Virginia boy doesn’t want a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair that’s permed on top? What’s that you say? None of them want that? You are correct.”

And look  at  her  now.

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  1. I got my BA in Theatre Arts from New Mexico State University and those were the best, most creative, challenging and fun, 4 years of my life. When I went looking for an Arts Management grad program in 1985 it was either Yale or somewhere that would customize a program for you. I spent a summer at The Williamstown Theatre Festival and realized I didn’t care for Yale MFA Theatre grads and the University of Arizona offered to put a program together for me. I arrived in August and it was monsoon season, 100 degrees and non-stop rain for a month. It was like living in a sauna. The customized program never appeared and the Theatre Program itself was run like something from the 1950′s. I hated every moment (except for a wonderful internship at the Arizona Theatre Co) and it was the worst 9 months of my life and career. Luckily it was an MA and only required 2 actual semesters on campus.. I hated Tucson (so ugly compared to New Mexico), fundamentally disagreed with the way the program was run and felt misled about what the program could do for me. I guess my point is choose your Grad program very carefully because this is the real base of your training and career AND don’t hesitate to change programs if your first choice doesn’t meet your needs.

  2. Fantastic article! It usually seems that, when I was considering transferring, most sites said to do it because a) you can’t pay for it or b) they don’t have your program. It’s so nice to see someone factor in many emotional things as well! College isn’t just about the finance and the education, though those are two big parts of it. I know this would’ve greatly helped me my freshman year.

  3. Thank you soooo so so much for writing this! This is my life 100% right now, as I am in the process of transferring schools. I’m taking time off to do adequate research before finally moving on.

    PS. I’m joyful because I’ve FINALLY discovered someone that can relate to the t!

  4. I agree with everything about this. The Tina Fey bit is particularly comforting. Great work! :)

    Tyler Vendetti | 3/01/2014 06:03 am