Train in Vein

College Blues? It's Okay.

Guess what? College wasn’t the best time of my life. I sure thought it was supposed to be, though, and that made it all the more miserable. I have been thinking about my college days a lot lately. I went to (and LOVED) the HelloGiggles “Letters To My Younger Self” show at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, hosted by the lovely and hilarious Ingrid Haas, and this really got me thinking back. Then yesterday, I had a patient who had just started college and had left to take time off for a myriad of reasons and setbacks. I felt a real connection with her, because I just about dropped out of college myself. For many, college is truly a “golden years” time. It absolutely can be. It is an amazing time. I don’t regret my experience and I learned a lot, but I was pretty miserable. College might not be the best time ever, and that is okay.

My patient told me she had been struggling in college due to health setbacks, being away from home, going from intense physical activity to no activity, and feeling overwhelmed with the vast amounts of people. She said college guys were scary, like suddenly she wasn’t around guys she knew and trusted anymore but rather scary college men. I couldn’t have related more. I felt just as overwhelmed and lost when I started at the University. The good news? I could tell her with 100% confidence that life does indeed get better after college. College may be a blast for some, but others have a little more blooming to do.

Now, I am a sucker for movies, ideals and romance. I basically spent half my life writing screenplays for my ideal life in my head. After the usual teen angst and struggles in high school, I was poised for college to be “my time”. A new me would be born: The real me. The better me. The perfect me. No pressure; it would also be the best time of my life.

Welllll… It was not the best time of my life. I was terrified. The sheer number of people on campus was paralyzing. I was lost, and knew no one would know if I missed a class or if I were sad or if it was my birthday. I was dumbstruck by fashionable and cool girls from the East and West coasts that took over the streets of my hometown like a runway. I had no clue that I was categorically not stylish – I wore tennis shoes to bars, and suddenly in my own town I felt like a complete townie idiot. There were hot guys, or like my patient said, “men” everywhere. There was partying that I never even dreamed possible. The coursework was hard and I had to actually study for the first time in my life. I also really missed living with my family. Then I broke my elbow and I was stuck fumbling with a sling for the first several weeks. I was not off to a flying start.

My self-esteem spiraled downward. I made “cool” friends, only to feel frumpy and not skinny enough and overly studious. I studied constantly, dieted and exercised. I let my friends make me over until I hardly recognized myself. I went out, against every bit of my homebody nature, night after night. I hooked up with guys so my friends would think I was “normal”. Bit by bit my soul was vanishing, as was all of my passion. I remember one day lying on my futon, staring at my Tupac poster and listening to Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope on repeat, just crying for hours. My friends didn’t even like Tupac, what was I doing?

I remember hearing people outside laughing and going to bars while I built my O Chem molecular models. I remember walking home from the library at night and hearing frat guys making fun of my giant backpack. Where in the hell was my awesome sexy college life? Where was my glorious self-discovery? Why did I feel like such a poser nerd? I decided to drop all of my classes. I decided I had to do something “cool” instead. Maybe I could be a writer? A television producer? An econ major? An actress? Anything but a nerdy pre med student from Wisconsin trying to look like a cool New Yorker away for a fun college free for all in the Midwest. Well, my Dad wasn’t really having that. I agreed to take some classes in journalism and mass media. Low and behold, this did not make me “cool” or score me my fantasy college life, and back to pre-med I went.

I could go on and on. The awful guys I dated, the shame filled partying I forced myself to do, the self-hatred as I ran as fast as I could on a stupid treadmill, getting rejected by guys I had crushes on… It was an all-time low. I wish I could say it got a lot better, but it didn’t. It got a little better. I eventually had an amazing and supportive roommate who made me feel good about being studious and sort of anti-social. I had a ton of family support. I finished college and started medical school. Then I slowly started to accept who I am.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but the most important thing I did for my happiness was to become what I am. One needs to be gracious, polite, considerate and kind to people, but outside of that, the only person you really need to fit in with is yourself. Only then will you find your place in this world. There is a very happy ending – well, middle really – to my story: I am extremely happy. I have an amazing family, husband and friends. This was only possible because I finally learned to accept myself and to genuinely think I am awesome. I am. The best part of finally being so awesome? I can look a 19-year-old in the eye and tell her that everything will be okay. I wish I could have told myself, but at least I can tell others.

It will be okay. College doesn’t have to be the best time of your life. If it isn’t, your time will come.

  1. You don’t have to party like everyone else
  2. It’s okay to study a lot
  3. It’s cool to study a lot and to be passionate about it
  4. There are “nerds” in every field, not just the “nerdy” ones
  5. Dress how you want to dress
  6. Obsess over being healthy, not being skinny
  7. Please don’t smoke!
  8. You don’t need to “hook up with people”
  9. You don’t need tons of friends, you need good friends
  10. When you love yourself, you will feel loved
  11. Being yourself is what makes you cool
  12. You will find your true friends
  13. Respect yourself

How is college going for you fine people? What are you looking forward to? Let’s make it a goal, no matter how good life is we will keep trying to make it better. For ourselves, and for each other. xo

Featured image via

  • Anna Dobben

    I’m sitting in the library, sobbing quietly (okay, maybe not so quietly) reading this as I study for finals. Last semester I transfered schools and now I’m finally beginning to accept myself and believe that I’m totally awesome. Thank you Alexandra, this is so lovely.

    • Alexandra

      Thanks Anna! Get the sobbing out, but know that you can do this and it gets soooo much better!

  • Sarah Moore

    I just love this so much, thanks for admitting that college is maybe not the best gig ever. I can’t to wait to be out of college!

    • Alexandra

      It definitely gets better. College is crazy stressful and so much adjustment! Hang in there!

  • Izzie Carter

    This is amazing. I always thought I was weird that I didn’t enjoy doing most “typical” college activities and hated getting those weird looks when I admitted it, but seeing this makes me realize that I’m just true to myself. There’s something better waiting for me outside of college and I can’t wait. :)

    • Alexandra

      The truth is, no one is really that weird, or that alone in how they feel. It just feels that way sometimes. Stay true to yourself!

  • Sílvia Juncà

    Omg, I’m crying too… I relate to every single word in your article Alexandra, and I wish I would have heard this words months ago when I was in college. For a few weeks now I’ve been recovering from my college experience, my low self-esteem, my not feeling awesome, my feeling completely lost… I needed these words to feel some reassurance of the fact that things will get better, that because I didn’t have a blast at college it doesn’t mean that I’m never going to have the time of my life. Mostly Thank You for this: “It will be okay. College doesn’t have to be the best time of your life. If it isn’t, your time will come.”. I needed someone to tell me that it will be okay, I can’t thank you enough for doing so! *

    • Alexandra

      What a touching response! Thank you! Trust me, it gets better and you are all the stronger for it.

  • Naomi Figueroa

    Wow, this is truly what I needed to hear today. Last night I hardly slept sobbing over how much I hate college. I am one of those overly studious-go to every class-hates being late girls and I have friends who aren’t like me, I’ve thought about transferring schools and finally decided that I will, but after reading this I don’t feel so alone. There are other girls my age going through the same things, it makes me feel a bit better knowing I’m not the only one who thinks that college isnt so great. This article is a complete life saver- and no, I’m not over doing it.

    • Alexandra

      Wow thank you Naomi! No you are definitely not alone. College is freaking hard, on so many levels. The good news is you are getting your tears out now… They will be all dried up when it is time for you to have a blast!

  • Jenn Kristine Dixon

    Finding articles like this is why I love HelloGiggles so much.

    • Alexandra

      Thank you!!!! That makes me so happy :)

  • Courtney Griffin

    Thank you so much for this amazing, heart felt article. I am in my first semester as well at a large university in the Midwest, and I face many health challenges myself– there is just so much to relate to in this! Anyway, thank you for your honesty, the past few months have been the most miserable of my entire life, and there is so much pressure here to not be who I truly am. With few friends and a lot of studying to do, it is hard to find comfort and make connections with those who feel the same as me. I suppose the most important part of this time of life is making yourself into someone that you are proud of every single day. That’s all you can do. And eventually, happiness will find it’s way back into your life. Thank you for the insights, thank you for making me not feel so alone.

    • Alexandra

      You are not alone at all my dear. Look how many people feel the same, just commenting here! This is great because now I feel less alone in retrospect. I agree with everything you said completely, especially just being proud of yourself! I was in the midwest too )

  • Joseph Nevin

    Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about my college life a lot lately and realize that I’m holding onto grudges and anger from those days that I want to resolve so I can live happier. This gave me the push I needed to do that. Thank you.

    • Alexandra

      Yes! Let it go! You will feel better, I am sure. It’s normal for college to be a messed up time. Thanks for commenting!

  • Elisabeth Miller

    If it weren’t for two student organizations, college would’ve been miserable. But I found the places where I “fit.” I also went to a smaller university (6,000) undergrads and took a lot of seminars. That helped.

    • Alexandra

      I totally agree with joining organizations and doing everything possible to make the experience a little “smaller” and more manageable. It’s great to find a niche!

  • Toni Kwa

    Ughhh, I needed this. Thank you! Now back to my Screenwriting homework!

    • Alexandra

      Kick some homework butt!!!

  • Jennifer Davis

    I felt the same way in college! It was a mix of emotions constantly and a whole lot of trying to fit in. It wasn’t worth it in the end, I had to learn to be myself and love myself…if you do life gets much better!

    • Alexandra


  • Shandra Goldfinger

    Things like this are why I always advise younger people to choose the school that feels right to you when you visit, and not choose a school based on selectivity, location, the average SAT score of incoming freshmen, etc. I ended up going to a college that was the opposite of everything I thought I wanted based on a gut feeling, and it turned out to be the perfect choice. I’m glad you were able to find your way after college! In some ways, you’re very lucky because you don’t sit around wishing you could go back to college where everything was easier and better. Not that I do that…

    • Alexandra

      Haha totally. Every year gets better! Those are good tips for people looking at schools. I didn’t have very many choices in terms of where I went (long story), but I always agree with going with ones gut :)

  • Heaven Lee Burr

    thank you. thank you. thank you.

    • Alexandra

      (You’re welcome)^3

  • Julie Bourne

    This is fantastic. My freshman year at college was not the best… I didn’t have many friends because I just couldnt find anyone who was out to do other things besides party and get drunk and hook up with people. This year, Ive made an amazing circle of friends who accept me for my nerdiness, and inability to party, which has made all the difference in my college experience.

    • Alexandra

      It just takes time to settle in. Sounds like you are really figuring it out! Awesome!

  • Lauren Vaughan

    Thanks for this post– I’m having a case of the college blues right now, and it helped to hear from someone else that things will all turn out fine. I had this idea of the perfect college life in my head before I moved out of my parents house, and while i love where I am now, it’s not what I expected. Working and going to school, not seeing my family as much, and making new friends, balancing studying with everything else, and getting a feel of what you like/dislike as an individual and in life is pretty tough. Thanks again for the post! :)

    • Alexandra

      You are so welcome! It’s a balancing act for sure. Thanks for the comment!

  • Con Twokay

    Wow this has lifted my spirits so much. I really feel so much better about everything now, just as I was getting way too overwhelmed with typical end-of-the-semester problems, AKA finals. I can relate to a lot of this too actually, and everything you said is so comforting. And I’m a guy :O

    • Alexandra

      Haha! Cool! Thanks for writing. This is a guy and girl thing, for sure! Hang in there, finals are crazy stressful. Remember to eat and sleep :)

  • Kate Ashley

    What if college was the best time? What happens after that? :(

    • Alexandra

      Win win!!! :)

  • Emily Huth

    Yes, exactly! All the time I’ll be trying to study or write a research paper in my University’s library and I’m surrounded by people who won’t stop talking about partying. Every second of time that I spend on campus I’m either studying or in class- how do these people get away with not doing the same?! Except I don’t feel excluded, sometimes. I’m paying to be here and to learn and not to make friends but not gonna lie, it would still be nice to be invited to go play pool with the cool kids :)

    • Alexandra

      Haha. I felt the exact same way. But keep at it!

  • Verónica Figueiredo

    College years are not easy, and I’m n my first one, not in the major I wanted (In Portugal things are sleightly different), so imagine all that struggle you went through and add the frustration of not being in the course you wanted and having to study to retake highschool finals to finally apply to medical school.
    It’s not all butterflies and rainbows, but it will eventually get better. Thank you for sharing your story, it means a lot to me and others.

    • Alexandra

      Stressful!!! I’m excited you’re applying to med school though :)

  • Amanda Drucker

    This is exactly what I needed to hear. The last few weeks I have been extremely overwhelmed with school and feeling like I am always doing the same thing. I study, work, sleep a little, and go to class. As a nursing student I have no social life and am constantly studying. My family is continually telling me I should be getting out there and having fun. Honestly spending a night in reading a normal book or watching a movie would be just fine with me ( since i’ve said no to going out so many times people just stopped inviting me). Thanks for posting this it should help get me through the last 2 weeks of the semester :)

    • Alexandra

      Ummm… You just summarized my experience. If I had a penny for every time someone told me I needed to have more fun… My student loans would be paid off!

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