The College Experience No One Talks About
When you’re in high school no one tells you that college isn’t necessarily the most important four years of your life. In fact, they do the opposite, forcing you to obsess over good grades and SAT prep. Parents, teachers, and mentors beat this idea into your head until all you can think about is getting into a respectable college in order to claw your way to a successful future.
It really baffles me that many of these adults have gone through this experience themselves, but for some reason never acknowledge the truth about college. We as a society have such strong preconceived notions about the college process and how everything is supposed to work. We pretend that choosing the right college is radically significant because, “The next four years of your life shape the rest of your future.” Even movies preach this absolutely bogus mantra over and over again. The teen flicks always show the overly obsessed high school student getting into the best college in the country, but they end there.
The reality is that everyone has a different path. The highest ranked college is not always the best college and will not always offer the best experience and rewards. While some may go to their dream school and never want to leave, others will make decisions that lead them to unknown places in life. A study done by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that over 37 percent of students transfer schools at least once during their time in college. So why do we still put so much emphasis on this one decision?
Instead, adults should be addressing the reality about these four confusing years. It doesn’t matter where you go to college because you can’t choose your future. You can sure as hell fight to get where you want to be, but the truth is that you’re young and being young means you are going to change your mind 99 times about what you want your life to be like.
I was the type of person who said, “That’s not me. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was in 3rd grade.”
Which is true, but then I moved across the country to a place that was oddly familiar, but at the same time completely different. The people had different ideas about how life should be and although it was an amazing experience being immersed in different cultures, it was hard. After a year of only liking where I was, I realized I was paying an absurd amount of money to tolerate my surroundings. I was learning nothing of importance to help in my future desired career and I felt I was being denied the one thing I craved in a school that was so focused on research and science: the ability to be creative.
The problem I was facing was because we live in a society where going to college and going to the best college is so important, I was unsure if the people around me would understand. I finally realized that my happiness was more important than any stigma or judgment and made the final decision to transfer.
That summer I traveled and interned in a new city and as I met more people the stories started to pour in. I met a plethora of individuals who told me that they either transferred when they were in college or were students who were in the process of transferring and so many others who hated their college but hadn’t made the decision to leave.
Cassidy Payne, a current FSU student, explained, “I transferred schools because I was lonely and the school I was enrolled at was too far and expensive. I decided it was better for me to go somewhere cheaper where I could be happier.”
It’s crazy how you never hear these stories when you’re younger. Anyone who leaves their respected university to move back to their state or take a different route is gossiped about or just seen as a failure.
If I’ve learned anything from my transferring experience it’s that you can’t plan life. You can try but that mostly results in a lot of disappointment. So, why does this label of where you go to college mean so much to everyone? I think the answer is that it doesn’t. Once you grow up a bit you start to see that everyone has their own path and it really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it makes you happy. If I had the chance to go back and remake my decision of where to attend college, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t regret choosing to attend the highly ranked university because I learned so much about the world and myself in those two less than happy years. So to all the younger people who are struggling with the notion of choosing a college and to those who are considering making an adjustment, just know this: it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if the school is highly ranked. It doesn’t matter if it has a specific reputation. It doesn’t matter. It’s never too late to change your mind and try something new. So you might make the wrong decision now, but know that everything is a lesson in life and never be afraid to do whatever it takes to make you happy. Everyone has a different story and sometimes some are more convoluted than others. No matter what, you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.
As one of my favorite characters, The Doctor, once said, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
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