I can still remember the looks on my brothers’ faces when I flung open the front door and frantically walked into the house. I was ten years old and my mother had just dropped me off at summer camp that morning… ALONE. I wasn’t one of those kids who thought of this as an “opportunity” to meet people and it wasn’t long until anxiety set in. I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE. So, I started walking… and walking… until I reached home (which was only four blocks away).
My brothers eventually took me back to camp and I’m glad they did; still, there is something distinct about feeling like you’re not in the right place and it can happen at any stage of life.
When it comes to college, there are some important things to know about that feeling and what you can do about it (besides walking home).
1. You are capable. If you find yourself unhappy on your current campus, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t succeed in college. Keep in mind that you were accepted into school because you are qualified and that you are capable of finding a solution to whatever challenge you are experiencing.
2, You are not alone. You might have a slight feeling that something is off about your college experience and you’re not alone. Here are some common challenges students face in their first semesters and some tips to navigate them:
- You haven’t found your people – If you haven’t found friends or faculty that can understand your background, you might have to expand your network. You can do this by integrating into the community that surrounds your college and seeking out business professionals who have had similar life experiences, or emailing staff and faculty from different departments to serve as mentors. Religious or multicultural groups and language clubs on campus are great settings to meet people with your interests. If you still don’t feel that you have a space where you belong, think about working with the college to create one. You just might change your campus.
- You feel needed elsewhere – While family may mean well, they may not understand the stresses of college and expect you to maintain your responsibilities at home (i.e. contributing to household finances, babysitting siblings, etc.). Connecting with a counselor on campus or other students experiencing similar pressures can provide ideas about how to have productive conversations with those you love about your new college journey and how to balance family and academics.
- You don’t know what you want to study – Undeclared majors are more common than you think. Still, it is important to be working toward declaring a major by sitting with your advisor to discuss your strengths and your passions or job shadowing professionals in your fields of interest.
- The cost of college is overwhelming – If scholarships aren’t covering all of your expenses and you don’t want to take out loans for college, there is nothing wrong with lowering a number of credits you take in a semester and getting a part-time job. Not only will you graduate with less debt but you will graduate with experience to put on your resume. Also, keep in mind that there are scholarships for students beyond the first year.
3. You are not a tree. If you find that your attempts to feel more comfortable on your campus have not been as successful as you’d hoped, transferring to another school that fits you better is an option. Here is a great article that discusses important facts for students looking to transfer schools.