I Picked the Wrong College. Now What?

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Some of you are nearing the end of high school, and a few may be well on your way into your college experience. We think choosing, applying for, and graduating from college can be one of the most crucial time periods in anyone’s life. There is a lot of information out there about applications, organization, possibly moving away from home, and finding your groove once you get into college. Today, we’re going to tackle something different – something that’s not discussed quite as often. What do you do if your dream school turns out to be not so dreamy? What are your options?

We’re honored to have recent college graduate and field hockey star, Kathleen, here with us to share her story. Kathleen started her college experience as a freshman at American University in Washington DC.

  • Tell us what made you decide on American University while you were still in high school?

Growing up, I always had the dream of playing Division I field hockey, so once I entered my freshman year of high school it was about time to really start looking where I wanted to spend my four years in college. I had spent a lot of time on AUs campus playing field hockey and fell in love with it. I thought it was perfect; they had an amazing coaching staff, team, strong academics, and awesome location being in the heart of Washington, DC (right down the street from Georgetown –  one of my favorite places to go). March of my junior year in HS I found out that I had the opportunity to continue my studies there and join their field hockey team, and I couldn’t pass it up.

American University field hockey college
Kathleen (second from right) and some of her American University teammates and friends, freshman year
  • American turned out to be the wrong school for you. When did you begin to suspect this and how did that feel?
I started to get this feeling a couple weeks into classes/the season. Something didn’t feel right. I had an amazing high school experience where I truly enjoyed going to school and practices after school so much that being busy didn’t seem like a problem. For some reason this busyness at American did not feel right. I wasn’t enjoying the atmosphere as much as I thought I would and I was slowly losing my love for field hockey. Later in the fall, I went home one weekend when we didn’t have a game and had to work up the courage to tell my parents my intentions to transfer. They were incredibly supportive and helped me every step of the way.
  • You transferred to the University of Mary Washington. Can you talk about the transition? How did that go with your major and classes?

Transferring in the middle of the year is very tough. I transferred to a place where I knew one person, and she commuted to school so she was never around. You feel that everyone has already made their friends for the year that first semester, while you weren’t there. At first it was difficult not knowing many people and not having a roommate that I could connect with, but after a bit of time friends came around. I met people through my classes, in my hall, and bonded with my new teammates. I had not picked a major while I was at AU so I had just taken general education courses. This made the transition less difficult because I was able to transfer majority of the credits from AU to UMW, allowing me to graduate in four years.

Mary Washington field hockey
New school, new colors, new friends
  • Going off to college is one of the biggest transitions and life events anyone will have coming out of high school. College is a rigorous experience. If new college students are feeling overwhelmed or uneasy, what do you feel are some of the differences between the normal amount of stress expected and common to most college students versus a real problem with the college itself, where a mid-study move is necessary?

Knowing whether it’s a normal amount of stress or if you have an actual problem with the school is absolutely the toughest part of making your decision to transfer because every college freshman is new to the game. Everybody is experiencing something completely new, and everyone handles change differently so it’s hard to tell someone, “hey suck it up, everyone has these issues in college” or “transferring might be the best option for you”. That’s why I always refer to my decision as a “gut decision” because I really had nothing to compare it to. Was the grass going to be greener at Mary Washington? How was I supposed to know? All I knew was that I personally felt that I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be and I was willing to take the chance to change it. It was the first real decision I made for myself, no outside influences from other people. So from my experience, you should look at what isn’t making you happy and what doesmake you happy. If it seems to be external issues, maybe start looking at new schools that you think you would enjoy more. If you find the issues to be more internal, try and work on yourself or talk to someone for help. Someone else’s experiences could potentially help you with your troubles.

Now that’s great advice! Kathleen, we applaud your courage, wisdom, and your resolve. And we’re so pleased you ended up enjoying a positive university experience.
mary washington cap and gown college
Kathleen’s hard work pays off! Congratulations, graduate!
UMW graduation
Add in one proud family

Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing your story. She’ll be continuing her graduate studies in Nashville in the fall and we know exciting things are in her future.

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Writer of young adult fiction. Books, coffee, and rainy days. Lover of faraway places, (especially Paris) and the perfect leather jacket. I’m a former teacher who loves words––how they sound, the shapes and colors of them, and most of all, combining them into stories that will hopefully make you laugh a lot, maybe cry a little, and think a bit about life and love. My loves? Besides leather jackets, I treasure my husband, two superstar children, dear friends, and my little slice of California.