General Question

clairedete's avatar

College is not working for me?

Asked by clairedete (331points) October 12th, 2008

I am currently going to a private University in Chicago. I am only a freshman and have been there for almost a month and a half. I hate it. I am originally from Minnesota & I feel like I’m a million miles away from home. I haven’t really met any people that I would call friends and everyone seems so different from me. They’re not at all down to earth, they’re just spoiled, rich kids. Does anyone have any advice on what I can do to feel more at home and meet people? And if anyone says do what I can to get involved I will have a problem with them. I’ve tried the club things and student government things. They just haven’t been working. Help please.
& if worst comes to worst does anyone know what it takes to transfer for second quarter? I would be coming home to the University of Minnesota which is at the same caliber as the school I’m currently attending.
any advice would be helpful.

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17 Answers

girlofscience's avatar

You’re probably only 18. This is probably the first time you’ve moved far away from home. While it may take some adjusting, moving to a new area is an incredible and enriching experience, even if it doesn’t seem so at first.

You’re going to run into people who are different from you, and that’s a positive thing. I think you should stick with your decision. University of Chicago is an excellent school (in fact, one of my labmates attended University of Chicago for undergrad, and he is fantastic!).

It may take awhile for you to find your niche. I won’t tell you to “get involved”—I understand how irritating that can be. What I will advise is that you continue to love your classes (as I’m sure you must be), and be yourself. You don’t need to change who you are because the people around you are different. Just be who you are, and true friends with enjoy you for your idiosyncrasies. Also, be more open to understanding the perspectives of others you’d think you wouldn’t like. You may be surprised how someone you’d originally write off as being the opposite of anyone you’d like to invest time in can become one of your best friends.

(One of my most amazing friends I met in undergrad is a church-going registered Republican!)

nikipedia's avatar

The first semester of my freshman year, my friends and I were all miserable. Almost all of my friends from high school wanted to transfer, thinking they had picked the wrong school, or the wrong location or something similar.

Most of them stuck it out and grew to love their schools. The truth is, movies make college seem like THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE!!!! And sometimes it will be—but sometimes it is going to be tedious, difficult, exhausting, lonely, etc.

The best advice I can give is to be open and friendly to everyone. I would be willing to bet most of the people you interact with (even the stuck-up, spoiled ones!) are going through a lot of the same stuff you are—or maybe they’re going through other tough stuff. Either way: a lot of times “shy” and “stuck-up” look the same from the outside. Be nice, be patient, be yourself, reach out to people, and you will slowly meet people and form your group.

Good luck. :)

clairedete's avatar

btw. It’s DePaul University. not U of Chicago. Not that it really makes a difference.

Sloane2024's avatar

Just try to stick it out. If by second semester, you’re still not happy, consider moving back, but I highly suggest taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to meet new people, participate in exciting activities, and embrace impending challenges. Good luck! :)

PupnTaco's avatar

It isn’t?

kevbo's avatar

I also went to a private midwestern university that I didn’t like so much and that was populated with spoiled rich kids. I spent a lot of time there feeling I didn’t belong and didn’t acquire many good friends until my senior year. I graduated, but I don’t know that it’s been proven that I’m better off for the experience.

Here’s a few things I would consider:

1. Did you choose the school of your own freewill, or were you “encouraged” in any way to go there? I remember in my decision making process there came a point where my family suddenly became a lobbying effort to get me to go the school I attended, so I went. In fairness, it was a top pick of mine because of the prestige factor and because in had a large program in my area of interest (at the time), but I definitely was nudged to go by others. Is something similar true for you? If you chose without influence where would you go?

2. Independence and loneliness are challenges, but they are also opportunities. Both give you the opportunity to learn more about yourself away from the influence of family and friends. What are the next four years about for you? Do you have aspirations or goals beyond picking a major and graduating? Right now you and/or your family are probably paying a lot for the privilege of putting you in a bubble so that you can develop yourself further. Down the road, you’ll likely be paying back with some kind of job, and if you’re taking out student loans part of what you’ll be earning will go to pay for your time in school (don’t get overwhelmed… it’ll work out). The point is that you have time now to develop yourself mostly however you want, and you have some silence in your life (away from family and without the influence of friends) to listen to your own voice and follow it.

3. Do your thing and be patient. Follow your interests and look around to see who shares your interests. Don’t expect bffs right off the bat, but be open to many levels of friendship. Maybe you meet someone who likes going to art shows (for example). Make them your art shows friend, but don’t laden the friendship with expectations that it develop beyond what it is. At a university, there are lots of people doing a lot of different things in one space, so don’t feel like you’re stuck following people you don’t appreciate just because they are closest in proximity. Branch out by following your interests and see who’s showing up in the same places you are. We all need friends, of course, but are you mainly there to make friends? What’s the main reason you are there?

4. Accept that you’re not as wealthy, but also take pride in the fact that you’re down-to-earth. You can teach those rich kids a thing or two just by being yourself. Try not to get caught up in “keeping up” with them, because that’s a recipe for perpetual disappointment. Instead, harden your resolve to succeed there despite obstacles and focus on developing self-sufficiency.

5. Find someone who can be your mentor. A mentor is someone more experienced than you who takes an active interest in your academic and professional success. This could be a professor you like or someone else on campus whom you think understands you. They can “see the road ahead” and advise you on actions to take, people to meet, and give you a sense of what is possible to help you find your niche and really move forward. You’ll need to have a basic level of clarity about your goals or aspirations for a mentor to help you, but this is something I strongly recommend.

laureth's avatar

I felt the same way when I went to college. And then, after I’d been there a while, it felt weird and small to go home. It’s like boot camp in a way – while it’s an unpleasant thing to go through at the time, it does help you grow up and changes you in a way that might be helpful later on.

Exploring out of your comfort zone (like going to a big college when you’re from a small town) is one of the most effective ways to grow as a person. (It would also be a growing experience for a Chicago inner-city kid to go to a small community college in Minnesota.)

You don’t have to “get involved” for growth to happen. Just staying, taking classes, meeting people that are different, and keeping an open mind will help. After a while, it will seem like home. And I bet that when you go back to visit the old neighborhood, you’ll be amazed that you ever came from there. And in the meantime, don’t be afraid to cling to bits of home that get you through the hard times.

skfinkel's avatar

Since college is so expensive, and such a fantastic learning opportunity, I would consider the idea of leaving after the first quarter—taking a leave from the college—and doing something else for the rest of the year. Travel. Work in your home town if you want. Spend the year doing something you think you might like.

Then, next spring, reevaluate. Maybe you would feel differently about returning to school. You will be older. You will have had some non-school experiences. You will have a sense of things you might like to study, maybe. And you will have a better idea if you want to study in your home town or at the school you are at now.

But I wouldn’t waste the tuition money on a school where you are not thriving.


marinelife's avatar

I don’t think a quarter is long enough. Try to give this some more time. In terms of transferring back, I would wait and see how you feel at the end of the year.

I was very lonely and completely away from my family, but I started to do things I wanted to do and try. Meanwhile, I wrote and got millions of letters and care packages. I lived for that mail box.

I would think with real care about skfinkel’s suggestion, because sometimes, once out, it is hard to go back.

I know it seems grim right now, but you can tough it out. Chicago is an incredible city. Maybe take advantage of some of the things it offers outside of school. Think of this as a chance to get your feet on the ground in terms of your classes and developing study habits. You can get those ingrained now at the beginning, and they will stand you in good stead throughout your school career.

Keep the idea of transferring as a last resort. If it really is miserable, you always have that card to play, but hang in there a little longer. If you are going home for Christmas, college may look different from a distance.

jvgr's avatar

Now is the right time to have a good talk with yourself. There are a lot of variables you’ve identified. Your current happiness/or not could be related to any or all of these variables and you owe it to yourself to figure out what is what.

1. Why are you going to college (generic question)
Because you can, or
Because you couldn’t think of anything better to do, or
Because it’s what the majority of HS grads in your group do, or
Because its what your parents wanted, or
Because you want to undertake a field of study that requires higher education?
If you don’t have a clear sense of why it’s important for you to be in college, perhaps some other activity would be best for now (after completing the term or semester you are in)

2. Why did you select that specific college?
Because you could, or
Because it’s exclusivity might add some cache to your resume, or
Because your parents liked it, or
Because it offered a program of study that clearly exceeded any other similar program that was available nearer or in your home town.

3. If your answers to the above 2 questions aren’t the last option, then the friend thing is a moot point. College/university isn’t for everyone and you do need to understand if this type of higher education is really what you want. Its can be difficult to be honest with yourself here, but you owe it to yourself to do so. That you posted here is a good step in at least getting the issue outside of your head.
If you can’t sort this part out, your college surely has counselors available who can talk to you. Sometimes a face to face discussion with a bystander is good.

4. There is also the possibility that you are either in or entering into a depression which can easily result from a swift separation from friends and relatives and/or finding yourself in a fundamentally unacceptable sitiuation which you chose. I’m not saying you are, but depression does make it difficult to think clearly about oneself and it tends to discourage those with depression from doing the things they actually need to do, like

5 Have friends. When very young, friendship is sort of thrust upon us because we end up in situations related to our parents. We are also, generally, more open and accepting of new friends. As adults who are dislocated from their, often multi-year base of friends, this can be difficult because we now have to make friends with people who are part of a self selected group.

The easiest place to make friends is to find them in common places. You are in a place where new friendships are relatively easy to make, yet you can’t seem to.No one can tell you anything that will guarantee you will make friends other than to hang out in places you enjoy and work at making connections.

6. How do you present yourself as a candidate for friendship? My 1st and 3rd daughters are good at making conversation and holding up their end of a conversation, so making friends is fairly easy. My 2nd daughter isn’t this way. She tends to be very blunt and if a conversation ensues and she isn’t interested, she walks away.

7. That you describe other students as “so different from me”, though is a big clue. Friends aren’t duplicates, differences exist, but the friendship is built on the commonalities friends share. If you are in the exactly right college for all the appropriate reasons, there will be people there just like you. But if you are there for the wrong reasons; finding friends will be tough.

Good luck.
Get whatever help you need
Make decisions based on what you are and where you want to go as a person.

Poser's avatar

College isn’t just where you go to learn about Business, or Biology, or Marketing, or Philosophy. It’s a time to learn all of these things, true, but most importantly, it’s a place to learn about yourself. How do you handle adversity? What do you do when faced with real challenges? There will be times in your life beyond college when you will feel lonely, far from home, overwhelmed. This is a chance to see what you’re made of. I suspect that if you give in to these challenges now, you will miss a valuable opportunity for growth, and you will regret it later.

I know that I’ve never regretted not quitting something. My only real regrets, in fact, are those things I did decide to give up on.

jvgr's avatar

Poser: Once we leave the comfort of parental care, we will be faced with learning all kinds of things we didn’t imagine we needed to know (assuming we are open to knowing) and the most important reason for going to college is for intellectual education (profitable or otherwise). There are many places to learn about adversity and challenge and most environments will present some to you. However if the OP believes as you do, then there is no reason to have selected that particular college.

Quitting is not necessarily a bad thing. In another post I mentioned a former student who was failing miserably. His parents made him undertake the field of study he was in; he didn’t like it and was going down. For his own well being, he would have been much better off to have quit the program than simply failing out of the program. Now he is also a failure in his parents eyes.

Quitting is only bad if you are doing what you believe is the right thing to do and you quit simply because it is too much work (which begs the question of is it the right thing to do in the first place)

If you are in a circumstance that you prefer you won’t quit. I’ve never failed in a work related challenge even though, at times, colleagues didn’t believe I could achieve my goals.

But if you have no understanding of why you are in the midst of a particular challenge, maybe you should extricate yourself. If the OP is in a situation that he didn’t select for the right reasons or because his parents put him there, friends are the least of his problems and not quitting would be counterproductive.

Bri_L's avatar

1. It is unclear if you are enjoying your classes or not, but, if your like most, not. The first few years are pretty tough because they are basic and not specific to what you want to do. Know that that part will get better.

2. I am not going to suggest “doing what you have to do to get involved” because that does suck. I am going to suggest finding things you would like to do or like doing and doing them with out pressuring yourself with goals like friendship or lifelong pals. For instance if you never sailed or rock climbed or something.

3. Finally, I want to point out, and I am sure you know this, if you go to school in Minnesota the biggest difference will be the location. Most everything else you list will probably be the same.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Claire, my daughter is also a college freshman, attending a school where the greek scene is big, and she’s not into it. All of her friends stayed home and are living in apartments, and she’s away and in a dorm. What she’s finding is that the kids who are like her are just a little bit harder to find, because they are having the same experience. I will give you the same advice that I gave her, and it seems to be working. Head for the counseling center and make an appointment and talk through it. You are not the only person on campus going through this.

Going away to college is all about learning, both academically, and how to manage your own life. I would suggest sticking it out for a year, and making plans to transfer for next fall if you are still unhappy when you go back after the holidays. For some reason, going home for winter break, and then going back to school, something changes.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Everyone has given great advice. I have a few friends who dropped out or transferred after first semester freshman year because our school didn’t really fit. I almost always encouraged them to stick it out for the year and see if it gets any better, but go with your heart in the end. If it’s not the place for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to transfer, go online and find transfer applications and fill them out. Fill them out and send them in ASAP; you don’t have to go, and it doesn’t hurt to try!

indy2878's avatar

You say you go to Depaul right? What a great school! I wish I could go there! :-)

If you got into this school I’m willing to bet you’re pretty darn smart and had worked hard to get good grades in high school am I right?

Anyway, the basic courses you take (G.E.) is like a cement and the bricks of foundation for a house (on your case your college education). As you build your house you will be adding stuff on top of it. (additional G.E. classes and your major classes). If you built a STRONG foundation from the basic courses you WILL succeed in your intended major. Those courses teach you how to THINK and how to apply this to your intended major.

You don’t have to be a genius to tell you the truth to learn in school. You just have to have INTEREST in learning. Your professors in the basic courses while they may tell you stuff you SHOULD know and NEED to know I can tell you right now its probably for your own good and probably quite important.

Yes, school is not only learning about the subjects you take, but also about life itself. You learn how to apply your studies to real life and vice versa. So yeah I guess we can say college is the school for life.

You learn math, english, history, your major in school. You also learn having a relationship with other students in school, your personal strengths and weaknesses, your passion(s) in life, interests and general knowledge you learn from not only your professors, but from your fellow peers as well and how to balance all of these things in your life.

College is also about finding yourself, your life purpose, goals, ambitions, etc…

Yes, people are right when they say you should just be yourself. Also you learn about other people different from you which is VERY good. You don’t have to become like them, but you can learn from them and you can apply some of their unique qualities to your own life. So don’t beat yourself up for being you! :-)

Sloane2024's avatar

@indy2878: I’d give you 50 GA’s for that answer if I could. It encouraged and permitted some insight for me as well. :)

Thank you.

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