Imagine spending an entire year applying to several universities and FINALLY getting into a reputable place. You think you’ve done your research correctly. The program is exactly what you want. The professors are great, the campus life is lovely. You like the student clubs; the location is fabulous; everything’s great until…
…until it’s not great.
For whatever reason, at the end of your first semester, you realize that it’s not the place for you. It can feel a bit irritating. After all, you did your research. Perhaps this is your parents’ alma mater. Perhaps you’ve wanted to go here since eighth grade. But for some reason, the university just doesn’t agree with you. Maybe it’s the people. Perhaps it’s the location. Or maybe it’s a bit harder than you thought it would be. After all, the university is quite different from high school, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that you’ll find it more challenging.
So, What Do You Do If Your University Experience Isn’t What You Thought It Would Be?
Well, for starters, you give it a chance. You do another semester, perhaps making different choices than last time. You party less, attend that 9 am class. Follow up with that professor who failed you in a course to understand what went wrong.
You should look at everything you’ve done last semester that made it seem like the university you chose wasn’t the right pick. Maybe you were in the wrong. It’s so easy to get carried with social activities in university and undermine your education.
Everyone does that.
You’ve still got plenty of time to change things. Most people make the mistake of not doing anything. They’ll give up after their first failure, and that’s the worst thing you could do to yourself.
Don’t Do That!
You have to learn to do something about your situation because you’re an adult now. If you’ve taken a loan to go to university, then you should definitely not give up. You need to do well in your classes and form appropriate connections to land a nice job that will quickly pay off your debts. If you give up, you’re essentially throwing away your entire future, and that’s not fair to you or your loved ones.
So, don’t give up.
Just do something.
Trust me, doing something is so much better than doing nothing.
But what if you did do something? You tried to learn from your mistakes. You achieved that peak work-life balance (in this case, study-life balance), but you’re still unsatisfied. There’s something that’s nagging you. It could be anything.
It’s OK If Your Department And Your Interests Don’t Align
When I decided to transfer, I was leaving behind a degree I’d wanted to do since I was at least eleven years old. But the reason behind this was because I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it.
I wanted to focus on one thing, but my department was focusing on another. I didn’t want to graduate with a senior project on data analysis, computer software development, or whatever the department focused on. I wanted to do something different like I had been promised.
Like the university had advertised.
Let’s be real. Sometimes universities exaggerate…a lot. After all, they want you to pay them. They’re going to make it seem as though they’re the best out there for your particular program. But that’s not always the truth. My engineering department, for example, advertised that it had five concentrations that we could pursue in our final year. It seemed as though they were talking about the departmental electives and the senior project. I genuinely believed that I would be allowed to do a senior project based on my interests.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve always been fascinated by propulsion, and I really wanted to study that (or space technology) in detail during my third and fourth years, but my department didn’t focus on that. So, I tried compromising.
Compromising Will Help
Sometimes departments don’t focus on certain fields because there’s just no interest in it. If you’re really passionate about your specialization, then maybe write a letter to the department. Talk to the faculty or the board or student affairs…anyone who’ll listen. My former university had a different campus that had what I wanted, but they refused to let me transfer. I even offered to attend classes there (at my own expense) and come back. They didn’t listen.
However, a friend of mine at a different university actually wanted to write her dissertation on a topic that wasn’t taught at her university. So, she took a semester abroad to another place where they offered that and returned with her credits compensated for. She went on to write her paper on the subject and graduated near the top of her class.
Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t.
Transferring Should Be The Last Resort
If you feel as though you’ve exhausted every option available to you and you still can’t see any progress, then you should consider transferring. The reason I think transferring should be the last resort is because so much energy goes into it.
Most people transfer a year or two years after starting a degree program at a university. It can be really hard to let that history go. But if there’s no way out, then you shouldn’t spend the remaining years at your current university feeling miserable. Transferring is scary. Sometimes you end up studying an extra year, but if you think it’s the only reasonable option, then go for it.