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Help! I’m in the Wrong College!

In September, you left for college with a car full of your belongings and a head full of excited anticipation, hopes, and dreams. Having spent much of your high school senior year choosing colleges, applying to colleges, waiting for acceptance letters, and choosing yet again, it seemed like you were finally on your way.

Yeah. Now the end of the first semester is closing in and you’re just not happy. In fact, you’re miserable. Maybe you’re missing old friends and having trouble making new ones. Maybe the courses aren’t what you hoped for or you and your professors just don’t seem to click. Or maybe you are too close to or too far from home. Whatever. It’s not working.

First, know that you are not alone. A study by the U.S. Department of Education found that about 60 percent of American college students attend more than one college before they graduate. People transfer for lots of reasons, some rational (like saving money or finding a place with a stronger department for their major), some emotional (like not liking the “feel” of a place or being uncomfortable with the prevailing values of fellow students). It’s your education (and your money). There is no shame in trying to find a better fit.

Do you need to transfer? Maybe. If you’re not to make the same mistake twice, it’s important to figure out whether the problem is with your choice of school or within yourself.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

When you pack your bags and books and head to another school, you are going to take yourself with you. If the problem is with your difficulty adjusting to the unfamiliar, your attitude, or your unwillingness to stretch yourself, it’s more than likely that you will be just as unhappy elsewhere. Take a hard, honest inventory of what you are bringing to the situation before you start filling out those applications. Consider factors like these:

  • Have you given your college a chance? If you have gone home every weekend or spent hours of every day IM-ing and texting high school friends, you’re looking back instead of moving forward. Yes, it’s important to maintain old relationships. But it’s also important to make room for new ones.
  • Have you made an honest effort to get socially involved? To find a new social group, you have to put yourself in the paths of people with whom you have things in common. Have you joined a club? Tried out for a team or a performance group? Become involved in school politics? No? Then you’re not doing your share.
  • Have you been open to new ideas and experiences? If you went to a college in a different part of the country from where you grew up or if your college attracts students from various parts of the world, you are going to meet lots of people who think differently than you do. Expanding your worldview is an important part of college life. Have you been curious? Have you sought out late night conversations about ideas? If you’ve been only judgmental or if you have avoided taking part in serious conversations, you’ve missed out on lots of opportunities to grow.
  • Have you made an honest effort to be academically involved? Do you do the assignments? Engage with the readings? Ask questions and participate in class? You’re in college now. You don’t need to worry about being “that girl or guy” that high school kids put down for being too active in class. If you haven’t been letting yourself be enthusiastic about classes, of course you aren’t getting much out of them.
  • Have you adequately investigated what your current school has to offer? Introductory courses or the “core” curriculum required by many schools can feel too much like high school. You are reviewing or laying down basics. But even in the second semester of freshman year, it’s possible to start exploring new fields by taking electives. Have you looked into potential majors? Talked to upperclassmen and professors? Looked over the facilities? It may be that everything you think you want is right where you are.
Help! I’m in the Wrong College!

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2018). Help! I’m in the Wrong College!. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.