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Help! I’m in the Wrong College!

The School Just Isn’t Right for Me

Having looked honestly at yourself, you are still convinced that the school you’re in won’t work for you. You are bored in class. You feel out of place socially. The activities and sports teams don’t match your level of skill or interests. The money you allotted for the year is just not going to be enough. You’re clear that it isn’t a case of “the grass is always greener.” It’s a matter of putting your effort, time, and money into a place where you feel the investment will pay off. Okay. Then it’s time to position yourself to transfer. Here’s what admissions offices generally recommend:

  • Stick it out for another semester if you can. Completing the freshman year gives you time to build a solid transcript, to cultivate relationships with a professor or two so you can ask them for recommendations, and to demonstrate that you are a strong student looking for something that is a better fit, not a weak student looking for a way out. If the reason you are withdrawing is financial and you need to take the semester off from school to work, find a job that is in some way related to the field you want to pursue to show that you are serious about your goals.
  • Make sure you get the best grades you can. This is not a time to cut classes or just slide by. Your grades at college are going to count more than grades during high school or SAT scores on transfer applications. The better your grades are, the better your chances for getting into the school you want.
  • Stay at school and get involved. Don’t go home on weekends. Limit your time on Facebook and IM-ing old friends. Put your time and energy into some clubs and activities even though you know you’ll be leaving. You’ll be happier if you are busy. It will strengthen your application if you have more to show for the year than grades.
  • Do a very serious college search. Identify as clearly as you can just why this school isn’t working for you. Now that you’ve been in college for a few months, you are in a better position to know what you are looking for. There are a number of excellent websites that can help you research schools and narrow down the choices.
  • Use three-day weekends and winter and spring breaks to visit schools. Often it’s the feel of the place that ultimately is the deciding factor in whether a college works for someone. You can’t get that on a “virtual” tour. While visiting, be sure to make an appointment to meet with the transfer counselor in the admissions office to discuss which of your classes would transfer and whether grades transfer as well. This information may be significant when it comes time to choose a new school.
  • Give yourself time to fill out applications and collect all the documentation you need. Most colleges require both an official high school and college transcript, descriptions of the college courses you’ve taken, SAT scores, and information regarding the financial aid you received at your current school. Most applications are due in March for the fall semester.

Transferring won’t solve all your problems. Some things will be better. Some won’t. It’s unlikely that there is any school that is perfect in every way. But there is probably one (actually, it is likely there is more than one) that meets more of your criteria and where you can get the kind of education and experiences that are closer to what you’ve been looking for.

Once there, don’t be surprised or upset that you aren’t instantly comfortable. After all, you will once again be a new student in a new environment. In addition, you will be entering a college where others in your class have been there a year, making friend groups and figuring out how to navigate the system. It will take a few months to catch on, catch up, and settle in. Remind yourself that you chose this school with the wisdom that comes from experience. Get involved and you can make it work for you.

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 August 8, 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.