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Should I take a semester off and/or transfer?

tacolover9719tacolover9719 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
Hi. I'm new to this forum.

I'm a current junior at a local four-year university in my home state. I'm currently thinking about possibly taking my next semester off and possibly transferring after my break for reasons I'll discuss in this post. I apologize in advance for the long post (there's a lot to unpack - I'll try to provide a TL/DR at the end), and any input or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Ever since starting here, it has been rough. While my freshman year was mostly uneventful, I was much happier and didn't have constant stress after finding a job and getting involved. Getting involved led me to getting a job in the department that I would later transfer to.

Between my freshman year, I changed my major as I was happy with that second job I got. That job was in something I loved doing in high school but really didn't want to do as a career. But my boss at that job, who became my mentor, and a coworker/friend persuaded me to change my major. So I did. Between my freshman/sophomore year my parents divorced.

The spring of my sophomore year was when things started getting really rocky. Just a couple weeks before the end of the semester, my mother unexpectedly passed away. Immediately following that was some fallout from her family targeted at me and my father. I've tried to forget her family (they were super distant) and the things they said. I've also tried really hard over the summer to properly grieve.

Over the summer, I had two summer courses. One I actually did really well in, but the other I was bombing. Thankfully, the professor of that course is giving me an extension to finish that class.

If loosing my mother wasn't enough, there have been a lot of shakeups and changes in our department. I lost my job within the department, so I'm currently unemployed. (I loved that job - we were like a close family, and I enjoyed what I did. Unfortunately all of my coworkers were seniors and graduated.) My mentor left our university. I've really struggled getting used to these changes.

I have had anxiety and depression issues pretty much my entire life - but this has probably been the worse it ever has been. Even worse, I don't have insurance or money to seek professional help or medication. Having a therapist really helped, but I just found out yesterday that my therapist won't see me any more because she wants me to seek seasoned professional help. (My therapist was a grad student.) I'm currently seeking a job but jobs are very scarce in this area, and are usually very quickly filled. I've put in my application at some local places both on and off campus. My family isn't able to financially assist me.

(TL/DR - I've suffered with a lot lately that has put me into a really deep depression, on top of being unemployed.)

So, now to the questions. I have lots of them, but any input or advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm also sorry to break this up - I wish there was a way that I could group it together, so I've tried to number the questions. I also tried to provide some more context for the next set of questions.

1. In the interim, I'm hoping to keep my head above the water and finish out this semester strong. But it's only like week #4 and I'm already having difficulties in a lot of my classes. (The refund period has already passed.) Are there any suggestions to what I can do to succeed in my current classes?

Next is that summer class. The professor is giving me until later this month to complete everything. I haven't even started, and there's a lot to do. (Including a five-page paper.) It's a pretty difficult class that I struggled with over the summer.

2. Job. Because of my family's financial situation, they can't really help me. I'm pretty much on my own. And this semester I moved into an on-campus apartment, which is billed like a dorm (so no rent/utilities/etc.) but I still have to cook my own food and stuff. I also have monthly bills. I don't have a meal plan.

Obviously the first thing is to apply to jobs. I've applied at multiple places but have not heard any callbacks. There are some places that I'm still working on the application for. I'm trying to avoid fast food - not because of pride or anything, but because I've had previous bad experiences in fast food and feel it may exacerbate some of my problems.)

My other concern about a job is how my anxiety/depression is going to affect it. There are days where it is difficult to concentrate or do stuff. There are days where all I feel like doing is stuff like watching videos and not doing anything. What do I do on those days? I've even felt this depression affect me just filling out applications.

I guess now into the meat and potatoes - should I take the next semester off and possibly look for other places to transfer to? With all of the departmental changes and the absence of my mentor, I've really felt upset. I've felt that I have nobody to turn to - nobody to ask for help, including in my personal life. I used to be really passionate about the field I'm studying to go into. But this year I haven't really been that passionate. In fact, just trying to start assignments that used to be really easy have been challenging this year. I have been getting upset at myself for that, especially since I'm making myself look like a fool in front of the professor who doesn't really know me or my previous work.

Outside of classes, I really haven't been able to socialize. I used to socialize with my coworkers at my previous job (as mentioned, we were like a tightly-knit family) but they all graduated. This year, everyone is doing their own thing - so trying to get something together is just super difficult.

When I returned to campus and went to my first classes, it just felt like everything was different. I can remember even saying that I felt like I was on a completely different campus, and I didn't like it. Nothing felt right, nothing felt the same. And not in a good way.

3. Over the summer, I thought about possibly taking a couple years off. I know there's only a grace period of six months on student loans (so after six months you have to start paying) so I've looked at possibly just taking one semester off after this semester to get things in line and see where to go from here. Should I consider this?

One thing that concerns me about taking a semester off is whether or not I'll come back and finish my degree, and what additional changes there may be when I return. I'm also worried about how the cost may go up, etc. Any advice?

If I do take time off, I'm going to have to get a job back at home. Another thing that worries me is just moving back home. I just like the freedom of being at the university, and having others to socialize with. (At home, there's practically nobody to talk to or socialize with outside of my family.)

4. Transferring. Last spring (actually right around the time my mom passed) I was thinking about transferring to a larger, out-of-state university that had a school dedicated to my whole major. Their program is a lot more concentrated and better than my current school. The only drawback is it was WAY more expensive (like $40k/year - even at my current school I max out my FAFSA and have even had to take out additional unsubsidized loans to cover additional expenses) and that hardly any of my credits would transfer to that institution because of how intensive their program is - I would've essentially started over. (In fact, I would've likely been at that school for five years because their program required some high school courses I didn't take.)

I've looked at some other in-state institutions and none really jump out at me. So any suggestions on whether or not I should transfer? I've wanted to move out of state for so long, but just don't have the budget.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
7 replies
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Replies to: Should I take a semester off and/or transfer?

  • NorthernMom61NorthernMom61 4166 replies29 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wow, what a bunch of challenges. Kudos to you for hanging in there so far. I'm not sure what to suggest because it seems like you have been working so hard on all of the options. I wonder if you have an advisor or Dean of students that you can go to and share your story with to help you organize your next steps as well as sorting out how to deal with your loans. There must be someone that can listen and help you outline how to finish what you have started in good standing, guide you as to whether or not transferring or taking a break would be the best course of action, and what to do about handling your loans so that you maintain a good financial history while you work this all out. I'm sorry for your loss of your mom in the middle of everything.
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  • RoaringMiceRoaringMice 677 replies2 threadsRegistered User Member
    You say that you don't have medical insurance, but I'd thought that all universities in the US now require you to be on some sort of health plan. Is it that your insurance doesn't cover counseling? I ask because a lot of the issues you write here sound, to me, like they are related to your depression. It's possible that getting into treatment for your depression might help you regain control over some of these other issues as well. Can you talk to your regular doctor about your health issues, and find out what treatments might be available to you that might be covered by your insurance?

    Similarly, does your university offer any counseling services that aren't done by grad students, but instead are conducted by licensed and experienced professionals?
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  • tacolover9719tacolover9719 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    You say that you don't have medical insurance, but I'd thought that all universities in the US now require you to be on some sort of health plan. Is it that your insurance doesn't cover counseling? I ask because a lot of the issues you write here sound, to me, like they are related to your depression. It's possible that getting into treatment for your depression might help you regain control over some of these other issues as well. Can you talk to your regular doctor about your health issues, and find out what treatments might be available to you that might be covered by your insurance?

    Similarly, does your university offer any counseling services that aren't done by grad students, but instead are conducted by licensed and experienced professionals?
    I don't believe it is a requirement for universities to offer health insurance, or students to be on a health plan of sorts. At least here in the United States. However, most schools offer some sort of health insurance to students for an affordable cost (most can also be billed to their student account.) Unfortunately, my particular school doesn't offer any form of affordable health insurance any more, likely due to the sweeping budget cuts that happened last year. I looked into health insurance outside of the university and it was ***way*** too expensive. The monthly cost of health insurance would be more than I used to make in a month... and that was the "cheapest" plan.

    My university does have a counseling center that is staffed by professionals. I'm actually meeting with them this Thursday. Unfortunately, I also know that the counseling center will usually only see students two or three times before referring them to another service (usually one off-campus) due to their limited staff. But IIRC they can make certain special exceptions to that rule, which they may be able to do until I can find someway to get help off campus - especially since the depression is affecting my performance in the classroom.

    I think another priority is to get a job, as that is a huge contributor to my depression/anxiety right now. I have family breathing down my throat to get a job. I have bills to pay and food to buy, but no income. Unfortunately, my depression has made it somewhat difficult to even complete applications. And I haven't received a single callback since I started submitting applications. :-(
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  • gone2mrrwgone2mrrw 2 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Also, look into any state run health insurance plan in your state. If you are over 18 and unemployed or even making under $25,000 per year, you should qualify for medicaid (100% free premiums, no copays usually). Depending on the state, they may look for your father's income too. I would make that a priority. Either visit your local Department of Social Services or go online to State of XYZ health insurance plans. This is different than the health insurance exchange.
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  • PublisherPublisher 7785 replies80 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I find it odd that you never mention what you are studying.
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  • tacolover9719tacolover9719 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    gone2mrrw wrote: »
    Also, look into any state run health insurance plan in your state. If you are over 18 and unemployed or even making under $25,000 per year, you should qualify for medicaid (100% free premiums, no copays usually). Depending on the state, they may look for your father's income too. I would make that a priority. Either visit your local Department of Social Services or go online to State of XYZ health insurance plans. This is different than the health insurance exchange.

    I live in a state where Medicaid is rapidly declining here. (We're a very conservative Midwestern state.) I've looked into it but they told me some excuse.

    But it's been a while since I tried applying (back in April, as I looked into it during the week I took off after my mom passed.) So maybe I'll try to look into it.
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  • tacolover9719tacolover9719 3 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Publisher wrote: »
    I find it odd that you never mention what you are studying.

    Sorry. I was trying to not say too much.

    I'm a journalism major. (Well, journalism at my school isn't a dedicated major; rather, it's a concentration in another major.) I changed from a computer networking major between my freshman and sophomore years as I've always been into journalism throughout high school. Even though when I graduated high school I said I'd never do journalism again, I got involved with our student newspaper and was eventually offered a job there the spring of my freshman year. My adviser and a coworker/friend talked me into switching my major.

    Now it's the fall of my junior year. That adviser left (that's all I'll say) and all of my coworkers from the newspaper have graduated. They changed the model of the newspaper so it doesn't pay very well, essentially to the point where it really isn't worth my time. With the adviser gone and no coworkers/friends to vent or talk to, I feel alone.

    It's actually a good thing I bring this up - I've been thinking about possibly changing my major lately. I love doing journalism, but lately I've been really out of it. I've had writers block super bad, there's been a lot of things getting in the way, and I'm not really super passionate or motivated like I was last year. But I also understand depression will do that, as most of the things I used to be really passionate or interested I feel different about now. I don't want to change my major just to find myself coming back to journalism.

    Plus, I really feel stuck. I feel like journalism is about the only thing I can do right now. I feel like I'm mediocre at 100 different things but not really good at one single thing. And nothing else really piques my interest, and the things that do pique my interest (like computers and stuff) are things that require lots of math (something I'm HORRIBLE at.)

    I don't know what to do. I'm visiting with a (professional) counselor that my school has tomorrow to discuss my feelings and what I can do and where to go from here with all these issues.

    I also voiced my feelings and concerns with a professor. He told me what I was thinking - I'll finish this semester and make the determination of what I want to do.

    I really hate transferring or leaving because I have the rest of my undergraduate "career" planned out. I have an on-campus apartment, which is nice (although exacerbates that stress of getting a job since I don't have a meal plan and have to buy all of my own food/supplies.) I know what classes I need to take to graduate. I'm a part of a student organization that helps students succeed. Most of the faculty is nice, although things just don't seem the same this semester.

    Another problem with transferring is none of the schools in my state really jump out at me or grab my interest. (During my high school senior year, I only toured the school I'm at right now. I loved it.) There is a J-school (journalism school) in my state that is one of the best in the world, but my grades don't meet their requirements (I have a ~2.7 GPA, their requirement is like a 3.5 GPA) and they're a super huge school that really wouldn't work out (I don't think I'd do well in huge classes and on a huge campus) and most of my credits likely wouldn't transfer. (One plus side to that school is it would've been paid for through a program I'm in, which would minimize my debt.)

    This spring I was seriously thinking (at one point I even made a post on my Facebook about actually doing it) about transferring to a bigger, out-of-state school. However, after my mom passed away I guess I was brought back down to Earth and learned that financially and academically it wouldn't work. That school was like $40k/year (for out-of-state students like me) and I would've literally had to start all over from scratch. I would've been there for five years as there were some high school courses that I didn't take in high school that they required. Only 10 of my credits would've transferred.

    I just feel so stuck and don't know what to do.
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