Another Unhappy Freshman Contemplating Options

Hi everyone,

I’ll try to keep this as short as possible, since the title basically says it all. I chose my current school because I thought a larger, more outgoing environment would challenge me. Instead, I find myself longing for somewhere smaller and more intimate. This is also somewhat of a party school, and while I try to avoid it, I’d like to go somewhere where that’s less prevalent. Additionally, while I know that the academics here are top-notch, the grade inflation, lack of GPA, and the fact that you can’t fail a class (due to the A/B/C/No credit grading system) make me feel like I’m not really being challenged.

To add to this, I was severely depressed while making my college selection, which led to me avoiding things like overnights, because I felt like I couldn’t handle them. I’m currently seeing a therapist, who agrees that I might be better served at a smaller institution.

My dilemma is this: I know the school I’m at now is excellent, but I also know that if I continue to be this unhappy, I won’t be getting the college experience that I want. I’m definitely going back next semester, and I’m going to try hard to get more involved and see if I can make myself like it there. But I know that might not happen, and I can’t decide what to do. I know that if I transfer, I want to aim for Seven Sisters colleges.

I do need financial aid, so that might keep me at my current school. I also recognize that transferring to women’s colleges can be difficult, due to their high retention rates. Oh, and I’m a prospective English major.

My academics are good, I think; I have all A’s and one S (which would’ve been an A). My high school GPA is a 4.0, and I have a 2300+ SAT superscore. My high school extracurriculars were also decent, albeit not mind-blowing. The things I’m most worried about are recommendations from professors and college extracurriculars. I wasn’t too close to any of my professors. I know who I would ask for recs, and I think one would be good, but I’m worried another might be a bit generic or vague. As for extracurriculars, my main thing in college has been work – I have two jobs, which total about 20 hours/week (I know people might point to this as the reason for why I don’t like it here, but they’re actually what I like most about the school). As I said, I will try to get more involved this coming semester (and not just for the sake of applications).

Basically, I’m struggling to decide if I should apply now so I have my options if things don’t work out, or if I should wait, and then if things don’t work out, take the fall off to apply as a spring transfer student. The main reason I’m hesitating is because I’m worried the flaws I’ve pointed out above would seriously disadvantage me in the application process. And I also know that I could end up loving it here, so I would have wasted my time, energy, and money applying elsewhere. But taking the fall off is something that I’d really rather not do for a number of reasons, so I’m very worried that I’ll have a bad semester and not have anywhere else to go. And I’ve heard that starting in the spring makes it very hard to acclimate to a school.

I apologize for the length of this (and for if it’s in the wrong forum – I didn’t want to put it in the transfer one, since I’m not sure if I’m actually transferring or not). Any advice would be appreciated :slight_smile:

If you can stay at your school for the semester and continue to try to work things out and apply for transfers at the same time, you can see where you are at the end of the term and decide. You can stay if things get better for you, or transfer if one of the options is viable. You can always decline a transfer offer.

Do you have need-based financial aid currently or merit-based?
If need-based, contact a potential new school’s transfer admissions person and discuss.

Also, is there anyway to make a bigger school feel smaller?
Eg. Honors Program? Working in a lab? Join a service group?

Maybe talk to the Dean of Students and ask what they think.

I would consider dropping one of the jobs so you can have time to meet people in other places at college.

Why does the fact that you can’t fail a class make you not feel challenged? Whether or not, you should be striving for A’s.

Can you work on getting closer to professors? You can go into their office hours early on and say:: “I know this is a really difficult class-- what are some of the common mistakes students make and how can I avoid them?”

@NorthernMom61 Thank you for the advice. That’s similar to what I was thinking. My main worry is if the deficits identified in my post would put me at a significant disadvantage for transferring, re: professor recommendations and college extracurriculars. I’ve been having trouble finding out how important those are for transfer students.

@bopper My financial aid is entirely need-based. I’ve been researching the policies of the schools that I’m interested in, and I likely will contact the FA offices. There’s no honors college here. I did join a program for students who are interested in service, but unfortunately it hasn’t been very active. I will try to find groups that do more next semester.

Thank you for the idea about contacting the Dean of Students. As I said in my original post, I would prefer not to drop one of my jobs, as I like both of them. And the hours are flexible, so if I found a group I wanted to join that met during one of my shifts, I would likely be able to give that shift away to another student; that happens regularly.

I’ve often asked myself why not being able to fail matters, because tbh I’m not really sure of the answer. I always try to learn the material to the best of my ability regardless. I just feel like failure is something I’ll be confronted with in life and in the job market, so it feels like I should have that possibility here.

I will make an effort to speak to my professors more this semester. Thank you for the ideas on what to say.

You haven’t had much time to build up a resume of extracurriculars, you do what you can as far as recommendations, but you will have this past semester’s academic performance as a credential. Not much you can do about it but try, and perhaps because you are only a freshman trying to transfer, your high school record may have some influence as it did to get you where you are now. Good luck.

One of my daughters transferred after a year at school. She also felt that she didn’t know her professors well but had to ask for recommendations. She reluctantly scheduled meetings with the two who seemed most likely to write the recommendations in order to give them some background and ask for assistance. She discovered that they were really interested in helping students and wanted to help her, either to stay at the school or to transfer to the right place for her. They were both very supportive and helpful. I highly recommend that you give this a try. Ironically, it might be just what you need to help you love the school.

One other suggestion: make an appointment at the school’s counseling center. What you describe is pretty common and they have heard it all and have the resources to help. I’m not saying that this step will keep you from transferring but it may help you feel much better about this semester.

Good luck to you!

A school that’s “excellent” but that makes you unhappy isn’t excellent for you.

Look into transferring for the fall. With all the schools in this country, there’s no reason to be at a school that makes you unhappy.

Are you sure there’s no Honors Program/College? Sometimes it’s disguised under a special name (ie., Hutchins at Sonoma State, Schreyer and “Paterno Fellows” on Penn Sate campuses…)
In any case, if the party atmosphere bothers you, ask Housing to transfer you to Substance-free (also called “Healthy Lifestyles”) housing. There typically isn’t an oversupply of applications there so you’d have a good shot.
If your financial aid is need-based, apply to colleges that promise to meet 100% need. They don’t promise to meet need for transfers, but your odds of a good scholarship are higher than at other colleges.

@MYOS1634 OP goes to Brown.

FWIW, a lot of people struggle to adjust to college during freshman year. It’s a huge adjustment – leaving home for the first time, being in a completely new environment, trying to get involved and make new friends while balancing school work. A lot of people told me that they didn’t really settle in until sophomore year, and that was true for me. I have social anxiety, and going away for college was really hard. As a freshman, I was homesick, lonely and stressed, but this year has been a lot better for me.

You’re doing well academically, but your mental health should take precedence. As others have said, you can always change your mind after you’ve applied to transfer. Working 20 hours per week is a significant time commitment and should be sufficient in regard to extracurriculars for transfer apps. Then you’ll have the option to transfer if things don’t work out at your current school. At the same time, work with your therapist to come up with strategies to make the most out of your current experience.

However, you should consider the possibility that your desire to transfer is of the “grass is always greener” mindset. College is not always going to meet your expectations, but it should help you grow as a person. If part of your struggles are from the difficulty of adjusting to college, then transferring, even to a smaller school, might actually prolong those struggles instead of making it easier to cope because you would have to get used to an entirely new environment where you don’t know anyone.

@sungoose: thanks, didn’t check on OP.
Transferring from Brown to a NESCAC college shouldn’t be too hard. OP would have to apply widely though and actually reach out to top LACs outside of New England (Carleton or Davidson, for example).

Wow – thank you so much, everyone! This is why I love CC :slight_smile:

@3girls3cats, Thank you for the anecdote about your daughter. That is very reassuring. I actually went to my school’s counseling center at the beginning of the year, and they connected me with the therapist I am seeing now. It might be worth checking in with them, though.

@sungoose, You put your finger on one of the things I’ve been struggling with, re: “the grass is greener” mindset. I’ve been doing my best to take a nuanced view of Brown, and of the schools I’m looking at. I know, logically, that no school is perfect, and I know that Brown is excellent and I’m lucky to go there. I’d love to make it work. However, the way I was feeling first semester was bad enough that I think I have enough reason to believe that I might not be able to make it work.

I also have heard that adjusting as a transfer student can be much more difficult than settling in freshman year, so that’s another factor I’m considering carefully. If I apply and get accepted, I’m going to see what the schools offer to help transfer students adjust.

@MYOS1634, I’m definitely going to apply to sub-free housing next year, in the chance that I don’t end up transferring. I haven’t done it yet because I’m hoping the partying will die down in the winter, as a lot of it was outside (and my roommate and I get along very well, so I would hate to leave her abruptly). If the parties persist, I’ll keep in mind what you said about asking to move.

May I ask why you recommend applying outside of New England? As I said, I’m considering primarily Seven Sisters colleges, and Bryn Mawr was the only non-New England one I was thinking about.

Would your roommate be okay changing rooms with you this semester? (I don’t know if you’ve started already or are about to start or have a Jan Term). You’d get away from all the noise and partying immediately and that may make a big difference. This way you’d know if you just wanted to get away from the partying or really wanted to leave Brown.
Apply primarily to the Seven Sisters colleges, but transferring and getting significant financial aid for a transfers are two obstacles. The more you apply outside of where New England transfers apply, the more likely you are you get a positive answer. An issue is that top LACs have very few spots and financial aid will be tight: you may only have one choice that is both an acceptance and affordable.

@MYOS1634 We actually don’t start until next week – we’re weirdly late, for some reason. I will keep in mind what you said about changing rooms; as I said, I’ll see how the beginning of the semester goes, and if it’s quieter or the same. And I understand what you’re saying about applying widely. Thank you for the advice.

Frequently, second semester freshman year has a completely different “feel” from first semester. You may get a fresh perspective.

I’d bet you have a good shot at a women’s college. Go for it! More women leave then transfer in.

@brantly I have heard that, and I know it might happen to me. I would just like to weigh my options in case it doesn’t.

@lostaccount Thank you for the vote of confidence :slight_smile:

Hey! I’m also a freshman at Brown who had a hard first semester; your original post was so similar to my experiences that for a second I had to check the name of the OP to make sure I hadn’t somehow made this thread in my sleep or something :slight_smile: I’m sorry that you’re having such a rough time, and I just wanted to say that you’re not alone; although it can feel like everyone else is having the time of their lives, there are definitely others of us out there who aren’t happy with college so far, even at a school like Brown. So for what it’s worth, you’re not alone :slight_smile:

If you do end up transferring, then the Seven Sisters are wonderful schools; I have a good friend at one of them and another friend who’s trying to transfer into one of them, and they seem like great places. And if you end up staying at Brown and trying sub-free housing like you mentioned, then fyi it’s a good option; I’m on one of the freshman sub-free floors now and it’s nice to have a relatively clean/quiet dorm environment. (I didn’t realize there was sub-free housing for sophomores, do you sign up for that through the housing lottery? Or is there a separate process?)

Good luck with shopping period and everything! Hopefully second semester will be better than first.

@sapphire15, that was a good deed you did by posting. For many people, one of the hardest parts about going away to an all-the-way new place (especially with really high expectations!) is that when the inevitable warts become apparent you can feel as if you are the only one. All colleges have their good and bad parts, so in transferring you are simply trading one set for another. That’s fine, b/c one person’s insurmountable ‘bad’ is another person’s ‘no bother’ and yet another person’s ‘great’. You just need to be clear about what you are trading, and do as much as you can to anticipate both the good and the bad of what you are trading it for.

OP, is your therapist actually telling you that a smaller place would be better for you, or just agreeing that it could possibly be? It’s an important distinction. If the therapist is being neutral, be careful not to use their words to say to yourself/family ‘see, even this person thinks Brown is the wrong place for me’.

@sapphire15, it’s so good to hear that I’m not the only one who hasn’t fallen in love with Brown :slight_smile: I often feel pressured to love it there, since it seems like everyone else does.

I’m not 100% sure how sub-free housing works for sophomores, but from what I garnered from the Res Life website, you apply for special interest housing before the lottery. The forms haven’t been updated for this coming year, but hopefully they will be soon.

I hope your time at Brown gets better, and that you get into all the classes you want for this semester!

@collegemom3717, my therapist has just agreed that from what we have discussed, there’s a good chance I would be better served at a smaller school. There are no guarantees, of course, which is why I’m trying to approach the possibility of transferring cautiously.