Confessions of a Disappointed Valedictorian, Getting over Prestige, and Transferring

Alright, so my predicament is probably a very common one, and I’ve seen some pretty similar threads on this website. Anyway, throughout all of school and everything, I was always labelled as the “smart” one, not necessarily because I was super smart, but because I tried really hard and got the grades. I was always the “golden child” who was going to do great things, blah blah blah. I always dreamed that I would attend an Ivy League or Georgetown or something like that, because I was brainwashed (and still am) into thinking that “prestige” is the most important thing.

Up until senior year, I work my butt off at everything, but I was incredibly depressed most of the time. And by the end of junior year, I am completely, utterly burnt out.

SATs come along, and I do fairly poorly. By poorly I mean that I do above average, but I just can’t find it within myself to get those 1400+ scores that elite schools are looking for. I retake them, improve a bit (my heart still wasn’t in it), and I make the mistake of thinking that being a chamber-choir-singing, varsity playing, valedictorian would ever help me in the bigger picture.

So I got rejected from all the “elite” schools and to my shock and my parent’s shock, wait-listed at some second tier schools.

I did, however, get into some good liberal arts schools, and money was a concern, so I ended up picking one that my friend and I both got good financial aid packages at. Like the snob I was, I looked at the 32% acceptance rate, and thought “could be worse.” I visited the school, didn’t really look at anything, and just sort of blindly accepted this, because I thought that others expected me to go somewhere at least somewhat prestigious, and mostly, I expected it of myself.

So I made my valedictorian speech, and everyone was proud and all that; fast forward to first semester and I’m at my little liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere.

I’m miserable. My depression is at its worst. The people here are often cold and pretentious and most of them have far more money than I do and aren’t afraid to show it, and my only friend (who has social anxiety) is the one that I went with from home. I know that I’m lucky to be here. I worked so hard to survive everything to get here. All I can think is: why am I so sad all the time?

I’ve never known this kind of loneliness.

This place has changed me, but not necessarily for the better. High school was hell for me, and I thought I deserved more now.

And now it’s the second semester, and I thought things were looking better, but even when they are, all of my instincts are screaming at me that this place isn’t right for me. I may have some friends, and I may have a romantic interest, but it all feels wrong.

Now, my best friend happens to attend another liberal arts school that my brother went to. It’s a good school, but prestigious by no means, yet all the times I’ve been on that campus I’ve felt more at home. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I’ve always wanted to spend some time in a more urban setting.

I’ve met her friends that she’s made there, and I like them a lot, and she’s just the kind of person that I feel happy around. I know it’s not a good idea to transfer just because of a person, but I think I might actually have a chance at happiness there. All the times I’ve been, I’ve liked almost everything about it. The campus feels alive and cheerful, while mine feels dead most of the time, and I think it might be right for me.

But I still want to go to a really good grad school and change the world and be successful, and I’m hung up on the idea of “prestige.” I know it’s wrong logically, but transferring to a school that is ranked lower than the one I am currently attending makes me feel like a disappointment, especially when I didn’t get into first tier schools in the first place. Will it be academically rigorous enough there?

All I ever feel like is a disappointment. My parents are wonderful and supportful, but I just want to make them proud, and I mostly want to make me proud. Also, it’s ironic because I always turned my nose up at this school (the one I want to transfer to) while my brother went there and when my best friend transferred there, because she didn’t get nearly as good grades as I did in high school. Guess karma’s a b*tch. That’s what I get for being a snob.

Anyway, I don’t know what I’m asking here. I guess I just want any advice and ideas from people who transferred “down” or who managed to get over this dumb idea of “prestige” that I can’t seem to stop from bothering me. I just need someone objective to give me a good slap or something. Thanks for reading this novel I appear to have written, haha. I appreciate any advice.

I know I’m being melodramatic, but I just want to be happy for once.

Get your depression treated first.

That’s the biggest problem.

Look into counseling. Most schools have it. It has really helped my daughter a lot. Get help now before you crash and burn. You can be happy!!

The danger of your transferring is once you did go to the otherside, you might find out the grass wasn’t really greener over there.
You have yet to find a good group of friends in your current school, and you are right in letting go of the “prestige” thing, try to focus instead on finding more social connections. And it looks like your life is getting better as the time goes on.
Good luck!

For what it’s worth, you have a nice style of writing. :slight_smile:

hey you have 2 things going on here…one is that you can’t shake the feeling that you should’ve gotten into a school where others would have said, “no way! You got in there?” And the 2nd is that you’re worried that the school you did choose is not a good fit and you’re not sure whether it’s because it’s not prestigious or whether it’s simply a bad choice for you. So who knows…but I will say that sometimes kids transfer and bring their unhappiness with them, so to speak. But other kids transfer and truly find a better fit. It’s worth you really thinking this over.

I don’t think that there is an easy answer to your situation.

I agree that the first thing is to get your depression treated effectively. Depression is very common, and might be more common among highly intelligent and high performing students. The medical profession has gotten a lot better in dealing with it in recent years (although there is still a long way to go). You will need to get this under control wherever you go. If you get this under control you might like where you are better.

“The people here are often cold and pretentious and most of them have far more money than I do and aren’t afraid to show it”

My youngest wanted a small school (college or university). The type of students who attend very highly ranked very expensive LACs did concern us, along with the resulting social atmosphere at the school. She like you was the top student in her high school. She probably like you is more comfortable among what I might call relatively down to earth people. She was somewhat motivated to apply to schools where the applications were relatively straightforward, where admissions was predictable and based on good grades (which she had obviously), and which were affordable. The latter part, affordability, turns out has a significant impact on the other students who go there, which in turn has an impact on what the school feels like to attend.

With this she ended up at a very good small university in eastern Canada. It is not as “prestigious” as some of the New England LACs that she probably could have gotten into. She is however happy and doing well there. Also, the better of the small universities in eastern Canada routinely send a significant number of their best students to McGill or other top Canadian large universities for graduate school, so it is not as if going to a “lower prestige” school is going to mess up your chances at graduate school. I might also note that when I was a graduate student at a highly ranked school in the US, there were students there from a very wide range of undergrad schools, including many state flagships, many of which would not be considered prestigious.

I guess that I would say that prestige doesn’t make a person happy. Finding one’s niche in the world does contribute to some extent to a person becoming happy. Finding one’s niche of course takes time and is usually not easy. Hardly any of us, in retrospect, took the shortest and easiest possible path to whatever turned out to be our niche because we had to find out where we were going while we were getting there.

“The danger of your transferring is once you did go to the otherside, you might find out the grass wasn’t really greener over there.”

Unfortunately this is very true also.

It’s funny really, all our lives we’re taught to chase after this materialistic value in society. Let it be prestige, money, fast friendships, test scores, and GPA.

I always use to beat myself over a 93 on an exam. I wondered how much smarter those other students were when they finished the homework early or the guy who turned in his test after 5 mins. I wanted to be the one closer to a 4.0 GPA.

This was the worst time of my life and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being this person who had to be the best. I teach a Computer Science program to underrepresented minorities/girls and my grades are just average now. My GPA fluctuates back and forth and it’s no longer this thing that hangs over my head. My friends are always talking about their internships but I just don’t care. I don’t care because I’m doing what I want to be doing. I’ve decided that my life won’t be revolving around how much money I’m going to make out of college.

Something I’ve come to appreciate is how much more power I have when I’m able to control what I want to value. It’s satisfying to know that I don’t have to be the best, I just have to do the things I want to do. But hey, all of us have different goals and purposes, I hope you find yours.

I too get caught up in the prestige and desire to attend a school that looks impressive on the outside. Our society shoves it down our throats that we NEED to do one thing in order to be successful, we NEED to be innovative leaders, and if you don’t follow this specific path then your worth is somehow less.

I am currently in the process of waiting for admission responses from various universities, which is incredibly stressful. But I wanted to share with you something that my dad has reflected on since being in school. My dad went to both Stanford and Harvard, Stanford for undergrad and Harvard for law school. He initially started out at UC Davis, a far less competitive university, and transferred to Stanford after his second year. And you know what he told me?
He said that the level of difficulty and information was exactly the same at Davis as it was at Stanford.
The first time he told me this it shocked me because it went against everything I had initially known. “What do you mean Davis is just as difficult??? Everyone knows that Stanford is incredibly rigorous!!” But the more I thought about it, the more it sank in. Sure Stanford is far more prestigious, but at the end of the day what really matters is the education you receive, and if you’re able to utilize that knowledge to build a career. College is supposed to be some of the best years of your life, and I think that you should do what YOU think is best, regardless of prestige level.

Plus, if you’re considering graduate school, being the best possible student at a smaller university looks better than drowning in a top school. There is actually a very good book about this, called “David and Goliath” by author Malcolm Gladwell. I would highly recommend you look into it. Just don’t give up, work hard, and make the best of your college years.

You should consider the U of Miami. Some girl wrote a similar account and transferred there from an Ivy school.

It’s not the school. Before you do anything, go to the health center and see a counselor. A few weeks of therapy can make a world of difference in a short amount of time. Once things are back in perspective, then decide. Transferring when you’re depressed can risk making your depression much worse.

Also, prestige is completely overrated. Record numbers of students have applied to college in the last decade, and elite colleges have been stagnant with their capacity. This makes them look more “selective” and “prestigious” by only taking the “brightest” students, and it leads to more research grants. In reality, their getting paid for doing literally nothing. As a result, prestigious schools, who were once the standard of academic excellence have become mediocre. Regional universities have been more than happy to accept the rejects and expand accordingly, turning once third rate schools into powerhouses. This trend is happening all over the country. Examples are Central and Eastern Michigan, Middle Tennessee, UTSA, and Texas State. UTSA has literally doubled in size because of UT rejects. Just because a car is made by GM, doesn’t mean it makes the best car.