Is it better to go to college cheap and miserable, or expensive and in debt?

Have you looked at other options in your state? Architecture at the big name firms is a field where quality of undergraduate and then graduate school matters as the schools are known by their name professors. That said plenty of architects work in small firms, it’s just usually means different types of projects - if you want to work on big transformational mixed-use projects then they kind of work happens at the big name firms.

I’m going to suggest that the subject line misses the part where being in debt is pretty miserable, too.

Architecture is not the highest paying field, and is subject to cyclical downturns, so heavy debt can be pretty miserable.

If you are in a BArch program for close to free, that is great. If you are in a BA/BS program, be aware that you will need to do an MArch later, which can be expensive, so heavy undergraduate debt may limit your options for that.

To me it sounds like the academics are fine, and the price is very hard to beat, and the issue is social. It can be difficult for many or most students to make friends at many or most universities.

Thus I am suspecting that the main thing that you should do is to get involved in a few more activities at your school. If you try one activity and don’t like it or don’t like the people involved in it, then try a different activity.

Also, I am thinking that you might want to talk to a counselor at your school. There are many students in your current situation even if very few students would be willing to admit it. Universities in the US have gotten a lot better in dealing with this in recent years, and there should be counselors there who you can talk to. They also might be more familiar with the social situation and activities at your school than anyone on CC could be.

I agree with others that you should avoid taking on debt for undergrad. “heavy debt can be pretty miserable” is a very important point. Heavy debt can also severely limit your options after you graduate.

Even a commuter school usually has activities.

Once you’re taking classes within your major you’ll probably meet people. Since you’re commuting, are there any students at the school that you know from high school?

Does your major have a club?

Find out which clubs are at your school.

Taking on huge debt is not only crazy, but how likely is it that your parents will qualify and agree to cosign those loans?

Do you have a job
Do you have friends at your job

One can make friends wherever s/he goes in life. I suggest you look inward to yourself to find your answers rather than believing it is due to the school.

@Empireapple whereas that’s true, there are certain obstacles built in to some situations, that don’t exist in other situations.

Please don’t blame the OP. I suggest that you look inside of yourself to see why you feel the need to blame the OP rather than empathizing and helping to solve the problem.

In this case, the OP is at a commuter campus, and that does make things more difficult. One issue, as the OP has alluded to already, is that people come to those schools with their original lives in tact. They don’t need to seek out friends on campus, because their friend networks are still going at home. This is typical for a commuter campus. That plus students don’t tend to hang out on campus, as they do at residential schools or in jobs. In jobs, people are there for 8 hours, on average. In commuter college, Student A has one class at 8 am, then goes home or to a job, then comes back for 4 PM class, then has to go pick up kid sister from daycare for the mom, or help family get the car fixed. They don’t hang out and play Frisbee between classes, as in a residential school.

You are an architecture major. Before you know it, you will be esentially living 24/7 in the design studios with all of the other architecture majors. You will an intense social life comprised of pooling change for a coffee run, and sharing ideas when you hit metaphorical brick walls in your design projects. I say enjoy this quiet time while it lasts. Pretty soon you won’t have the time or energy to complain about anything.

This wasn’t, I don’t think, directed at me, but I’ll bite: Having looked inside myself, I empathize with the OP, but continue to believe that developing a social life is the responsibility of the individual, not their school.

So pretty much by definition, I’m going to argue that it’s the OP’s job to correct the problem. This is not a reflection of a lack of empathy, it’s a reflection of social realities, and the fact (yes, fact) that even at the most commuterish of commuter schools, the student body isn’t a monolithic group.

And clearly the OP is attempting to do just that.

Or did that part of the empathy train pass you and the other person by this morning?

the OP has reached out to the larger community for advice, that;s part of fixing the problem. The OP is stating that he/she is attempting to make friends on campus and the OP is looking at other options, like maybe just maybe this school isn’t right for him/her.

That’s also valid. If he/she was miserable at a job would you say: stick with it. it’s a great job. look inside yourself to fix the job.

Or would you say, Hm OP interesting question. Let’s look at your options . . . .

Giving advice you don’t like≠showing a lack of empathy.

And that’s all I have to say on this digression, really.

A few comments…

– Is it even possible to go to an expensive school? Where will you get the money from? The amount of debt one can take out as a student is very lmiited. Are your parents able to take out a tremendous amount of debt and would they be willing to do so? The money has to come from somewhere. Every year there are people on CC who get themselves into a jam by choosing an unaffordable school and then realizing the money won’t just come to them so they have to transfer after a semester or so – that is a situation you want to avoid. It is not as easy as saying “I’ll take out loans” – you need to have the financing mechanism in place before you consider transferring.

–Have you assessed the practicality of living under a tremendous amount of debt for years and years? You may not be able to take that great job if a boring job pays more and you need the money to repay debt. You may not be able to get a loan for the house or car that you want. The need to repay a huge amount of debt will handcuff your life choices for decades.

–As a commuting student it typically takes a concerted effort and being proactive to make friends and create a life on campus. Have you done everything possible to see out friends at your school? Have you joined clubs? Have you tried to make friends from class? Do you stay at the school during the day or do you just come and go for classes? Have you tried to engage your peers and professors in the architecture department outside of class? And since you are living at home do you have any HS friends around? Have you become active in your community?

–Have you tried to look at the bright side? I understand completely that your situation is not ideal. But try to consider just how many people in the country and throughout the world would do almost anything to have the opportunity to attend a 4 year college in the US and graduate debt free. And you have the chance to study something that you find exciting and that seems to be a great fit for your skill set. Life isn’t perfect but try to think of the glass as half full.

– You may want to seek out counseling at your school. It never hurts to talk things through with a professional. The counselor may have ideas to get your more involved in campus life as well.

–I believe architects need a Masters degree so you may want to stay put for the 4 years of your bachelors degree and then try to upgrade your school when it is time for a masters program. The masters degree will be shorter (hence less debt) and will likely be your terminal degree in the field.

I hope you can work to create a happier life, pursue your profession, and find some peace.

The first professional degree in architecture can be a BArch or MArch (NAAB accredited degrees). Note that BArch programs are five year programs. MArch programs are commonly three year programs, but may be shorter, particularly if the student has a BA/BS in architecture (not NAAB accredited) or BArch.

The OP did not indicate whether s/he is in a BArch program or a BA/BS program in architecture.

Blaming the person is lack of empathy.

There is a difference between blaming the person and saying “there are things you can do to address the issue.” The latter is true – there is plenty that is within OP’s abilities to try and improve the situation.

A couple questions …do you normally have an easy time socially and aren’t there some other local people to hang with since you are also still close to home?

Again, even commuter schools have activities or various ways to integrate, including in the dept. If this is one with literally nothing, even profs shutter up after class, then OP may need to find this interaction elsewhere.

I’m sorry you are feeling this, it is hard when the college experience is not what someone once hoped it would be. It is a time for making friends to take forward in life, and although there will be other chances to do this, it is hard to be lonely in college. Have you looked at options where you could transfer and it is in between cheap and expensive? Someone mentioned your in-state schools. Can you tell us what state you are in so we can offer some ideas? Even a couple hours away can feel far - you don’t have to go across the country or OOS and pay a lot of money. A lot of kids transfer schools - keep in mind transfer applications are generally due Feb 1st (however the UCs were due Nov 30, so check dates at various schools) so you should be looking into that now and get things rolling over the holidays should you decide that is the right path for you.

I am not advocating transferring or staying, but if you are at all serious about a change, you need to get familiar with the dates and process as part of your overall decision.