My obsession with the idea of college started sometime in middle school and continued over the next several years of my life. For me, high school was simply something to get through. I couldn’t have cared less about dances and pep rallies; instead, I spent my teenage years with my nose in a college rankings book, dreaming of ivy-covered buildings, reading on the quad and late-night studying in coffee shops.
I ended up applying to 11 colleges (much to my parents’ and guidance counselor’s chagrin) and ultimately decided to attend a private university in Boston. It was everything I thought I wanted in a school: location in a big city, great co-op and study abroad programs, diverse and academically driven student body and most importantly, it was far, far away from home.
During my freshman year, I made some great memories and a couple of close friends who managed to keep me sane. Yet, I kept waiting for that “this is where I’m supposed to be” feeling, and it never came. I was in love with Boston, but the school itself was nothing like I expected. I was disappointed by my classes and the lack of school community, but the main problem was that I just didn’t fit in. I had thrown myself into the unfamiliar world of private-school kids who could afford to fly to Europe for spring break and go shopping at Chanel in between classes (true story). I also realized that I would be accumulating $9,000 a year in student loans, all to go to a “good school” that I didn’t even like. For all my research, I was unprepared for what it feels like to be totally and completely out of your element.
I applied to a few different schools for transfer at the end of the year but convinced myself to stick it out, mainly for the study abroad program and co-op opportunities. I was optimistic about starting my second year, but a month into the semester I was crying on the phone to my parents, begging them to let me drop out. And just like that, I went from college-obsessed to college drop-out.
After a few months of soul searching (a.k.a. a lot of Netflix, spending time with good friends and experiencing at least one quarter-life crisis per week), I decided to transfer to a college in closer to home. I knew, deep down, that I was making a logical decision, but realizing that I had ended up back where I started was pretty hard to swallow. In many ways, I felt like a failure like I was somehow letting myself, and others, down. But changing your priorities or following a new dream doesn’t make you a failure; it makes you human.
Needless to say, my roller coaster of a college transfer experience taught me a lot. Life is unexpected, paths change, and no amount of planning can prepare you for what’s to come. I think that some of the happiest people are the ones who dive headfirst into life without over-analyzing every possible outcome. As soon as you start looking for all the negative reasons not to do something, you’re never going to see the positive.
I could have never predicted the path my life would take, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how happy I am to be where I am. We all have our own paths to follow, whether they are conventional or not, and when it comes to figuring out what the next step is, there is no such thing as “supposed to.” All of this is to say that if you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t feel right, college or otherwise, follow your gut, even if it means taking a step back to re-evaluate your life or taking a path you never even considered.
Who knows, you might just surprise yourself.