Freshmen: Worried You Picked the Wrong College?

Should I stay or should I go? That's the question on the minds of many college students this holiday season. As they return home to be with family and friends over winter break, many students are thinking about whether they are happy with their school. Learn 10 questions that can be helpful in gauging whether a college is a good fit.

By Douglas Fehlen

tips for changing colleges

1. Do academics meet your expectations?

Academics were likely a primary factor in choosing a college, and they may be a source of dissatisfaction now. Maybe the courses you're interested in haven't been offered. Classes might seem too easy so that you feel unchallenged. In considering academics, keep in mind that many general ed courses are similar between institutions. Most important to evaluate are courses in your major.

2. Are you satisfied with faculty members and university officials?

Closely intertwined with a school's academics is instructor quality. You might feel that courses are poorly taught, or that professors, teaching assistants and advisors are unresponsive. You may also feel support lacking from administrative officials when it comes to non-academic matters. An institution is largely made of the people who operate it. You should have faith that they are competent and helpful.

3. Do you like where the school is located?

This question can be tricky because many factors can make a location seem undesirable. Perhaps you feel you're too far from family and friends. (Many experts caution against attending a school solely based on its proximity to home.) Maybe you're a city person who feels bored on a rural campus. Whatever the case, being happy with where you live is an important aspect of your well being.

4. How's your social life?

Another important quality-of-life factor is your social life on campus. Having at least a couple friends at college is important, and hopefully you have a wider network. Not having any friends can indicate that your values aren't especially well represented in a school's student body. Without friends on campus, school can be very difficult - especially if you are studying far away from home.

5. Are you involved in extracurricular activities at school?

Related to the 'friend factor' is your level of activity at college. Maybe you don't feel an institution features extracurricular activities that match your interests. Or these activities might be offered - through student clubs, intramural leagues or community courses - but student interest is low. It can be hard to feel comfortable if you feel a school lacks campus pursuits or events that are appealing to you.

6. Can you afford your school?

College costs are rising dramatically at institutions throughout the U.S. Students are taking on greater levels of debt, and many have to work long hours to afford school. If you're worried about the amount of college debt you're taking on or are overburdened with a job, you may want to consider other postsecondary options. Perhaps there is a comparable school that is cheaper or that would offer more aid.

7. Do you have a specialized major?

Getting back to academics, you might have a specialized major it would be best to pursue at a different school. Students often don't choose a major until their second year of school. You might find yourself in a position where the school you initially chose just isn't a good fit for the academic goals you now have. Maybe a school doesn't have the major, or stronger programs are available elsewhere.

8. Are you facing any extenuating circumstances?

Students change schools for many reasons. For some, it's a major life event that is the impetus. Perhaps a difficult family situation makes it important for you to attend a college that's closer to home. That same idea might apply if you have a health condition or face other circumstances that make it hard to be away from your support network of family members and friends.

9. Do you feel like you're just going through the motions?

Some students feel ambivalent about college. Perhaps they started out enthusiastically, but their experience has caused them to lose heart. If this sounds like you, it's possible a different institution could rekindle the fire. Bear in mind, though, that individuals for whom college was just the 'next thing to do' after high school may be ready for a pursuit outside of higher education.

10. Do you genuinely believe a change is right for you?

Transferring to a different college can be time consuming and difficult. Credits may not fully transfer to another institution. You might have to incur additional tuition costs and push back your graduation date. For these and other reasons it is important to feel confident in your decision to attend another school. You don't want to go through all the trouble only to one day regret your decision.

Learn more about the pros and cons of transferring to another college.

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