I’m just not happy at college.

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“Everyone says that college is the best four years of your life, but so far it’s been pretty hard and lonely. Why does it seem like everyone else is doing so much better than me? I’m wondering if I picked the wrong school and maybe need to transfer.”

Listen to me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. A lot of students feel this way.

It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people say “college is the best four years of your life.” Why? Because it sets you up for ridiculously high and, in my opinion, false expectations. Yes, college is amazing. You get to taste freedom and independence with very little responsibility. You get to be involved in things that grow you and excite you. You are surrounded by community and friends you can play with at any hour of the day. All of those things are great, but it doesn’t mean that college comes without hardship, without challenges, or without times of feeling lonely or discouraged.

So, if you’re feeling like college has been a bit of a let down, you are not alone. You have not failed. This is normal.

Now, first things first.

If you are a freshman or transfer student feeling this way, I need to remind you that you have been at school for about 8-9 weeks. That’s it. I know it feels like you’ve been there a while, but it’s barely been over 2 months. Think about your best friends from home. How long did it take for you to build those friendships? I’d bet a lot of money that it took way more time than just 8-9 weeks. Any time you move and have to begin creating new friendships it takes time. In my experience, it’s taken me about a year to start making a new place really feel life home, really feel like I’ve found my place.

You need to give yourself some grace, some more time, and be patient with the process.

You have half a semester left and I promise you, if you are putting in the effort, you will know more people and have better friendships at the end of the semester than you do today. However, you may leave school for the winter break and not really want to go back. And that’s okay. That’s normal too. I remember liking my first semester, but would have been just fine staying home after winter break. Nothing made me excited about going back to school. Again, that is totally normal, just don’t let it prevent you from going back to school.

You may finish your entire freshman year, go home for the summer, and still not be pumped about going back to school. Is that normal? Yes! Is that everyone’s experience? No, but let me say it again: For only being at college for 9 months out of the year, it’s okay if it doesn’t feel like home yet or you still don’t have a deep sense of belonging or community. Remember, those things take time.

Now, a note about comparing yourself to others.

“It seems like everyone else is doing so much better than me.” Sure. For some people change, transition, making new friends, making a new home comes easier. But not everyone is over the moon about their college experience. And a lot of people are faking it till they make it. Don’t be afraid to ask others how they are really doing. They may be struggling just as much as you are, but are afraid to admit it. Most people who feel this way also feel like they are the only ones who feel that way. You can be the person who is honest with others about how the college transition has been for you. I think you’ll be surprised at how many others agree it’s been tough, once they hear you share.

One final comment. You threw out the idea of transferring. Please, please, please don’t transfer until you’ve been at college for a full year. Please don’t transfer after one semester. Living in a place for 4 months is not enough time to judge it and jump ship. Give your college campus a full year, then reassess. I was a transfer student and it absolutely was the right decision for me to transfer. But I transferred due to financial reasons, wanting to be closer to home, and changing my major. NOT because my first semester wasn’t as amazing as everyone said it would be.

It will get better. I promise you that. But it takes time and effort.

Has anyone else felt this way? What was the turning point for you? Any advice for our friend?

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