23 answers

College Student Who Hates Her College

I have a 18yr old who just started college. Its been a rough start to say the least for her. She is attending a very Large college (33,000) and Its considered the number 12 party school in the u.s. Needless to say she picked this college for the writing program and not for the party part but is having a hard time fitting in because she doesnt drink. She also says she hates campus because it is so hard to get around. (busing is the only way) Well I understand her dislikes, I dont just want her to give in and not try. On the other hand she is so unhappy. I incouraged her to get out and meet people and so she decided to go to a meet and greet with another floor from a different dorm. They were to all meet in the caf. and get something to eat and sit together. After she got there, got her food and was walking over to the tables she fell on a wet floor and all her food ended up on her head. She had to leave and shower and after would not go back because she was embarassed :/ My question is should I help her look into smaller colleges so she can transfer at the end of the semester (told her she HAD to at least give it a try for that long)
or just keep pushing her out there? She doesnt ask to come home and says she is not homesick but just doesnt like the campus :/

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Just an update on what I've done so far. My daughter is still attending the same college and has started working two jobs (about 25 hours total per week) one on campus as the desk clerk at her dorm and another at a mall. This has helped a little because she is busy and not complaining :p she still hasn't met any friends or found her group (prob. cuz she is going 24-7) We have talked about her wanting to move to a smaller school where she can do cheer leading and choir and other stuff of her interests. I told her she could go to a expensive local college if she lived at home (her response was NO WAY am I moving back home lol) so I am going to take her on a couple of smaller college visits and wait for her to fill out the application and start the process if she decides it something she wants to do. In the mean time still encouraging her to get involved on campus as much as she can in hopes that things will get better where she is :)

Thanks to all of you for the great advice!

Featured Answers

I personally do not think college is for everyone. Maybe she should take a break and get a job in the field that she likes and see if she even NEEDS a degree......

If she hates it that bad, I think you should let her step out of it. Sit down with her and have a heart to heart and see what SHE wants to truely do. It is her life. If she quits, she can always start up again. My sister went to college when she was about 25. AND her JOB PAYED for part of it!!! So she may be better off waiting.

Good luck.

Have her rush!! In other words have her look into the Greek houses on campus. I was not really a drinker, and I wasn't really a fan of being around a bunch of girls but it was an amazing experience for me and many of my friends. I got to know many other 1st years and we did a lot of volunteer work and I skipped the big parties. Many of the houses are dry now so you can't drink in them unless they have houses outside of campus. Don't believe all the stuff you see on TV they help with grades because you have to keep a GPA to stay in the house, they will help with jobs and housing. It will make her stay a little more fun. It was what saved me from leaving campus early the first year! Lots of luck and have her try to rush even if she doesn't like the idea she will meet friends and she doesn't have to pick a house to rush it's a great way to meet people w/o getting into a house.

More Answers

As hard as it is to allow her to figure this out herself, that is what you need to do. She is the one who is going through the experience and needs to take control of her life.

Just listen, supportively. With you as an understanding soundboard for her struggles, she WILL figure it out. Settle in with the phone when she calls. Listen for ways that you can show support and faith in her abilities to handle this regardless of her decision. Validate her feelings. Empathize. Ask questions that encourage her to use resources like, "what does your advisor think about that?" or, "has your RA been helpful?"

If your daughter asks you directly what to do, just help her think through everything by gently asking her more problem-solving questions.

I know this is difficult, because I have two children in college! It's quite a shift from our role when they are living at home. At this point, though, they are adults and bear the responsibility for their own decisions. It's kind of nice, once you get used to it, to see how they really can do this, and to no longer be the decision-maker for anyone except one's self!

1 mom found this helpful

Years ago I read a quote that served me well as my daughters were growing up. It was "A mother is not to lean on, but to make leaning unnecessary." At this point in her life it is time to listen and love, but not make decisions for her or try to direct her. Assure her that you trust her to figure it out, even if it's rough for a while. If she asks you what to do, ask her what she wants--and encourage her to trust her wants and follow them.
Find some other interests of your own, too, so you can model independence and moving forward for her. Love, guide, and let go. Take a deep breath and celebrate how far you've come in your mom-journey!

1 mom found this helpful

I think you should help her look into smaller schools, especially since the commitment is already made through the semester. There is no harm in the looking and it communicates clearly to her that you are on her side and working FOR her, not against her wishes. That is so important at these ages when our children are really becoming very independent, but still need us to support them. The harder she feels you are working for her own cause, the more apt she will be to listen to what you have to say in general. And in the meantime she will be meeting people, learning the bus routes/schedules, etc..., getting used to all of the details concerning her classes and campus life, and moving that meet and greet episode farther and farther back in history! (You and I know that time will eventually change it from mortifying to funny--but don't tell her that just yet:))

It is so difficult to be 18 and in a new situation like she is. I would say have her hang in there for at least a semester. She will find friends as she goes to classes and just hangs out on campus. If this school has the best program for her then she needs to stick it out. She will be fine.

I would let her decide how seriously she dislikes the place by leaving it up to her to apply to other schools, find out when/how she could transfer, etc. In other words, don't discourage her, but don't help either. If she really does not like it there, she will take the initiative, transfer and hopefully end up in a place more to her liking.

It sounds like she is having trouble finding the kind of people she wants to hang out with -- people who are into writing and not drinking. Is there an Honors College, or a writing club / newspaper etc that she could explore joining? Once she finds "her" people she might be completely happy. But she needs to do a more focused search, not just meet people from another dorm. Unfortunately freshman dorm life can indeed be dominated by the desire to fit in, which most often translates into accepting the culture of partying and drinking. If you are not into that, it's easy to feel like an alien. I am not sure that smaller colleges are any different in this aspect -- I just really don't know.

Just one more note: Great unhappiness your freshman year can really cause havoc on your academics. For this reason alone, and in order to support your daughter's writing aspirations, I would suggest being supportive of her efforts to change schools, if that is what she decides to pursue.

But again, I think the best measure of how seriously she wants to go will be the amount of time and effort she will put into finding a different school. Support her in that.

K.,

You know your daughter best. Was she outgoing in high school or more of a homebody. My youngest is now in her second year at school five hours away. I remember hoping that she would "fit in" and find her place. Luckily she was one of the few who had a great roommate and they were friends right off the bat. You say she isn't asking to come home so maybe she could just try it for this first semester while she figures out somewhere smaller to go to school. If she starts sounding totally depressed, etc. I would no doubt bring her home. The money would be wasted but really if she is miserable how can she focus? I've always been a stick-it-out kind of mom but if she's is miserable, she's miserable.

It sometimes takes quite a while to make it feel like home. One thing I'd like to say about the drinking - I had friends that never drank, but you wouldn't really know it - a glass full of 7-up is ambiguous - it doesn't mean you can't join in the fun.

I went to a large college, too (large # of people AND a large campus--bussing required, unless you had a bike). It does take some time to get adjusted, but I would give it a year, actually--usually by the end of the first semester, you are just finally getting into the swing of things so the 2nd semester goes better. And one thing you can do as a mom that my parents did was send me cards and a "care package" on a regular basis full of little treats and goodies. She'll start meeting people from her classes and it'll get better!

This is a hard call to make. Large and small colleges have so many organizations and groups that I would imagine she can find one with her interests. Does she have a roommate? My daughter met a few people through her roommate and vice versa. She also got involved in intramurals and met people. My daughter has a friend who transferred from a large to smaller college and she is so glad she did. She had professors and other staff calling her by her first name in the first week and never had that at the larger college. That is one of the reasons my daughter chose her college (smaller). She wanted to be a person not a number. If you daughter isnt incredibly homesick and is doing okay with classes maybe she could stick it out and remember the reasons she chose this college. However if she doesnt feel right and it's not a healthy enviroment it's not bad to explore other options. If you wait to long to transfer and don't communicate well about college credits it can be like starting over again and taking same classes all over again. If she "hates" it she should explore. If she is adjusting to a new place and routine she might surprise herself at how grown up she feels for working through this. Good Luck to you both.

I can speak from personal experience here. When I first went to college, I was at a smaller university in a small town. I lived in the dorms and made a lot of friends that way. After two years, due to a change in career plans, I moved to a large city and went to a large university. I lived off campus. The university had a larger amount of people that drove in from the suburbs, so it was really tough to meet people. I was MISERABLE for the first semester, but, sometime during the second semester I found some friends and ended up staying (I almost moved back to the previous school even though they didn't have the degree I was interested in). I know you told her to try it for a semester, but I recommend staying the full year. It took that long at this large university for me to meet people that I enjoyed spending time with. Now I can honestly say that moving to that large city was the best thing I ever did. I met so many people with so many backgrounds. I became a more tolerant, well rounded person and discovered all kinds of interests that I would have never even encountered at the previous university. Encourage her to keep looking for things the university or city offers that are of interest to her. Whatever you decide to do, good luck to you both. I'm sure my Mom was VERY worried about me that year (lots of tears on my part), but I made it through and am a better person for it.

I would encourage her to stick it out, maybe even beyond the semester through the first year. I remember a lot of classmates that talked about transferring in the first semester and by the end of it everyone was settled in and happy where they were. Especially if she likes the classes and the program she's in, I would remind her that getting adjusted and meeting people takes more than a couple of weeks. I went to a smaller school and it was hard for me to find a group of friends at first too. A smaller school doesn't necessarily mean those things are easier. My husband went to U of I for pre-med, did not drink and managed to find quiet places to study (even in the "jock" dorm) and friends who had similar interests. I really think she just needs to give it time, and to seek out groups in her major or other interests and she'll get settled in after a while.

If she lives in a dorm you can check with her RA to see the make up of her floor. Is she on an all girls floor or a coed floor? Maybe she would be more at ease on a different floor. I started Iowa State on a coed floor and loved it and was very involved in my floor's activities. Later on I moved to a girls floor and did not like it as much and wasn't as involved. This didn't matter at that time since I was already into my second year and had developed several friendships outside of my dorm floor with people in my major. You can also have her look into organizations in her major. There are usually groups or clubs within Majors... for example the Chemistry department has SCUM (Society of Chemestry Undergraduate Majors). Becoming involved with others in the same major can also help her socialize with others who are focused on the same goals as she is and get her involved in activities that the group does. The group I was involved with organized a trip to Minneapolis for group members and other university students to go to the art museums and to take in a play. Don't give up. If she truly does not like the school then make it her responsibility to search for a different school and apply. Help her as necessary. Remind her that school is not only about her studies but is all about change and diversity. We have the same issues once we get out of school and some of our best lessons are learning to adapt to these situations while we are in school. Good Luck!

One of my good friends got a full ride football scholarship to a University. He never was a partier or anything like that, he called me not even two weeks into being there and said I'm coming home, I can't do it. He later explained that it was just not possible to sleep before 3 am (cause of the parties in the dorm) and then going to school and football practice, he couldn't do homework cause he was flat out exhausted. He found a smaller college, lived off campus and had a wonderful experience.

My husband and I both went to a small private college (where we met =Þ)

Whatever you do, tell her that you will support her decision, don't let her think that you will be mad if she transfers out, encourage her to stay in college no matter what. I'm don't think that I would tell her what to do, but I do not think throwing some options out there for her would be wrong and I think encouraging her to stay where she is till the end of the semester is a good thing. She is in college, she is busy; you might ask her what she does like about the school and what she wants and if she would like you to look into other options and then you can better inform her in her next decision.

Good luck, finding where you belong is always hard!

You have a lot of responses so I will try to keep this short. I went to a small college and I also seldom drink...I had a hard time fitting in. I really don't think it will make a difference if she is at a small or large college...she just needs to find a group of friends with similar interest and that can take some time no matter what size the college is. Is there anything thing else she is interested in that she can meet people, church or something. It doesn't sound like she is depressed about it (which is something to look out for). I think she will be fine once she becomes familar with the campus and starts meeting people in her classes.

I went to the University of Iowa, I'm guessing that may be your party school, and I didn't participate in the drinking at all while I was there. I wouldn't look into moving her yet, but really push for her to get involved. It's hard to make friends the first semester. What are her interests? There's a campus group for just about everything. There's an office of student life (or called something similar) that could probably help find a group. There's groups based on religion, major, causes, interests, you name it. If she is at the UI and you need help with contacts, let me know, since I work there.
A.

I agree you should continue to encourage her to stay through the semester. Let her make the final decision about whether or not to stay at the college or look for something smaller. Be supportive in whatever she chooses. And I agree with others who have said to help her problem solve but don't tell her what to do. Encourage her to look for groups on campus that she can get involved with. There are usually religious centered groups or activity centered groups that don't involve drinking. She could check with Student Services to see if they have a list of groups on campus. That was what helped me to get through my first year of college--those small groups that I had a common interest with.

I went to a small college and just loved it. I don't think I would have liked a big college as much. She might just be one of those people who need a smaller college. College isn't going to go very well for her if she isn't happy! Just for your information...Iowa has a lot of great small colleges! I went to one in Iowa and my sister is at one right now.

Good Luck!!! K.

It sounds like a serious case of separation anxiety. Realistically, she will probably not be able to transfer to a new school within the next few days..let alone by next semester. She'll probably have to go through the same stressful, and tedious and unpredictable application process she went through last year, just to get into yet another school. And she'll be doing it, while trying to attend classes etc. at the current school, unless she totally drops out. And that has it's own problems in itself. And after all of that, what's she going to do if she hates the new school as well?

I guess the question is, does she want to risk taking time off from school before she gets started? Not to mention she may lose all of that money you've invested so far such as fees, books, housing, etc. She also risks losing any credits she's earned which could mean she'll spend up to an extra year in school just to get a degree.

I suggest she sticks it out for the semester or until she actually gets accepted into a school/program she likes. She can begin sending applications out now, while she continues with her current school. In that window of time (between now and being accepted somewhere new), she'll know for sure if she's not cut out for this school, or if it's just a tough case of Freshman jitters.

I suspect, as soon as she meets friends she's simpatico with, or even finds that "special someone" if she doesn't already have one, she'll more than likely come around and think the school is just "great". I guess, short of the writing program being a total stinker, or she changes her major, I think she's just going through adjustments and will be fine. She just might take a little longer than some kids.

Meanwhile, send her lots of care packages, call her lots (maybe even a couple of times during the day until she makes some friends or feels more secure), or at least until she starts giving you hints to back off, and visit as much as possible.

As for the embarrassing moment in the cafeteria...tell her about my friend who was the school's mascot one year. At the big homecoming game, he was doing all sorts of acrobatics and rah-rah's to get the crowds going at the big aftergame bon fire during a live newscast. He didn't know he got too close to the bon fire and that his "tail" was on fire while he and some cheerleaders were interviewed. Right in the middle of the live report, he smelled smoke (so did everyone else), started screaming, burst into a huge ball of flames, knocked down everyone standing there on live t-v with him, and began running like a maniac screaming wildly, until some people from the crowd jumped him and smothered him with their tail-gating blankets. AS hideous as it all was, everyone, I mean everyone in the crowd and even the reporter was totally cracking up. The whole thing was so surreal, it almost seemed like a planned comedy routine. Unfortunately, he was far from laughing.

Luckily, he was not burned though the school's official costume was totally trashed! He was embarrassed! He got teased and terrorised for a long time about it. But he got over it. Funny in retrospect, but horrible things ironically always are if you get through them unscathed.

I think you are right to have her give it a chance for at least a semester. Has she thought about going through sorority rush? I was always VERY shy through high school and it was my sister-in-law that really encouraged me to go through rush. I am so glad I did! I found a sorority that welcomed me with open arms and helped bring me out of my shell in so many ways. All sororities do not necessarily push the drinking. I was never a drinker and even though people would often ask if I would like something, I just politely said no. Nobody pressured me beyond that.
If Greek life is not for your daughter, there are service sorority and fraternities on campus as well as tons of other organizations to become involved with. If writing is her thing, I am sure there are groups geared towards that and there is also the school paper to be involved with. It is a tough transition especially if you don't know anyone. I didn't know a single person at my school, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and found it was relatively easy. Good luck to her and I hope everything gets better!!!

A.

OH, I feel for your daughter. College can be the best years of a person's life, but also the most difficult- especially if you have problems fitting in. IT's tough to be a small fish in a huge ocean!! I agree with the previous poster that your daughter needs to focus on finding specialized groups of people with her interests, such as a writing group. Has she considered rushing a sorority? I know some people have bad things to say about them, but I was in one and it was wonderful. The great thing about a sorority, especially at a large school, is you are able to be in an established small group of women who share your attitude- and she can pick which one she wants to join. Mine was full of intelligent, driven and straight-laced women whose main concerns were academics, not partying and boys. She may want to look into that. As for transferring, I would encourage her to try and stick it out- it takes a good few months to really find your grove at school and it would be a shame for her to miss out on the writing program because she's having a tough time. That being said, if, as the weeks go on, things are not getting significantly better and she is truly miserable, then by all means help her transfer. She could always come back and take some classes at a community college while she reapplies at a four-year. But, you want her to focus her energy on meeting people at her current school, not trying to get into another one. Just keep being positive for her and reassuring her things will get better- she will meet people. Good luck!!

Have her rush!! In other words have her look into the Greek houses on campus. I was not really a drinker, and I wasn't really a fan of being around a bunch of girls but it was an amazing experience for me and many of my friends. I got to know many other 1st years and we did a lot of volunteer work and I skipped the big parties. Many of the houses are dry now so you can't drink in them unless they have houses outside of campus. Don't believe all the stuff you see on TV they help with grades because you have to keep a GPA to stay in the house, they will help with jobs and housing. It will make her stay a little more fun. It was what saved me from leaving campus early the first year! Lots of luck and have her try to rush even if she doesn't like the idea she will meet friends and she doesn't have to pick a house to rush it's a great way to meet people w/o getting into a house.

My advice would be to let her transfer at the end of the semester. I feel this way because college is hard and requires a lot of study if a child is going to succeed. It is hard to put that much effort into studies when you are miserable. This seems to be negatively affecting her. College should be an exciting time. I have several nieces who have transferred to other colleges and excelled so I have no negative experiences toward changing schools if one doesn’t fill the student’s needs. Good luck to you. As parents we all want to make the best decisions for our children.
R. D.

I personally do not think college is for everyone. Maybe she should take a break and get a job in the field that she likes and see if she even NEEDS a degree......

If she hates it that bad, I think you should let her step out of it. Sit down with her and have a heart to heart and see what SHE wants to truely do. It is her life. If she quits, she can always start up again. My sister went to college when she was about 25. AND her JOB PAYED for part of it!!! So she may be better off waiting.

Good luck.

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