I Almost Transferred Schools. Here's Why I Didn't.

TW: anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts

All throughout my senior year of high school, I wanted nothing more than to go off to college. When I got there, all I wanted to do was leave.

My story with college is long and complicated. It is emotional, honest, and extremely personal; nothing here is sugar coated. I wrote this because I wanted people to know that it is okay to have a rough time at college, and regardless of how lonely you feel, I promise there is someone out there who is going through the exact same thing. A way to break the stigma around mental health is to start having real, transparent, and open conversations about it, and this is that.

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During April of my senior year, all anyone would ask me is, “Where are you going to college?” and truthfully, I had no idea. I was accepted to my dream school, but with a ticket price of $78,000 per year, there was no way I could go. I remember crying when I had gotten my financial aid package, and regardless of contacting that school about scholarships or grant money, none were available. I was so devastated because I had worked so hard all throughout high school, and my college acceptances reflected that. I had gotten into exclusive and prestigious universities, but since I could not afford them, I was more unsure than ever about where I would commit. With decision day coming up in two weeks, I had to quickly narrow my choices down. Honestly, choosing a school felt like a coin toss.

Because of this, I felt super rushed in my decision-making process. My Instagram feed was flooded with seniors announcing where they were going, and I felt like I had to commit ASAP to fit in with everyone else. I committed to Susquehanna University, but I was still really unsure. I didn’t know a lot about the school in general, but since they offered my major (Biomedical Science), I knew that for now, it would be fine.

After I joined the class of 2024 Facebook group and started to meet more people, I was more excited. I started buying Susquehanna merch, texting people in my major, found my roommate, and was counting down the days until move in. I felt like everything I had worked for lead me to this point, but eventually, the closer I got to move in, the more anxious I became, and I still wasn’t sure if Susquehanna was the place I was truly meant to be at.

No one talks about how hard the transition to college can be. No one talks about how difficult it is to say goodbye to your family and pets. No one talks about homesickness and how scary it can be to be on your own. No one talks about the divide it can bring between you and your siblings. Everyone told me how amazing college is, but it was not amazing for me. My first semester was border-line traumatic.

When I got to campus, my anxiety was legitimately the worst it had ever been. It manifested itself in a lot of physical symptoms. I was constantly nauseous to the point where I couldn’t eat, I either slept all day or didn’t sleep at all, I was hyper-aware of everything and had several panic attacks for the first time in years. I felt like such a burden because I was dealing with such bad mental health issues, and I thought no one wanted to be my friend because of it. When I went to class, I felt so sick and could not retain anything that was being taught. I was not focused on learning; I was focused on surviving and just making it to the end of the day. I felt incredibly lonely and like if I disappeared, no one at school or back home would care. I didn’t tell anyone how bad my depression or anxiety had gotten, but to my few friends, it was obvious I was not okay.

Halfway through the semester, I moved back home.

I ended up applying as a transfer in October to a school about 40 minutes from my house. In high school, I never imagined myself going there. However, the familiarity of central Maryland was comforting, and I really liked the school. I got into their Honors College and even ended up getting a scholarship from them. They had a more specific major that better aligned with my career goals, I could come home anytime I wanted to, the campus was incredible, and my absolute best friend from high school goes there. It was a new start and had everything I could ever want. I really resonated with the quote, “You cannot heal in an environment that broke you.” Because of it, I was positive I was going to transfer.

However, over Winter break, I became really close with a few of my friends from Susquehanna. They became my people and it's cheesy, but I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Even when I was remote, I came up to campus a few times to see them. Every time I visited, I became a little bit more comfortable with the campus, and the last time I went up, I wasn’t anxious at all—I actually wanted to stay longer. I was just starting to feel like maybe I could fit in here and the idea of once again having to move somewhere new and make more friends was overwhelming. I realized that if I left Susquehanna, I would be leaving my best friends, too.

After starting my second semester, I started going up to campus pretty often and met a bunch of genuine people who have turned into my friends. People actually knew who I was, and I didn’t feel so invisible anymore. I really like my professors and knew that in the Fall 2021 semester, I could take classes with some of them again. It has taken months, but I have slowly regained the sense that I belong. I have found my best friends and have fallen in love with Susquehanna. I am still healing from the pain of the first semester, and while I may never be able to get over it, I can still make more experiences and grow around it.

Going to college can be really challenging. I was not prepared for how being away from home in a new environment would affect me. My experience definitely is not what the majority of college students face; however, I know I’m not the only one. College isn’t always “the best time of your life," and that’s okay. If you are miserable, it’s okay to take a year off, and it’s okay to transfer. Most importantly, remember that there is nothing wrong if your path doesn’t look like everyone else’s. There is no “right way” to go through college or life.