College is a time for both excitement and anxiety. You get to make your own life, be your own person and find your own faith. You are away from home, often for the first time, leaving old friends behind and building a future. College brings huge life changes and adjustments, which can be stressful.
In fact, there’s so much adjustment at college that I think everyone wonders at some point whether or not they should really be there.
Questions like the following flitted through my mind all through college, and sometimes led to calling my mom in tears:
- Did I choose the right college?
- Did I choose the right degree program?
- Should I even be in college at all?
I often wondered if I would be of more use to the Lord if I were on the mission field instead of in the classroom. But in the end, the right answer for me personally was to stay in college. By 25 I even had my master’s degree, which opened doors to where God wanted me to be.
Asking “Should I go back to college next semester?” is a tough question, but also a very normal question. For some people the answer is yes, and for some it’s no. It takes discernment to figure out which answer is right for you, so the most important piece of advice I can give is this:
Get advice from people you trust.
Proverbs 11:14 (ESV) says, “When there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
When our emotions feel overwhelming, it’s easy to make an emotionally based decision, which sometimes is not the best choice. This is why seeking wise counsel is important.
Ask for advice from a range of people who know you well, both from home and from college—friends and your parents and other adults. As you talk with the people you trust, you’ll often find themes beginning to emerge.
If there’s a general consensus of people saying, “You know, I think you should take this semester off,” then maybe you should. If they’re all saying, “I think you should stick it out,” then that might be the right answer for you.
Pray about what you’re hearing, and make a decision based on wisdom rather than just emotion.
As you’re making this decision, keep two things in mind:
1. Feeling disappointed in college is often caused by unmet expectations.
I went to college fully expecting my roommate and I would be BFFs, and I’d immediately find the friends I’d searched for all my life.
I did find those friends. In fact, the roommate from my second year of college was one of my bridesmaids, eight years after graduating. However, those friendships didn’t happen during my first semester of college. It took time.
Trust and comfort are built over time; therefore, making close friendships takes time. My first year living at college was actually pretty lonely, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake. But as the months progressed, I began to build lasting friendships.
When we feel disappointed in college, sometimes it’s because our expectations were unrealistic. Ask yourself (and the people you trust):
- What expectations did I have for college, and have they been met?
- If they haven’t been met, is it realistic to expect they should have been met by now?
- If so, would they be better solved by taking a semester off or by pushing through the disappointment?
2. Feeling disappointed in college is sometimes caused by fixable situations.
If you’re in a funk, or even depressed, at college, ask yourself what is causing those feelings.
If you’re working through a serious issue like depression, an eating disorder or substance abuse, then talk with your medical/professional treatment team as well as some trusted adults and friends. See if they think taking a semester off would be beneficial for you.
However, see if your negative feelings might be caused by certain situations. Here are a few common causes of feeling depressed at college:
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of healthy food
- Stress from homework, sports and/or extracurricular activities
- Not getting enough sunlight
- Relationship struggles (e.g., a breakup, feeling like you have few friends)
- Moving away from home and being in a new environment
If these situations are causing you to feel depressed about college, then addressing the underlying issue may help you feel a lot better automatically. Here are some examples of how to do this:
- You could drop an extracurricular activity to make more time for sleep and exercise.
- You could meet with the health center to come up with a plan for getting better nutrition in the dining hall.
- You could meet with the free and confidential counseling center at your college to talk through a breakup, or come up with a plan for building new friendships.
Chances are, if you address the issue beneath your sadness, you will find that college becomes much better.
These are the things that helped me decide whether or not to stick it out at college. Talk about them with people you trust. Whatever you decide, I hope you do not feel shame in it. Leaving college, if that’s the best choice for you, is not quitting. Staying in college, if that’s the best choice for you, is not stupidity. You’ve got this, girlfriend! 🙂
Note: The information expressed in this article is not medical advice, nor it is professional counseling advice. Depression routinely requires medical or professional advice. Don’t hesitate to seek those things out.