Dreams of college feature sports, fun, interesting courses and a diploma that helps you earn a well-paying job. The Department of Education, high school counselors and your relatives may all encourage college attendance, but not all students find that path fulfills their life goals. Disillusioned college students have a number of options to change a disappointing experience, but it's important to move quickly to reevaluate plans and make adjustments before wasting too much time headed in the wrong direction.
Your subject major might not be a good match for your interests and changing majors might improve your outlook about your educational experience. Talk to your school counselor, instructors and students in different departments to explore changing majors. Adding a new minor to supplement your current major or signing up for a focused training or campus extension program leading to a supplemental certificate in a professional field such as nanotechnology, religious studies or education might also boost your interest in school.
Visiting other colleges and talking to students can help you make the decision to change schools. Large colleges with a number of academic majors offer different experiences than small community schools focused on several key areas of study, according to The College Board. Science-focused universities and liberal arts colleges also frequently have unique campus atmospheres. "The Princeton Review" recommends visiting schools and classes and talking to professors in your prospective department before making a move. Changing from a four-year degree program to an associate or certificate program could allow you to enter the workforce faster and may allow you to use some of the units you've already earned for the new degree or certificate.
Gap or leap years give high school graduates time before entering college to explore occupations or travel, learning through firsthand life experiences, according to the Yale College Center for International Experience. Taking time off from school to rethink your college choices can give you time to plan a new educational course. Some students take a quarter or semester leave to enter the workforce, serve as an intern or volunteer as a member of service-based organizations such as VISTA or AmeriCorps. Reducing the number of credits you take during a semester also gives you time to take noncredit courses, exploring new educational directions.
Not everyone should attend college, according to Isabel V. Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute. A college diploma has a positive impact on salary for most graduates, but students must balance the cost and time spent in college with personal life and future earnings. Your reevaluation may mean changing your life plans and applying as a craft apprentice or serving as a professional intern in a field outside your current area of study.
- Department of Education Federal Student Aid: Getting Ready for College and Career School Can Be Easier Than You Think
- Brookings Institution: Should Everyone Go to College?
- The Princeton Review: The College Transfer Process
- Yale College Center for International Experience: Gap Year Resources and Programs
- Princeton Review: The Gap Year Experience -- A Life-Changing Opportunity
- Corporation for National and Community Service: AmeriCorps
- Corporation for National and Community Service: AmeriCorps VISTA
- Harvard Extension School: On-Campus and Online Certificates at Harvard
- Duke University Continuing Studies: Professional Certificates
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.