I need a plan!
April 16, 2006 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to start my second year of college in September. Only problem? I have no idea which college I'll be at. Help me out.

I currently attend a small liberal arts college in rural Illinois. It's not working out. I have applied to three schools for transfer: Universty of Minnesota Twin Cities, Lawrence University, and St. Olaf College. I chose these three because I already know people at all three, and I had good daytime visits to each. Now, I'm not so sure.

Olaf is completely out of the question. It's too rural, too Lutheran, and too calm. The U of MN is not very appealing due to its large size. I thought Lawrence would be my choice, but I'm having doubts. The location isn't great (I would vastly prefer an urban setting, or at least a suburban school close to a large urban area), and I'm worried it will be just like my current school, only in a different location. They're both very standard small private liberal arts colleges. I'm not sure if more of the same in a different location is what I'm looking for.

So, I am absolutely not staying here next year, and my three transfer schools are out of the question. What do I do? I have no idea where to go, I have no idea where to even begin looking for colleges that I might really want to go to, I really have no way to visit any of them until summer, and most colleges are no longer accepting transfer applications. It sounds like I'm fucked. Hopefully that's not the case. What should I do? How can I make sure that I have somewhere to go next year, and also make sure that it's someplace I really want to go?

I'm also hoping for college recommendations. Right now I'm looking for colleges that are still accepting transfer applications. I'm not sure what I want to major in; when I came into college I was sure I was going to major in political science. Then, I wasn't quite so sure; sociology and philosophy both seemed like good choices. Now, I'm not even sure of those. Maybe english, maybe philosophy, maybe sociology, maybe urban studies. Anything along those lines. Suggestions are appreciated.
posted by punishinglemur to Education (25 answers total)
Well, I can recommend my school. It fits your criteria -- small liberal arts school near a big city -- but the transfer deadline was March 1. Finding a college with a deadline that hasn't passed yet is probably your biggest issue; since your criteria are pretty general, there are tons of potential choices. If you find a school you have to go to, call the admissions office and see how flexible they are. Good luck!
posted by danb at 10:27 PM on April 16, 2006

Need a plan? Take a semester off. Seriously. You've applied to transfer to a bunch of schools you don't really want to go to, and are seriously uncertain about your major. You don't want to go to a "small, liberal arts college", but you don't want to go to a large state university? Your options seem pretty limited. To me, it sounds like you need to settle down for a bit and think about what you want to do with your life (or at least for the next two years).

That said, the transfer deadline for Pitzer College in Claremont, CA (Claremont is just outside Los Angeles) just passed, but I'm sure they'll take late applications if you have a demonstrated commitment to community service.
posted by muddgirl at 10:47 PM on April 16, 2006

...passed on April 15th, I meant to say...
posted by muddgirl at 10:48 PM on April 16, 2006

Hmm, I misread your comment about small private liberal arts colleges. Scratch Tufts. :)

Now, though, I'm not sure what it is you want. muddgirl's advice is better than mine.
posted by danb at 10:50 PM on April 16, 2006

muddgirl: I do want to go to a small, liberal arts college (at most 5000 students).
posted by punishinglemur at 11:01 PM on April 16, 2006

Let me elaborate -- I just re-read my post and I can see where my confusion came from. I want a small liberal arts college, but one that is less cookie-cutter than, say, Lawrence. It just seems like the stereotypical small liberal arts college, and while that's kind of what I want, I'm hoping for something that's not just another college that rolled off the assembly line. I don't know if I can explain this in a way that makes sense, but at least this helps a little bit.
posted by punishinglemur at 11:03 PM on April 16, 2006

Take a year off. Live somewhere you'd like to live. Live cheaply. Either find interesting work, or work that is ok, with people you like, and leaves you with time and energy for other things.

I went to a school where a lot of people took time off, and a lot of transfers had taken a year off, most of them seemed the better for it (especially considering how things might have gone if they stayed on the same path).

As for where you should be going. It's really hard to say without knowing more about what you don't like about your current school. Saying that it's "[a] very standard small private liberal arts [college]." is pretty vague.

You might spent part of your time during your year off figuring out where people who do the sorts of things that interest you hang out and then go there and talk to them. For example, go to Mefi meetups and talk to people about their college experience.
posted by Good Brain at 11:10 PM on April 16, 2006

Maybe the best thing for you is to figure out what sort of things you want to major in and find a school that meets your criteria and also has a good program for what you want to do.

MeFi may not be the place to do that.

Almost all school accept transfer students up to junior year.

If you're not doing anything next year, that's probably not a big deal. Just make sure that you find a job with some health insurance benefits.

Small liberal arts colleges ARE pretty cookie cutter, IMHO, unless you're going for something extreme like Antioch college.

Good luck. Try spending some time with one of those big college books at a bookstore or library to see what you can find.
posted by k8t at 11:14 PM on April 16, 2006

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I really don't understand why you want to find another college when you're not even sure what you want to study... Shouldn't you be choosing colleges for their programs and not just for their size and location? Also, I went to a huge uni for the final two years of my B.A. (University of Toronto), but because of my major (English), and because you basically stick around your chosen college, I never felt overwhelmed by the size or population of the campus. So maybe you shouldn't write off the big college in your selection just for its size.
That said, I agree with those above who advised to take a year off; I can understand how you might think taking some time off isn't an option, especially when you're in your twenties, because it feels like you have to stay "on schedule" in life so to speak. But from my 30-something standpoint, a year off to get a better grip on things isn't copping out at all. Maybe after that time off, you'll find another, better path to follow.
posted by misozaki at 11:26 PM on April 16, 2006

There is no doubt in my mind that you need to take a break and reevaluate what you're looking for in college and where you'd like to be. The last thing you want is to be asking this question again in a year. Chill out. Get a job. Figure out what you're hoping to get out of college, where you want to go (to school as well as a vague life direction) and then apply to other schools that more closely fit your criteria. I'm sensing in your question that you applied to transfer schools without much thought about what you were looking for -- you just needed an escape route, and at the time, you lunged for the first schools at the front of your mind. But good for you for figuring out you have these doubts, and not just pushing forward even though you think one of these schools might be the wrong choice. It'll take another bit of guts to take more time off, but I have a feeling it'll be worth it.
posted by incessant at 11:35 PM on April 16, 2006

Might be helpful if you told us what you want
posted by delmoi at 11:41 PM on April 16, 2006

Looks like you probably need to take a semester or year off and wait for transfer deadlines to roll back around. That will give you some time to think about where to go.

If you liked the Twin Cities when you visited U of M, you might consider going to one of the liberal arts colleges here, like Augsburg, St. Thomas, Macalaster, or Hamline. As far as I know, they're pretty standard, but I believe those four (not sure about St. Thomas, but the other three definitely) have an agreement whereby if you attend one, you can take classes at any of the others. That should help give you some more course options so you don't get bored.

Sorry I couldn't really answer your question, but I doubt you'll find too many colleges whose deadlines haven't passed.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:43 PM on April 16, 2006

Despite what others have said, if you do decide to go to school in the fall, there are still great colleges whose transfer deadlines haven't passed (like George Washington- May 1 and Emory Univ- June 1). I only know of those two because I, too, am transferring in the fall-- I'm sure there are many others.

Good luck.
posted by Flamingo at 11:57 PM on April 16, 2006

I've been spending a couple of minutes looking for good online college directories that allow some sort of search-by-deadline, but it's been difficult. Princeton Review doesn't have such a feature (as far as I can tell). I think the most comprehensive resource (besides the collective knowledge of AskMe) would be a few hours spend at Barnes and Noble with one of those giant College guides that lists location, school size, and application deadlines.
posted by muddgirl at 12:36 AM on April 17, 2006

gotta agree with muddgirl. you sound like you're flailing. maybe college isn't the right thing for you at this point in your life. there's nothing wrong with that. if nothing on the menu sounds appealing, then maybe you're in the wrong restaurant, ya know? you have to want to be there.

finish the current semester, make sure your grades are good so that you'll have transfer options later. the last thing you want to do is transfer to some school you aren't interested in because you missed the boat. take a year off and work, spend time traveling around the country and a lot of time in bookstores. pay attention to what books you gravitate towards. pay attention to what places you gravitate towards. keep an open mind about areas you hadn't even considered. (art? science? primate flogging?) or, stay at your school but renounce your major and take some wildly diverse courses.

(also, i think you're focusing too much on shallow attributes of these universities. you can be lost in the crowd in a small school, and you can feel cozy and insular at a big one. you can be bored senseless in a big urban center, and have days and nights filled with activity out in the suburban wastes. college is what you make it into, not what it is.)
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:52 AM on April 17, 2006

I was kind of in a hurry when I wrote my earlier comment, and after reading this thread over I suddenly realized that I forgot to mention that I changed universities after two years because, like you, it wasn't working out. I was bored silly in my first one and really wanted to quit to find a job instead, but in my case opportunity knocked and I was able to transfer my credits to U of T (and this was from a school in Japan!). And although I had to work my ass off to keep from failing my courses, I loved every minute of my last two years in school, and I think it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. So, like sergeant sandwich said above, if you really want to transfer, do make sure your grades are good; I was soooo glad that I maintained my GPA even though I hated my classes in my first uni! And yes, college is what you make it into. Wise words, that. I can imagine what you must be going through now, and I do hope things work out for you.
posted by misozaki at 4:32 AM on April 17, 2006

Another vote for taking a year off. Work, get some money and more carefully think about where you want to go back to school. I'm not sure that choosing a college because that's where you have some friends is the best criteria. There are zillions of colleges out there of every type. Visit some and find one that you'll really like.

BTW, St. John's (Annapolis) definitely didn't just roll off the assembly line. Just one example.
posted by bim at 5:05 AM on April 17, 2006

Although it does sound to me like you should take some time off so you're not rushing this decision (it is pretty late to be looking, even for transfers), I have some friends who "took time off" and never came back.

I might suggest my school, Cornell College (please don't judge us too heavily on the website... we're working on a redesign...).

I attended a state school in Wisconsin before transferring here and the decision to transfer changed my life for the better. It was the best decision I've made so far in my life. We're a small school (1,175 enrollment this year, shooting for 1,200 next year) with some very unique qualities. Our classes are one-course-at-a-time (3.5 weeks of class, 4 days off, then a new class), we're in a very unique, pretty little town in the middle of Iowa, and we have some of the most involved and interested faculty that I've ever seen.

If you'd like some more information or help, please feel free to email me (it's in the profile).
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:39 AM on April 17, 2006

You need to know your major before you transfer as a junior.
posted by LarryC at 6:17 AM on April 17, 2006

st. john's also has a location in santa fe. they always looked like a cool institution to me.
eugene lang in downtown NYC might be a little too alternative & urban, but they are accepting transfer applications thru may 15.
taking time to work out what you want might be worth your while, although I wouldn't get yourself overly stressed about not knowing what you want to do with your life. very few 20 yr olds know that. do you have counselors, friends & family members who can help you work out which direction to go? It can be overwhelming, simply because you have so many options, and any one of them could lead to a whole different life. so don't let yourself be pressured by what you think you're supposed to do to "just choose one." If you end up feeling like none of the available possibilities are going to work out, then start thinking about applying for next spring or the following fall instead, and allow yourself room to breathe.
posted by mdn at 6:48 AM on April 17, 2006

Peace Corps?

I just wanted to reinforce that if you think the U of M is too big, it is. I knew I wanted to go to a smaller school and after I took some time off from one, I transfered to the U for convenience and I was right...I didn't want to go to a big school. It's especially large if you're transferring in and not living on campus.
posted by undertone at 8:03 AM on April 17, 2006

Could you handle staying at your current school for another year? If transferring as a junior is a problem because you'd need to know your major, you might consider taking all but one course in second year. You can easily pick it up via distance, online or night classes in a summer or maybe take an extra course in one of your future semesters.
posted by acoutu at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2006

If i'm not mistaken, Peace Corps only takes college grads (unless you have some sort of specific knowledge like agriculture)
posted by matkline at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2006

PC only takes college grads.
posted by k8t at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2006

Yeah, I'm also a grad of Cornell College. Small town, but Cedar Rapids and Iowa city are ~30 minutes drive away. Detroit/St.Louis/Chicago are about 5 hours drive.

The one-course-at-a-time thing is neat. Colorado College also offers OCAAT.

CC has (or at least used to have) excellent faculty. When I was there, living in the dorms ("residences") was required as was the meal-plan, though. Unless you were married.

Tuition is expensive, though. And it's in Iowa. It was pretty clique-y. Not a lot of cultural diversity.

But you should be able to get a first-class education there.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:05 PM on April 17, 2006

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