Want to have a real college "experience" but limited to community college and a state school in a city I just don't like.
July 17, 2008 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Want to have a real college "experience" but limited to community college and a state school in a city I just don't like.

Ok, so please let me fill you in on the back story.

During my high school years I switched schools three times. I never really had a chance to make good friends at any of them, although I was a reasonably popular athlete.

My family was forced to move to Tennessee the summer before my senior year. I was struck with a reasonable bout of depression due to loneliness shortly after we moved down here. I still have a few friends from my senior year, but most of them have gone off to college somewhere else. I was so focused on making friends and doing social stuff that I totally neglected my college search during this time. So my dad, who was a star college athlete, pressured me significantly to play lacrosse on scholarship. He talked about that non-stop, day in, day out. So finally I just settled on a small school in NC where I could play.

For my freshman year of college I went to a small school where I was to play DII lacrosse. I then realized that playing lacrosse was something I did as a kid, not what I wanted to do all during my college years. After my first semester there, my mom got really sick, so I decided to just come home and go to community college until she recovered.

This summer has been a total mess. I got accepted back to my small school (LMC) and also a larger state school - UT Chattanooga. However, I can no longer afford to go to LMC because I wouldn't be playing lacrosse for them.

I just visited Chattanooga, and I have to say that I really don't like it there. Its a big city with an outdated school, and I don't know anyone there.

So now I'm stuck. I just want to go to a real school where I can have a real college experience, but its too late to apply anywhere else, and by the time next spring semester rolls around I will have lost a whole year and a half of my college 'life'. I just want to have real friends and have some fun for once.

What do I do now?
posted by evanrodge to Education (17 answers total)
Your college experience is determined by (a) your attitude about having a good college experience and (b) the people you meet. I would suggest going to UTC. Chattanooga isn't a bad place to be.

I say go to UTC if those are really your only options. You'll meet some cool kids there and have a good time if you want to. Plus I'm a lot happier that I went to college where I didn't know anybody, for what that's worth.
posted by PFL at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2008

How about going to the community college or the state university for this year and meanwhile apply somewhere else and getting admission to Fall, 2009 as a Junior?

Don't take my advice directly, but do some serious thinking about it on your own.
posted by WizKid at 12:56 PM on July 17, 2008

I would encourage you to stop thinking of college as a completely necessary "experience" to have in your youth. That's an incredibly expensive mindset, and you'll regret going deep into debt for a slightly better "experience" when you emerge with an identical degree. Just choose your college based on cost and how quickly you can get through a program. You'll end up making friends wherever you go, and you'll be able to get on with your real life faster instead of spending tons of money for some unquantifiable "experience" that doesn't really exist.

Why not go to Chattanooga and take some basic classes, with the intent to transfer in the spring? It might grow on you, and if it doesn't, you'll know more about your options and be able to find someplace better.
posted by almostmanda at 12:57 PM on July 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think you're overthinking this and I am kind of reading a lot of excuses. Don't rely on college for real friends and some fun - I mean, sure you can have that, but college is a lot more than that and you can have those things at any college or no school at all. Also, not knowing anyone at a college is not a good reason for avoiding that college. If you can't afford LMC and have to stay in Chattanooga, and there are no other options, I think you should reconsider UT Chattanooga. Perhaps you can go there for a year or two while you save up to transfer to a school you like better. You could also contact LMC to see if you qualify for some kind of aid. Or you can wait another semester, one semester is not going to make a huge difference and I think your fear of losing part of your college life is a little overblown.

Good luck.
posted by ml98tu at 12:58 PM on July 17, 2008

Make the decision that is best for you in the long term. So what if you lose a year? Why spend money you don't have going to a school you don't like? You'll still get your four years (or however many you need). If you take a year off to apply to colleges you actually like and respect you'll find that your experience will be that much better for it. Take a year off and work or explore something. Lots of people do that.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2008

For starters, forget the idea of having lost a year and 1/2 of your college life.

If by college experience you mean going hog wild on the dial like a great deal of 18 year olds do when they leave home for the first time, well, you might have some partying to make up for, but you'll only be an ancient 20 or so if the worst case scenario means you show up somewhere next spring semester. This is not a problem.

As an elder of 42 I can say that I would have benefited from a little time between high school and college - or between college years - used to figure out what I wanted to do in the future and why. Even if I didn't have a firm answer - some folks just know they wanna be a doctor (until 1/2 of 'em hit Organic Chemistry, from what I'm told) - well, I didn't. I did know I wanted to see what the western part of the US was like so I didn't stay in the southeast, I went to a big state school out west.

Shorter answer: don't stress about losing time. Find some schools you dig and apply and get in. Perhaps college lacrosse isn't that enjoyable, but consider if it is at least useful for you to participate if it gets to access (and scholarship) to a place you'll enjoy. Scholarships are a big deal. Your dad has a point, he probably went to school for free. If not sports, get a job while in school and take your time. Don't settle. Don't worry.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 1:02 PM on July 17, 2008

and by the time next spring semester rolls around I will have lost a whole year and a half of my college 'life'.

If you're set on having a "real college experience" at a school you like (instead of going to Chattanooga and transferring later), couldn't you work instead of going to school and save a bit of money during that year and a half? In the grand scheme of things, graduating a year and a half later is not a big deal.
posted by juv3nal at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2008

relax. if you have friends at LMC and want to go back, get loans. they suck, but college is a good investment.

alternatively, if you go to UTC, you'll make friends if you seek them out. chattanooga's not a terrible town, and you're only a couple of hours from nashville and a couple hours from atlanta. there are many college towns that are far, far worse.

besides, a lot of people go to college in towns and cities they hate or are indifferent to, but it's part of the experience.

my feeling, though, is that you just want to find a place to BE for a while. that's totally understandable. i would get the loans and go back to north carolina if you have friends and a life back there. it's sort of home, and that's something worth cultivating.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:20 PM on July 17, 2008

I go to school in Tennessee as well, and I have to say, a lot of the not-too-ridiculously large state schools (like UTC), actually seem to have a good deal to offer. Like what others are saying, what you put into it is what you get out of it. Community colleges are fine for "just classes", but I always thought they were sort of a misnomer... sure, they're colleges, but there seems to be very little community in them. Speaking from my own personal experience, choosing a school was not, for me, a matter of choosing a college that "was a good fit with me." It was a matter of getting college and growing into my environment-- choosing which directions to go based on what was available. I am now very, very happy with my school.

That being said, I previously have understood Chatt-town to be a fairly rocking place. Perhaps dig deeper into what this city has to offer? In the interests of full disclosure, I go to school in Clarksville, so anywhere an actual downtown and more shops than just Wal-Mart looks like a thriving frickin' metropolis to me.

Also, if you are considering any other schools at all, I highly recommend my alma mater, Austin Peay: not too large, not too small, diverse but close-knit. And, and pay close attention to this, it's cheap. PM me if you want more info, or if you're interested in visiting... I'd be happy to show you around!
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:21 PM on July 17, 2008

You can have fun and friends anywhere if you go into the experience with a positive mindset. If you go to UTC with a positive mindset you'll have fun and make friends. Likewise, you could have a 4 year full ride to the University of Hawaii and be miserable if you are determined to not like it. Whether or not you have fun and friends in college is 100% up to you, and 99% independent of where you go to school.
posted by COD at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2008

I say try UTC for a year. Get good grades, so you can transfer later. Who knows though, theres a good chance you'll like it more than you expect.

As far as not knowing anyone there, I think part of the College Experience is meeting people and making new friends, on your own and without a Highschool Friend Base keeping you from the sort of self discovery and self creation which is such a major part of all that.

Finally, in regards to wasting years of this potential experience of yours, the whole In College! Go Crazy and Binge Drink and Emulate Animal House! thing gets old really fast. I give the average student about a year before they realize that it's not as much fun as they thought it was and get over it all. Somewhere in between No College Experience and Telivised College Experience is where most people end up wanting to be.

(I'm about to enter my Junior Year Undergrad, so I'm in the thick of it all, but by no means a veteran)
posted by shadowfelldown at 1:36 PM on July 17, 2008

(Because clearly the first two years in my university haven't taught me how to spell)
posted by shadowfelldown at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2008

Don't worry much about the town itself. What you are going to remember are the people you ended up hanging around with, your friends. I can tell you this from having transferred twice in the four years it took me to get a college education.

College #1: 1500 resident students, another 6k or so commuting from Detroit, college founded in the late 60s, absolutely nothing to drive or walk to, just fields fields fields. I made good friends and have a lot of happy memories; also did some drinking; also had some good classes.

College #2: a small residential college in a town you've never heard of in Western PA. Beautiful campus. One of the best courses I ever took was at this school. Had a lot of fun with a couple of close friends I made.

College #3: Big 10 U! In the Michigan town that is most considered to possess an interesting culture! I loved Ann Arbor, but really, again, it's the friends I made and a few really outstanding courses that made my last two years of college memorable.

My first lover did her first two years of college at her local community college while living at home. She formed a really tight bond with a group of friends, was involved in performance, and had the best professor she ever had there.

I'm just saying, it's more the people and the school itself than the town that makes a difference, in my experience. By way of encouraging optimism on your part. Go to Chattanooga with an open mind. You might love it.
posted by not that girl at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2008

Wait and apply later. In the meantime, save up, get some work experience, think about what classes you want to take and what you want to learn, and give yourself time to breathe.

You're really perpetuating a harmful pattern by rushing into this decision.

You do something impulsively, you don't like it, you quit, to escape the anxiety you feel about "missing out" you do something else impulsively...

Break the pattern. No one will care if you're older in college. Frankly, you'll probably be more mature and have an easier time making friends and, yes, having fun.

Right now, it seems like you're setting yourself up to fail, and you'll have a good excuse (I only had two options). It would be much nicer for you to succeed, instead.

Good luck.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:07 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

As others have said in this thread, UTC is not a bad alternative if that's your state school. I went to an academic conference there two years ago, know some of the English profs. I would teach there if I were offered a position.

I know one former and one current UTC student and they could not be more different from one another on almost everything. Based on that small sample, I'd say it is a diverse urban school. But Chattanooga is not so very big of a city even if it might seem so from your perspective now. We just came back from there from a family reunion in Soddy-Daisy. I live in one Big 10 town and go to graduate school in another. I consider Chattanooga a charming mid-size town, just slightly larger than the one I live in. Chattanooga has 155K people and probably 400K in the metro area. It is the 5th largest in Tennessee, so your college experience there will probably be on par with most mid-size college towns.

But if you really, really want the whole college experience without all the hassle of tuition, just get yourself two unreliable roommates who will promise to eat all your food & use your stuff before they use theirs; eat tons of fried food, drink massive amounts of alcohol and stay up until 4 am not writing papers that are due the next day (and since you won't actually be going to school, there's no nasty GPA consequence here).
posted by beelzbubba at 2:12 PM on July 17, 2008

Best answer: You can make almost any school work for you if you go in with a positive attitude.
Live on campus - easier to meet people, easier to hang out with them, less time needed between alarm and first class
Join a few clubs and/or intramural sports teams and/or a frat
Remember to study and to show for class (at least if they take attendance)
Pick at least some classes based on who are the best teachers - a good teacher can make almost anything interesting (assuming you have the prerequistes)
Most students I have known center their life on campus so it doesn't matter as much as you might think where the school is located (but then I went to a college in the middle of nowhere.)

I don't think it is a good idea to go to UTC and plan to transfer - you won't be able to make real friends or put down roots if you know you are leaving so you will have another year without the sense of community you are looking for. If you really don't want UTC You would be better off working and then going to a school that you can commit to.
posted by metahawk at 3:24 PM on July 17, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, thanks for the input folks.

After reading all these responses, its obvious that I'm being picky about the college I'm going to, but its a privilege that a lot of people don't have.

And everybody who said that I should just give UTC a try with a positive attitude, that's the obvious answer.

I'll make it what I make it.

I knew Ask MeFi would give me the objective advice I needed.
posted by evanrodge at 6:51 PM on July 17, 2008

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