“Just stick it out; it will all work out in the end.” That phrase is a common response any time a single negative aspect of college is brought up. Yes, while it may all work out in the end, that doesn’t make it any more manageable now. “This happens to everyone, it took me so long to find my place.” Yes, that is valid too, but does that make our current feelings any less pressing? It feels like stress about college can conjure a battle of emotions and thoughts that are so overwhelming, it is almost impossible to think straight.
I don’t remember the last time I was alone to reflect on my collegiate experience. It feels like I’ve lived here for three months when it has only been weeks. I would consider scurrying to Angell Hall five minutes before my class starts to be the most peaceful part of my day. I spent the last year and a half alone, unable to see people other than my closest friends. How am I supposed to thrive at a university with an undergraduate population of over 31,000 students?
Now more than ever, college students are dropping out early on in their collegiate careers. Roughly 40% of undergraduate students drop out, with feeling unprepared for the challenges of college being the leading reason. The pandemic amplifies this feeling, as many students haven’t even been in person for a class since March 2020 — they may feel as though they are not capable of being successful in higher education.
With over 280 degree programs and hundreds of potential combinations of majors and minors, how is someone supposed to find what they are looking for? With over 1,600 student organizations, how is someone supposed to navigate the best fit for them? In addition, most clubs require an application about your experience, and why you are the best fit to be a member. Students should be able to join these organizations to gain skills and experiences, rather than be expected to already have them. Currently, students who did not have as many resources in high school are automatically disadvantaged because of decreased accessibility to student organizations.
College is emotionally, physically and intellectually difficult. Yes, I’m only a couple of weeks in, so this sounds like premature contemplation, but it’s safe to say that things can only go up from here for me.
Seventeen days before I moved 2,343.3 miles away from home, my parents decided to move to Boston. For 17 days, I spent my time packing up the house I grew up in. I cleaned out every possession I’ve collected over the past 18 years and said goodbye to the same people I’ve gone to school with since pre-school. It is weird to say, but I think this 12-by-19-feet residence hall room on the Hill is my new and only home.
With all that uncertainty from the previous stage of my life, how can I be sure of what I want moving forward? It takes a lot of courage to make such a strong commitment if you have no idea what is suitable for you. With this amount of overwhelming pressure, it isn’t hard to believe that many first-year students are dropping out. I’ve met many people who, like myself, recently experienced a decline in interest in their high school activities. We couldn’t even imagine stepping into organizations we used to devote ten hours a week to. The pandemic has completely changed our behaviors and passions.
The idea of dropping out of college is just as scary as staying enrolled. Uncertainty about what path to take impacts many aspects of a student’s life. For some students, this uncertainty leads to dropping out, but for others, it prompts them to figure out how to adapt to this new environment.
Shaped from the advice of my friends and family, this is my plan to make this transition a little bit easier.
First, attend a counseling meeting. Probably the scariest option of all, but in reality, the University of Michigan has dealt with students with the same problems for 204 years, so they can probably offer some solutions and coping mechanisms. It often feels like everyone else has it together, and it is just you who is struggling — that could not be further from the truth. We, as a student body, need to become more transparent about our struggles so that incoming freshmen know they are not alone.
Second, attend every club meeting you are even remotely interested in. Especially if you are in a similar state where you feel absolutely no sense of direction, you never know what you will find. You may believe you are solely a business-focused student, then fall in love with an environmental club. If your friend says they are going to a mass meeting, join them — you won’t regret learning more about opportunities on campus.
Third, talk to everyone. From a few weeks of eating at Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall, two random girls I sat down next to are now some of my closest friends. You never know who you could click with. Discussing your passions with others and listening about theirs could spark ideas and connections. Use this time to diversify the kinds of people you interact with to expand your ability to work with and understand different people.
Ultimately, it is critical that students use the resources at their disposal. While many students, including myself, are struggling to find a place on campus and a path to follow, consider the steps I am taking to find your fit.
Gabby Rivas is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.