What to Say During the Holidays If You’ve Hated Freshman Year at College

For many college freshmen, the breaks around the holidays mark the first time you’ll be back home. Many of you will excitedly regale your families with stories about new friends, interests, classes, and football games. There’s probably a few other stories they’d rather not know, too! But what happens when it turns out Dreamschool University was more of a nightmare? What do you say if you’ve hated freshman year?

Sometimes, kids don’t land at the right school. “Fit,” in fact, is very real. And really important. A college might not end up being the right fit for a myriad of reasons. Possibilities could range from a geographic misfit to not finding “your people” to being in over your head academically – and anything in between. The most mature thing you can do – and the thing your family will most appreciate in the long run – is to be honest about your experience. Let them know you need help figuring out your next step.

‘I’m Not Sure College Is the Right Choice for Me’

The first question to ask is one that no one wants to entertain. But here it is – is college even the right path? As more and more kids choose the college path due to increased access, increased education about college opportunities, and increased pressure from others, it only makes sense that some kids land in college when perhaps their best “fit” is a different path altogether. So start the process of figuring out next steps by first asking, “Is college the right path?”

If you’ve tried and and it’s not “clicking” you need to figure out if it’s not working because of something about that particular college (which can be changed) or is it not working because this is the wrong path altogether? College isn’t for everyone and there are increasingly attractive opportunities for those who just aren’t energized by a classroom of academics. You need a next step. You need plan, but it doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be college.

hated freshman year

If, however, the problem seems to be related to something about the particular college then it may be time to start the college search over again. I know, ugh. You’ve been there, done that (and it didn’t work)! But here’s the thing – this time you’ll have a pretty good idea of where things went wrong. You should be able to articulate what is making you unhappy. If you can’t then revisit that first question that no one wanted to ask.

‘Well, Dreamschool Alum Uncle, I Want to Transfer’

Once you have an idea of what needs to change, start searching if you realize you need to change settings. Lots of kids transfer. Most colleges even have a “transfer counselor” in the admissions office. This person’s job is to help explain the transfer process at that particular college. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak with these people. Understand in advance that not all colleges accept mid-year transfers and for very good reasons. You may be looking at one more semester at the not-a-good-fit college or you may be looking at spring semester at your local community college. That’s a good question to ask said transfer counselor, “If I can’t transfer in the spring, would it be better to spend spring semester at my current school or can I take courses at my community college that would transfer?”

‘Wooo, You Should See My Grades!’

Another thing to consider… your semester grades. They’re gonna be kinda super-important since they will be the only grades on your transcript. If you’ve tanked at Dreamschool because it wasn’t a good fit, NextDreamSchool isn’t going to be very excited to take a risk on you.

There are a few steps you need to take to try to salvage your academic record at this point. First, don’t blow off the remaining time at Dreamschool even though you might know you won’t be returning. Buckle down and do your best on your exams. You might be tempted to just pretend Dreamschool never happened and conveniently leave it off of your application to NextDreamSchool. You can’t do this. It’s dishonest and some states actually have systems that track your enrollment and it’s a shared access database. It happened and you have to own it. Some colleges also have policies that make it impossible to admit you if you have below a cumulative 2.0 GPA, regardless of the reasons.

RELATED: Transferring Mid-Year

Next, realize that if your GPA is abysmal, you may be looking at not just a semester at your local community college. You might need enough time to get your cumulative GPA in a respectable range and enough classes on your record to show an upward trend in college-level academic performance.

‘I’m Cutting Bait and Trying Again’

Finally, if you’ve arrived at the conclusion that you’ll be at another school in the spring then you need to complete your transfer application STAT! Many four-year schools have deadlines as early as November 30 or December 1. Community colleges are more flexible, generally accepting applications until about a month before classes begin but even then some are willing to work with later applications on a case-by-case basis.

But perhaps you’ve decided to ride out the spring semester at Dreamschool to give yourself more time to research and get your grades in order. The good news is you have a little more time to plan your exit strategy. Visit your counselor and explain what is going on. They’ll be able to direct you to other university counselors and departments to help you. Spend a good amount of time researching where you want to land next.


There’s no shame in landing on a path that wasn’t a good fit. You may have hated freshman year, but the most important thing is that once you realize you’re on the wrong path, don’t keep trudging farther down it. Take action! Figure out the next path then PIVOT! The worst thing you can do is to keep wasting time (and money) heading down the wrong path.

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