Kristina Welch is a graduate of the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications. After graduating, she moved to Los Angeles, where she was a freelance writer and editor of a music news website. While in the City of Angels, she also pursued acting, and appeared in various television shows and commercials in both background and principal roles. She currently lives in Raleigh, NC, where she continues to write.
When I applied to my dream school, I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it in. Dream School was a small liberal arts university, and although I had always been a good student, I knew that with the college’s elite reputation and small acceptance rate, I might not be quite the caliber of student they were looking for. So when Dream School actually accepted me, I was certain that I was going where I belonged. The next four years of my life were going to be the best. I was making the right decision. I just knew it.
Dream School was different from most other universities, and initially these differences enticed me to study there. There were no grades, but rather a pass/fail system for classes. You didn’t have to have a certain number of hours on your schedule each semester; rather, an advisor would set up a “contract” with you, determining how many classes you would take and how many of those that you needed to pass in order to complete the semester successfully. And for the entire month of January, rather than beginning the spring semester, you designed your own Independent Study Course, essentially creating your own curriculum and standards for passing.
I loved the idea of breaking out of the traditional educational set up. No grades? Creating your own class? What freedom! But about halfway through my first semester, I learned, as they say, that freedom comes with a price.
As it turned out, I would much rather have had the rigorous structure I initially so desperately wanted to avoid. For one thing, I was spending way more time in the classroom than I would have at a traditional university – rather than taking a three-hour course one day a week, I was taking three two-hour classes each week per course. The classes themselves were also mostly “non-traditional,” with many of the teachers having an unusual take on how to deliver the course material – with much of it going over my head. I found that much of the time when I studied in my dorm, I was trying to catch up on what I was supposed to have learned in the classroom as much as I was trying to complete my homework.
I was having other issues besides the design of the classes. I wanted to get a degree in journalism, or communications, or marketing, or something that would shape me into becoming the kind of writer I wanted to be when I graduated, but the closest thing they offered was a degree in literature. I also wasn’t crazy about the city where I lived. I didn’t feel like there was a lot to do outside of the campus, and the wild parties the campus was known for throwing weren’t really my thing, either.
As I approached the end of my first year of college, I told my parents I didn’t plan on returning to Dream School. While the quality of education I would have received there would have looked good on paper, and was clearly a great choice for many of the other students there, the experience just wasn’t for me. I would have spent three more miserable years obtaining a degree that probably wouldn’t take me down the path I wanted to travel. Most importantly, I simply wasn’t happy.
Making the choice not to return to Dream School was difficult and even a bit defeating, but it’s one of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made. I started at my new school the following fall, and absolutely loved it. I was in a specialized program dedicated to exactly what I wanted to do with my career, and felt challenged in all the ways I hoped I would be during the college experience.
I never planned on moving from one university to another during my undergrad career. But take it from someone who did it: College is like so many other things in life – you may not hit the bull’s-eye on your first go, but it is so worth it to take that second shot and find the school that you just know will help you live out your dreams.