Fashionably Late

by Kate Lindsay '06

All my life I imagined my college years filled with warm sweaters, fall colors, and brick buildings. It turns out I should have been more focused on the feeling, not the façade.

After discovering Clark University in the college career center of my high school, I determined it was the school for me. It met all my criteria: a small, private, liberal arts college in New England with a radio and television station. As an undecided freshman, I figured any liberal arts college was bound to have the subjects I wanted to pursue. My search was about as qualified as it could be. As Hallie Randel, my current roommate and a sophomore transfer from Oberlin College, said, “I can’t believe any senior in high school can know what they want without being a college student.”

Precisely, I thought. It’s like glancing at a recipe for a gourmet dish without the opportunity to examine or taste it. And, then eating that dish for four years, regardless of your opinion.

During my visit, I disregarded anything I disliked at Clark. Every school is full of compromises. On my arrival, I didn’t recognize my disappointment with the school due to my positive tunnel vision. It wasn’t until I visited a friend’s college during Spring Break that I accepted my need to transfer.

Some sophomore transfers knew it “just didn’t feel right” once they stepped onto their freshmen campuses. Hallie recalls her first day of Oberlin orientation: “It was beautiful, and everyone was being nice, and everything was set up pretty… There was nothing specifically wrong, but I just sat down on a bench and began to cry. I said to my mom,’I think I made a mistake.'”

For Rachel Mayer, it took a journey home for Yom Kippur (a 2,771-mile trip from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to Seattle) to realize her discontent. Others, such as junior Katie Hotchkiss, took years before finally choosing to move. Reasons vary from weather to the social atmosphere to their academic experience. Miranda Walker, a sophomore transfer from Wellesley College, added,”When I realized Wellesley wasn’t for me, I felt like a failure.”

And so, my friends and I did the unthinkable—we voluntarily started over, reliving the application and acceptance process. As amazing as this may sound, we felt excited. Rachel explained, “After I decided to transfer, that sense of failure was lifted. Instead, I felt empowered because although I was ‘walking away,’ I knew I was walking toward something better.”

While searching for schools, my mother advised me to research Scripps College. “It’s beautiful, small, and it seems like they’d let you create the major you need,” my mom explained. Bubbling with excitement, I went to the website, but only made it past “Scripps,The Women’s College.” After reading those words, I was positive Scripps wasn’t for me. I planned trips to visit Boston University, Fordam University, Pitzer College, and, at my mother’s request, Scripps,”The All Girls School.”

Taking the train from Los Angeles, I headed to the Pitzer campus. Before my tour, I walked to the Scripps Admission Office to look around.The admission secretary was fabulous, the tour guides honest, and the campus was—well, the Scripps campus was in its usual state of exquisiteness. Like Clark, I had judged Scripps College before allowing myself to experience it. But unwilling to repeat my earlier mistake, I stopped judging and started feeling. I never did make it to that Pitzer tour.

Transfers think of colleges like shoes—you may find a lot that can fit, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable or desirable. If students take anything away from my experience, I hope it’s this—if you’re compromising what you want because of where you are, don’t feel culpable. Don’t feel as though you’ve made a wrong choice and now must “deal with it.” Just make another choice. It’s that simple.

I’m sure I could have stayed at Clark for four years. But, I would have left that school knowing it was never right for me. And perhaps I’ll always hear that little voice inside, asking me the “What ifs?” But this time, I’ll be able to look around at the beautiful campus, beautiful women, and beautiful minds surrounding me and say, with So-Cal flair, “It’s all chill. Don’t worry about it.”