There really is nothing sweeter than that Harry Potter moment when you have the acceptance letter from your first college choice in your hands. You’re a wiz—I mean… a college student, Mel! Or, more likely, when you open that email. It’s 2015 after all. Still, this is it! All those countless nights whining about how math should never have been invented (while your sister yells out, “Well, why’d you take AP Stats then?!”) have finally paid off. The school of your dreams has finally deemed you worthy of their time and every fantasy you’ve been replaying in your head about college will finally be coming true. Until you check financial aid anyway.
I’d wanted to go to FSU for their Editing, Writing, and Media program since the moment I saw the school offered this mythical unicorn of a major. But UF was offering me something more substantial than dreams come true: money. Essentially I was able to go to UF for free. Deciding that UF was a great school and super broke was not the lifestyle for me, I signed up for their orientation and checked out their English major concentrations.
If you’ve ever gone to orientation, you know schools make it sound a hell of a lot better than it is. Well, UF never got that memo. I had to (mandatory, no less) pay to waste an entire day in hot and humid summer Florida weather to take campus tours (didn’t help; I got lost the first week or two of classes anyway), hear talks on being a “great gator” or a “rowdy reptile” (seriously, what does that even mean?), and be up to my ears in papers they’d hand out with information I could have easily found online.
The saving grace of that weekend of horror and basically the only reason anyone ever cared about orientation was the advisor meeting. So of course, the school left that for last on the itinerary. At UF, there are “models of study,” pre-designed lists of courses students take in order to cater their English major experiences to whatever they hope to achieve with that degree. I had my heart set on the Advanced Writing model because it had some publishing aspect to it.
When my advisor let me know they didn’t have the classes or faculty for most of that model–or many of the others it seemed–my frustration skyrocketed. If they didn’t have the damn classes then why not update the website to reflect that? I tried working with her to find at least one class I found interesting and each time we’d discover the class was full. Seriously. Every time. I left that meeting and orientation feeling unsatisfied and more confused than ever. But with some (long-winded) assurance from my older sister, I decided to live through all of fall semester feeling like a quintessential English major. When someone asked what I planned to do with that degree, I responded with a glazed-over dead look in my eyes and shrugged my shoulders as I picked up a new book.
But when registration for spring rolled around, my prospects looked as bleak as ever. There was such a small array of classes available and once they were full, I’d be out of luck. The entire registration list for English that semester was less than a page of random classes no one really wanted and that’s when I finally lost it. As in: full on college existential crisis mode. Chip crumbs were flying all over the place as I angrily ranted to my parents on the phone and stuffed my face with Doritos. I was done with UF and being patient through classes I didn’t really want to take. I was done feeling like I was the only student there who had no idea what she was doing.
A friend of mine in a similar position had recently switched her major to journalism, so I went to the department and made a decision on the spot. I didn’t fall in love with journalism, but I liked the program more than English and things couldn’t get any worse, right? (Somewhere, thunder and lightning struck in the distance.)
Of course, this was no fairy tale solution. I set myself back a semester and had to endure all the tedious pre-reqs required to take Journalism classes. When summer rolled around, I found out I wouldn’t be as lucky with financial aid for the next year and I’d now be getting about the same FSU was going to offer me. The irony was so incredible I couldn’t help but laugh… in that maniacal losing-my-mind kind of way but it was a laugh nonetheless.
As graduation inches closer and closer, I sometimes tell myself that all the hurdles I faced were for some big unknown reason that will lead me to where I’m meant to be. But much more often, I admit that’s just B.S. I’m trying to dress up in fairy dust and make a reality. UF may not have been as fun a time as Hogwarts, but I bet (diabolically hope?) that nobody’s college experience is what they expect. If nothing else, college saves you from another four years of finally having to face “the real world.” So maybe that’s worth it all.
Don’t quote me on that though.