Updated: Jun 7
I, AQ, am a current college student; however, I'm taking a gap year.
I've struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. I can't remember a time where I didn't have anxiety, and my depression kicked up in middle school. Sophomore year of high school, I reached out and started getting the help that I needed. I never prioritized myself the way I should have, though. Up to college, I considered myself a victim of my mental health. I was very passive in how I helped myself; I went to therapy, but failed to utilize the coping mechanisms I learned outside of it. Sophomore year of college, this took its toll on me.
I was in a therapy session at my college in late February of 2022. My therapist and I came to the conclusion that the best thing to keep me safe was to send me to the hospital for a few days. I was terrified. I'll probably write about my experience in another post, but for right now I want to focus on the pressures of college with mental health.
Since I've been out of the hospital and on my gap year from college, I've finally taken my time to focus on myself and prioritize my mental health. I've taken a more active role in how I help myself. I have also taken the time to reevaluate my goals and how I view college.
First off, there is nothing wrong with taking a gap year. College is a lot-- and that is an understatement. Gap years allow you to prioritize yourself and, well, take a much needed break before you return to college. It's also completely valid to not return or even go to college, too! It's not for everyone, and I think that the pressure with going to college and connecting it to one's worth needs to be reevaluated.
Another thing to consider is that not everyone will stick with the same institution. In high school, we had a student who was interning at my high school with the social worker. She told me that she had transferred at least three times and changed her major on several accounts. I've always kept this in the back of my mind, as it's not what people see as the "conventional" way and I felt like this information was important for me to keep in mind.
Fast forward to now, and I'm in almost the exact same position. I've already changed my major once (I was double-majoring in cinema and creative writing, but I dropped the cinema major), and I'm about to change it again to linguistics. There's just one problem; the university I'm currently at doesn't have a linguistics degree. So, what's my option other than to transfer?
I have a good scholarship at my current university, and I have connections there, but I feel that in the end, the best thing for me is to transfer. While a primary reason for transferring is to obtain a degree in linguistics, I also think it will greatly benefit my mental health. The college I'm at right now is small, and it's very easy to compare myself with its competitive nature. While I love the university, the culture can be toxic in the sense that to have worth, you need to be busy almost 24/7. I haven't decided where I'm transferring yet, but I know it's going to be to a bigger institution. I thought I would thrive in a smaller institution, but I was wrong, and it's okay to change my mind and transfer.
I put so much pressure on myself on a regular basis. When I went to college, that didn't stop. However, I now realize that I'm at the wrong institution. While I will still face pressures wherever I am, I think that transferring will be the best for my mental health.
Taking a gap year is one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's allowed me to figure out what I want to do with my life, which is leading to me transferring colleges, and more importantly, it's given me the time to focus on myself and my mental health. My path is not what is considered "traditional", but I'm learning that that doesn't matter. Society's expectations surrounding what we do after high school and how we do it is unnecessary pressure that we shouldn't have to follow. All of our paths are different, and that is okay.