The Swirl Student                                                    by Joyce Salter

            There is a growing epidemic among college freshman – a sense of dissatisfaction with their college choice and an overwhelming homesickness, that is causing more students than ever to jump ship and go home.  Whether they tough it out for a year, a semester, or even a few weeks, the end result is that these students find themselves awash on the shores of home – alienated from their friends who are still in college and too “grown-up” to enjoy living with mom and dad again.  Because their choices leave them feeling adrift, this group has been called “swirl students.”  

            The swirl student believes that any option is better than their current one when they’re faced with the typical challenges of freshman year.  They have trouble fitting in with the student body, they miss their friends back home and sometimes they just hate the weather.  They believe that they’ll have many better options when they get home – i.e. a simple transfer to another college, or a gap year at a city college while they decide on their next move.  The problem with this reasoning is that they are not the only students with this game plan.  City colleges are overwhelmed with students just like them, and their budget cuts have made them more selective than ever.  Many of them find that transferring to other 4-year colleges is more difficult than ever, and are forced to take a year off while they wait for the next admission deadline to roll around.  They find themselves wasting valuable time until their new options open up.

            Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to transfer, and cases in which the first choice college truly is the wrong fit.  Unfortunately, many swirl students don’t give their first-choice colleges the chance to prove themselves – and many times, a difficult situation reverses itself after one good year of effort to make it work.  After completing a full year, transcripts look better, parents save money, scholarships are kept current, and the student’s self-esteem is boosted by overcoming a challenge successfully.  If a transfer needs to happen, take the necessary steps – but don’t get caught in the “swirl” in the process.--JS