5 Signs You’re In An Abusive Relationship With College


You’ve devoted time, money, and energy to cultivate a loving and mutually-beneficial relationship, only to see it come crashing down around you when reality doesn’t meet your expectation. You feel like you must be the crazy one. Others told you how great things look and how happy you seem to be in pictures, but you know something isn’t right. Here are 5 signs you are in an abusive relationship … with college.

1. It’s always taking your money for shady reasons

College is expensive. The Class of 2015 is the most indebted in history (Happy graduation! Here’s your bill.), and all signs point towards the Class of 2016 being no better off. Like a textbook abuser, colleges are known for not only taking your money, but also for then hitting you with more requests that you just have to deal with. Your only alternative? Leave.

You didn’t hear about the $300 student services fee? But you don’t want to participate in the 15th Century Underwater Basketweaving club that is funded by student government? No, you can’t get your money back that goes to that. Too bad. Oh, by the way, here’s the required book list for that compulsory writing seminar.

2. It makes you think you can’t get along without it

Take a look at any number of commercials for non-profit and for-profit colleges alike and you will find a constant theme: a hard-working person who just wants to get that confidence and extra ability to get ahead in the world but can’t find it until, lo and behold, they find their university that empowers them to become a new person. The obvious corollary is that if they hadn’t found their local generic college, they would have been stuck in that dead-end job. The impact on the viewer is obvious: don’t want to be stuck in a crappy job? Get online and apply now.

Teachers, guidance counselors, and parents get fed the same narrative. Want your students/children to be successful? They’d better go to college. Announcements of college graduation and acceptances are met with “So proud!” “Congratulations!” “Good for you!” on Facebook, while announcements of dropping out to start a company or pursue a passion is followed by, “I am worried about you. Give me a call.”

3. It makes you jump through useless hoops just to show off

After years of work and resume-building, you’ve finally arrived at your college of choice ready to study a field that ignites your passion and makes you come alive. You go to register for classes only to be told you have to enroll in 12 courses completely outside of your area of interest. You figure out it will be another 2 years until you can really delve into your passion.

On marketing literature, the school boasts about its interdisciplinary core curriculum and trots out students who discovered a new passion for some obscure art form in their required “Arts and Letters” sector. Meanwhile, you languish while your field of study is advanced outside of school in the marketplace. Two years with a leading tech startup or a published author and you could have been ready to roll. You sigh and tell yourself “It’s just what I have to do.”

4. It belittles you and treats you like a child

You are excited to take on new and scary ideas when you get to college and see a thus-far unknown perspective on things. You will engage in activism, enter the marketplace of ideas, and finally have the standing to discuss things like an adult.

Until you actually get there. You can engage in activism if you want, but only after filling out all these forms and going to some university bureaucrat to beg for permission to do it within a 10×10 foot space for one hour. And don’t even think about reading a classic novel, lest you hurt somebody’s feelings.

You can’t handle different ideas. It’s the university’s job to protect you from something as terrifying as that!

5. It misleads you and then tells you it’s your fault

After taking a campus tour and falling in love with your top schools, you get accepted and attend one of them. “Finally! I’ll walk the hallowed halls of this institution!”

Except all of your classes are underground in the ugly Brutalist building on the edge of campus, your dorm has cockroaches, and half the activities you wanted to participate in are only available to select students.

That is, if you are lucky enough to get in after the school practically begs you to apply.

Realizing you are in an abusive relationship can be scary. You’ve devoted time and energy to building something you think will make you better, only to find out that you hate it and you aren’t getting as much out of it as you thought. College is no different. We commit ourselves to college at the expense of four of the freest years of our lives in hopes that we will love it and it will make us better. You don’t have to settle.