Leaving Scripps: What Happens to Scripps Students When They Take a Leave of Absence?

By Priya Thomas '21

Staff Writer

Amber Harvey '2019: 

I remember one day during my freshman year of high school, one of my friends told me that high school isn’t about having fun. Fun is for college, and high school is for getting into college. I remember being surrounded by students taking five or six AP classes each year, filling up their schedules with extra-curricular they didn’t necessarily enjoy, and spending every waking minute studying, all for the sake of dressing up their resumes. I got caught up in this frenzy as well; at times it was exciting, but most of the time I felt like I was climbing a very steep hill with no end in sight. By my senior year, I was desperate to leave. All the anxiety, self-doubt, and loneliness I’d kept pent up over four years funneled into a burning need for college to be perfect. I needed it to be worth all the stress I’d put myself through in high school, and more. And I don’t think I was alone.

For many students, college does turn out to be just what they were hoping for. Of course, it helps to be slightly less idealistic going in. However, is this not always the case, regardless of what students’ expectations are. Some students arrive at college and realize after a year or two that they are not happy. It is often hard for these students to voice their experiences when they’re surrounded by peers who seem to be thriving socially and academically. It may even be hard for them to acknowledge their own feelings to themselves, after spending so many years of being told that college is the ultimate destination - that the only struggle is in getting there.

According to several recent studies, more than a third of undergraduates in the U.S. transfer colleges at least one. In the past couple of years, we’ve had several students transfer from Scripps, each with their own unique stories.

Amber Harvey ‘2019 left because of the competitive academic atmosphere, the insulation/bubble effect of living on a residential campus, and the struggle she went through to access academic accommodations and mental health resources. She struggled to thrive academically because even though professors were willing to give extensions, she received very little help with time management, so in the end, assignments continued to pile up and her studies began to feel all-consuming. In general, she felt like spending every day immersed in an intensive academic environment with limited access to the outside world was ultimately damaging to her mental health:

“I left to get mental health treatment that wasn't available to me in Claremont and that I didn't have enough time and energy to go through while I was in school.  After leaving, I've realized how unhealthy the residential environment was for me.  It felt like I could never escape the stress and pressure of school to invest time, energy and love in myself as a person, and not just as a student.  Because I never left the school environment, I felt like I wasn't living up to Scripps' 'elite' standards if I wasn't constantly working on - and exhausted by - academics, clubs or activism.  Especially as a disabled student, but I think this can apply to everyone, it was extremely unhealthy to have my full identity wrapped up in, and defined by, the institution.”

Anonymous:

I went to Scripps freshman year and my first semester was actually really great (as good as first semester freshman year can be really - still was a huge adjustment!) but second semester took a turn for the worst. I had to move in with a different roommate because my roommate transferred and the fit wasn’t as good. I didn’t realize it as it was happening but I was actually losing a lot of friends that I worked really hard to make my first semester. I think a lot of that had to do with the competitive nature of Scripps and I think I was oblivious to the shape my relationships on campus were taking. When I was home for the summer I reflected a lot on my time the past year and realized that Scripps wasn’t the right school for me. It was too small, I felt like there was an unhealthy competitive atmosphere to be the best and most achieving woman on campus and really didn’t feel supported by my peers. My goal was to go back for a semester, and then transfer in the spring. I loved the academics at Scripps, and quite honestly some of my best relationships on campus were with my professors, and I thought that would be enough to keep me on campus one more semester. It wasn’t. I went to the first week of classes and for the 10 days I was on campus I was having panic attacks, my anxiety was uncontrollable and I really didn’t feel comfortable where I was. I knew I wouldn’t make it the rest of the semester so I went to the registrar and got the form to take a leave of absence. It took me about half a day to chase down everyone I needed to get a signature from before it was all official. It was actually a very easy process. I had to talk to my dean who had emphasized that he wished I came in to talk to him sooner about the social problems I was having on campus, but in the end he never mentioned anything that could have been adjusted and so I really don’t think anything would have been different. I think had my first roommate not transferred I my second semester may have been better, but ultimately it was about goodness of fit and I just don’t think Scripps is the right place for me. I wish it was, because as I said I loved the academics and my professors but I never felt like I fit in. Leaving was a hard choice because it meant I no longer had a plan, I was a college dropout moving back home essentially, but it was the right choice and I am so much happier now. I actually got an internship and have been working full time! I don’t think I was ready for college, but no one had ever told me there was an option to wait, I just assumed that this was the plan I had to follow, and creating my own path has been a much healthier decision for me and I am happy to take time away from school to figure out my interests. I don’t plan on returning to Scripps but I do appreciate all that I’ve learned about myself from being there.

Katerina Figueroa:

I first took a leave of absence in what would have been my sophomore spring. I come from a multi-racial, low income, first generation background, and despite succeeding at my public high school, I struggled immediately when I arrived at Scripps. I felt ostracized from my majority-white classmates and I was thoroughly unprepared for Scripps academics coming in, especially within Core and Writing 50. Scripps has done a lot of work in increasing their minority enrollments as the years have gone on, but they fundamentally lack the support system most of these students need when they arrive. I failed my Writing 50 course and was placed on probation my second semester, and around then I began seeing a DOS-funded therapist in the Village and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My depression got worse as time went on, and I was at my lowest point during my sophomore fall—I wouldn't leave my suite for days at a time, I couldn't eat, shower, or do work, and I was failing all 3 of my classes, including my second attempt at Writing 50. I ended up taking 3 Incompletes, was put on probation again, then left for my leave of absence. I knew I wasn't coming back in March after Tatissa passed. I came to Claremont to be with my community the following day and seeing how the administration handled our grief set my decision in stone. I couldn't put myself through two more years of exploitation and trauma at the hands of Scripps College.

It was a hard decision process to go through, especially because of how active I was and how cared for I felt within my community, i.e. my suite, Watu Weusi, and SCORE as a whole. I met the best friends of my life trying to survive the institution, and it was so hard to navigate the possibility of not having that support system be a constant in my everyday life. The other thing I struggled with the most was actually leaving Scripps to transfer to my current state-school. My whole life I had worked incredibly hard to attend a top college like Scripps, and it was scary to give up the privileges that come with a Scripps degree. I was lucky enough to make genuine connections with multiple professors and administrators during my time there, however, and that eased my mind when deciding to leave.

I'm currently attending USF in Tampa, Florida, around two hours away from my hometown of Daytona Beach. I  try to fly out at least once a semester to visit my all friends back in Claremont, and I talk to all my closest friends every day. My mental health has increased significantly since I left, and honestly, I don't regret leaving Scripps at all. If anything, I wish I had done it sooner.