Transferring...it's a lot to think about
You may notice that this blog entry is quite lengthy and emotionally driven at times. The topic of transferring schools is one that is close to my heart because I have experienced it first hand, and I wish that I had some advice when I was making decisions and going through the intimidating process. It is important when reading this blog to remember that I am biased because I made the decision to transfer. I do not believe that transferring is the right choice for everyone, and it may seem that I encourage it at times throughout this entry, but I am merely offering support for those who are facing this tough decision.
Over half of the semester is done and by now you are fully engrossed in the life of a college student. It is the perfect time to sit back and assess your happiness at your school. Some of you may feel completely satisfied, but for other the thought of transferring may be lingering in the back of your mind. I am here to help with some of the mixed emotions that may result from the idea of transferring. I transferred from a small private college to a large public state school after my freshman year and I learned so much in the process. It was a daunting task considering changing schools and there are some tips that I found to be extremely helpful in the process of transferring.
First, I would strongly consider trying to stick it out at your current school for at least one full year. I am not saying that this is the right thing for everyone, but staying for an entire year gives you time to consider whether your current school is really the wrong fit or it is just a rough patch which can be mended down the road. A lot can change from semester to semester, such as classes, professors, friend groups, and provided activities, which can all impact your satisfaction with the school. Having the experience of both semesters can help make you feel more confident in your decision.
One of the first hurdles to overcome when considering transferring is the energy level that is required by this change. I was not happy at my first school, but the idea of starting the whole process over again was almost intimidating enough to make me want to just suck it up and stay at the school even if I knew I would be happier somewhere else. I remember that my mom kept reminding me that transferring may seem like an exhausting task mid-semester, but I would have the whole summer to recuperate and prepare for the adjustment so it helped to think that I didn’t have to deal with all of the change right away. I finally realized that it would be just as exhausting to try and force myself to be content for the next three years when in reality I was truly unhappy and always wondering “what if…”
Make a list of things that you would want in an ideal school that your current school does not provide. Do some research about other schools and see if they have the criteria on your list. This process may help to shed some light on how realistic your expectations really are. It is easy to think “I’d be happy anywhere but here” but that notion can get you into trouble. You need to put as much effort into the second search as you did with your first college searches. The freshman year in college is marked by great self-discovery and self-understanding and ignoring the changes one undergoes during this first year can be detrimental. I made the mistake of assuming that the schools that were appealing to me as a junior and senior in high school would be appropriate schools to transfer to as a sophomore college student, but I had not taken into account everything that I had learned and experienced in the past year. Take some time to think about what your new expectations may be in a school.
If you decide that transferring is the right choice you may think the hard work is over, but it really isn’t. Telling new college friends that you are transferring is an intimidating task. It is important to think about how they may feel when you tell them; put yourself in their shoes so that you can better understand their possible reactions. They built a friendship with you and now you are leaving, so they may feel a bit betrayed or maybe they will stop working on the relationship since you are leaving. This happened to me and I ended up sitting down with my friend and telling her than I understood if she felt angry with me and I made it clear that we would still stay close, despite the change in distance from down the hall to down a few states. This may sound very negative, but these are all things that you have to think about when considering transferring.
A less obvious obstacle is the psychological notion of failure. It may seem like college is a perfect fit for some of your friends from high school and it is hard see how others may be thriving while you are considering transferring. I really struggled with looking at my friends pictures on Facebook and seeing their “ultimate college experience.” I remember one distinct phone conversation with a friend of mine who seemed to have the whole college scene figured out, but in our conversation she mentioned a few things that she was unhappy with and suddenly I realized that I had built up the perfection of my friend’s experiences but in reality everyone had their challenges in college. It is vital that through this process you understand that transferring is not giving up, and it does not make you a failure. By transferring you are being proactive and you are not willing to settle when you think that there is something better out there for you.
There are few times in your life when you have the power to make drastic changes, such as transferring, that are based on your happiness and your happiness alone. Down the road you may want to move to a different town or get a different job but it will likely be a much harder process because it will involve the wellbeing of other people. This is a time to be selfish and take advantage of the ability to make big changes without having to take others into consideration.
I could go on and on about transferring. I learned so much about myself through this tough process and while I know this experience is different for everyone, it is important to also keep in mind that people transfer all the time and it often ends up for the better. Thoughts about transferring can be quite daunting and unfortunately in this situation the previously mentioned thoughts of “what if” will exist no matter what decision you make. If you stay at your current school you may think “what if I had transferred” and if you do transfer there will always be that notion of “what if I had stayed.” This is why the decision of transferring should not be taken lightly. You need to be extremely confident in your decision, and feel that you have given it all that you’ve got, so that you aren’t tortured by what could have been. Overall, your happiness and well-being needs to take top priority and everything else concerning transferring can be dealt with one day at a time.
Thank you so much for all of the help you have given me during this past year… you have helped to make my search enjoyable… When the time came to send in applications, you helped me narrow the pool down to five. I now truly believe that I would be happy spending four years at any of the schools to which I have applied. It was an absolutely wonderful Christmas present to already be accepted at 2 colleges. I know we could not have accomplished this much without your help..."
-- Eddie, St. Michaels, Md.
S. Patterson and