Now that most colleges have notified their applicants about their admissions decisions, students all across the country are faced with an important life choice: what school to pick. I still remember how excited I was when my father came into my room, handed me a car decal of my school’s logo, and told me to put it on my car. I ran outside and spent the next 15 minutes meticulously placing it on my back windshield. This is it, I thought. I now know where I’m going to college. I ran back inside, logged onto Facebook, and changed added the school to my profile (the “official” sign that someone has made his or her college decision).
I will be the first to admit that, contrary to what many people believed because of social media, I was not in love with my college for the first month or so. Even though I was incredibly anxious in the weeks leading up to move-in day, I was also excited to start my new life at college. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was when my expectations did not fully meet reality. I had a bit of trouble making friends and I was unsure if my major was right for me (which led me to worry about other aspects of my future college career). Out of worry, I started to fill out the Common Application to transfer schools a little over a month since I moved in. In hindsight, this was incredibly rash. Things take time! Fortunately enough, things ended up getting better and now I am head over heels in love with my school; I seriously cannot imagine myself any place else. On the other hand, some people do not end up loving their schools and decide that transferring out is the best option for them.
I know that when I was considering transferring, I was scared and confused (which seems to be the common sentiment among soon-to-be transfer applicants). What if I don’t like my new school? What would people at home think? What would people at my current school think? Would I be able to make friends as a sophomore? While these are all valid concerns, there is something to keep in mind: the end goal of a happy college career. Not only should a student be able to earn a degree, he or she should love the place from where they are earning that degree. A friend of mine who decided to transfer (and who wished to remain anonymous) told me the following:
“At the beginning of my first college search I [felt] like I wasn’t entirely sure who I was and what kind of school I was looking for. After completing my first year at [my current school], I realize now what programs truly interest me and what kinds of cultural influences I’m looking for on a college campus, thanks to having a better sense of [who I am] and where I might fit in.”
For him, not only was the program for his major not the right fit, but also the social setting at the school was not what he was looking for. Instead of spending another three years somewhere where he did not feel he belonged, it made sense for him to apply to transfer. College is a living and learning experience, a place where students should be able to explore varying interests and discover themselves; any school that doesn’t allow all of those things to happen really is not the best possible place to be. As another friend of mine, Emily, stated, “You and your parents aren’t paying thousands and thousands of dollars for you to be miserable.”
Yet, even though a school might not be the best fit, anyone who transfers (and even those who don’t) has the opportunity to learn – not just in his or her classes but outside of the lecture halls as well. As aforementioned, my friend said that he learned a lot about himself, what his interests were and what type of school he really liked. Furthermore, Emily explained to me that even though she was unhappy at her first school, she learned a lot about responsibility and what it takes to take care of oneself. Since transferring schools, she has been able to work on that responsibility and work ethic, but somewhere she feels more comfortable. I know that after my first few months at college, I felt much more mature and as if I had a greater ability to take care of myself; I felt more independent and in tune with my wants and needs as a student and as a person.
It’s hard to know if a school will be the right fit for you before move-in day. You can have a sense if it will be, yes, but the college experience is different than visiting once or twice. As a word of advice, I would definitely say to spend the first couple of months really focusing on making the most out of your college experience and taking advantage of all of the opportunities around you (such as floor events, Welcome Week events, study groups with friends, etc.). As both of my friends mentioned to me, there is absolutely no shame in finding a school that is a better fit if your current school ends up not being the right choice. You may even want to take precautionary measures and send in applications to transfer even if you aren’t 100% sure that you want to switch schools. But don’t get too hung up on transferring too early.
College is supposed to be, as I’ve been told time and time again, the best four years of my life. There is nothing wrong in wanting to make sure that what lay ahead is something to look forward to.