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If you checked my texts about a month ago, you would find this sent to an older friend: “SOS. EVERYONE IS TRANSFERRING AND I’M SCARED.”

What Terrified Me?

These weren’t just random people in my general ed courses, but friends (and frenemies) I got to know through courses, late nights in the study lounge, and surprise cupcakes at my dorm room door at 1AM. They’re people I compared myself to socially and academically, and the people I gauged my college experience to for an entire year. If I was hearing about the changes people were making in their college choice – of which experiences I shared in – I couldn’t help but question if I should make a change as well.

I have to admit I internalized it competitively…if this college wasn’t working out for the people I shared my major, program, and all-around college life with, maybe it wasn’t really working out for me either.

After a long conversation (mostly consisting of me freaking out, and my friend sending me Calming Manatee memes), this is how I’ve come to look at it.

Why All the Transfers?                                

There are infinite college experiences – yes, even though I felt like I spent most of my life and experiences with the same people who were leaving. What were the major reasons?

Ladies and Gentlemen, a Slight Change in Program

This doesn’t just mean their major, but sometimes that’s the case. By program, I mean pre-professional or co-op situation. These are things like pre-medical, pre-law, advanced bachelors programs (such as a 3-2 or 4-1 double bachelors).

After a semester or two in a program, we start learning more about the in’s and out’s of what we have signed up for. They’re the details we didn’t know existed during our college application process, SIR day, or even freshman orientation. They come as GPA requirements, required classes, interactions with peers and faculty. Sometimes, the push to transfer out comes, out of the blue, usually from finding out that the career or educational path a program sets out, no longer fits into one’s goals.

Going Home, to a Place Where I Belong

The second most prevalent reason I see people transferring is because of distance or finances rooted back to his or her family. This could be the student’s own health (therefore needing to be closer to home), family or loved ones’ conditions, or change in finances (where attending school closer to home means less travel costs, and sometimes, lower tuition).

Other Prevalent Reasons

  • Loss of scholarships/funds (usually merit scholarships that require a minimum GPA)
  • Abuse/crime (sadly, especially direct experience)
  • Change in academic endeavors (such as major, which is unavailable at your school)
  • Intense social or political scene (i.e., feeling constantly at conflict as a conservative at a overwhelmingly liberal school adds stress and pressure, inside and outside the classroom)

Why It’s Totally Okay to Be Terrified

A fresh start and first cycle of anything is scary. Think about your first dates, first time travelling alone, even every first day of school…for over twelve years. Because the first time around means having no concrete “evidence” to base your experiences on, it’s almost too easy to find what makes us uncomfortable, and scapegoat that onto one decision. For example, a rough social transition being completely attributed to your college decision.

Part of the huge freshman year buzz about “I’m out, I’m transferring” is the huge transition, and feeling as if problems are entirely based on the school one is at. It’s safe to estimate that a majority of people who consider transferring don’t – sometimes for the exact same reasons listed above. It’s also often the stress of a recent event talking – plus, transferring is in itself, a rough process.

It’s not that transferring shouldn’t be an option – with appropriate time and consideration, people do find transferring to be a healthy and great fit for their lives. But freshman/first year is the biggest transition period for anyone (which is why almost every college tracks and reports their first year retention rates).

You’ve heard time and again that college is the time of independence, and making huge decisions on where one’s life is headed: people you know will make their own judgments of where to take their lives, and that’s totally okay. If you feel solid in your choice and where you’re headed, it’s all right to feel questioned, but don’t overanalyze it!

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the author

Jo is in her first year of studying biology at Fordham University, with interests in the social sciences, business management, and world domination. Recently returned to New York from 12 years in California, you'll most likely find her adventuring around the city. Residences include the science and humanities departments, running trails, and every coffee shop from here to Narnia. Nobody’s quite sure if she has a heart, but she’s got some sort of pump that moves around the black sludge that is espresso through her veins.

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