So you’ve been at college for a while now, and it’s not living up to your expectations. Maybe your hallmates are obnoxious, or your classes aren’t engaging, or you have some major problems with the administration. At any rate, you’re feeling like this experience is not what you signed up for when you committed to this school. As a result, you may start to consider transferring to a college that you think can offer you a better experience.
However, despite your current frustrations, transferring isn’t always a good response to feeling dissatisfied with your college. Let’s take a look at some of the right and wrong reasons to transfer.
Greener Grass Syndrome
When you’re researching a college, you’re probably going to see the positive attributes first—the beautiful campus, the diverse student body, the great food, what have you. This is because colleges put a lot of effort into marketing themselves to potential students: they want to look as appealing as possible, so they’ll make sure to flaunt their best features in promotional materials. And, while they may not sweep their problems under the rug, they aren’t going to brandish them on the homepage of their website. But if you’re stuck at your crummy, lame college looking at beautiful pictures and stellar reviews of another school, you may start to romanticize it. You may think, “this is the school for me. At this school, the students are all cool, and the classes are all great. At this school, I can finally be happy.”
But here’s the thing: transferring will not solve all your problems. There is no college in the world that’s just smooth sailing all the time. Every college has obnoxious people. Every college has some bad classes. And get this: everyone has problems with their college’s administration. Transferring does not mean ditching all the undesirable parts of your school; it just means trading one set of problems for another. So stop idealizing the college you are considering transferring to. For all you know, a student there is looking wistfully at pictures of your college.
Viable Reasons to Transfer
TP writer Joanna Flores outlines some good reasons for transferring in this article. To briefly summarize, here are the main reasons she cites:
- Wanting a different academic program
- Health and/or financial obstacles
- Conflict with the political/social scene
The key similarity between these points is that they are all objective reasons why one school may be advantageous to another. If you realize you want to major in journalism and your college does not offer a Journalism major, it makes sense to look at schools that do have one. If 85% of the student body identifies as conservative and you feel alienated as a liberal, you might want to look at colleges with a different political atmosphere. In each of these cases, you have a concrete, tangible goal to attain by transferring, rather than just a vague notion that you want a “better” school.
Alternatives to Transferring
Even if transferring isn’t a good choice for you, you may still be unhappy at your current school. So what do you do? Here are a few things you can do to help improve your college experience and make you feel more confident in your school
Reach Out for Help
Try talking to your R.A., your dean, or your school’s counseling service about your gripes with the school. Colleges want their students to be happy, so they likely have some resources that can help you out no matter what your dilemma is.
Keep It in Perspective
I’ve found that colleges can often be a breeding ground for negative attitudes. People like to talk about the things they dislike about their school a lot more than the things they like. That’s why it’s good to take a minute to remember the reasons you picked your school in the first place—to reevaluate all the good things about it.
As a student, you are not powerless to some higher powers pulling the strings at your college. Participate in the student government, organize a protest, and take other measures to change the conditions that you believe are unfair/unreasonable.
Fake It Til You Make It
Everyone takes a while to adjust to a college—to find your people, figure out a routine that works, and feel truly comfortable. For some people, that adjustment period might be just a couple weeks. For me, it was a little over a semester. If you are unsatisfied with your school, it may just be that you haven’t fully adjusted yet. Try sticking it out for a little longer and seeing if it makes any difference. Prospect co-found Lily Herman says that “you can’t truly know if you love a school or not until you’ve been there for AT LEAST two years.”
If you’ve taken some or all of these measures and you still feel unhappy at your college, then, yes, maybe it is time to think about transferring. But even if you do decide to go down that route, remember that transferring is not a cure-all solution, and that no college is perfect. Because ultimately, your college experience is what you make of it.