The reality of the college application and decision process is that your first choice isn’t always your best choice. It’s hard to know exactly what you will want for the next four years of your life when you’re only 18 years old. This is especially true for students who choose to go far away from home. Most teenagers have never even been away from their families for more than a week or two at a time. The adjustment to college life usually isn’t a walk in the park.
During your senior year of high school, when acceptances are pouring in and high school is drawing to a close, there’s so much pressure to choose the “right” school. Sometimes the right school means choosing the furthest or most prestigious on your list without giving any real thought to how well you will actually fit in there. In especially competitive friend groups, you may find that some people make their college decision based on what school looks better or most impressive to their friends or family. For other people, it’s all about the closeness to home and that clouds their vision completely.
There are many reasons why students decide to transfer. Just as it is hard to know where you want to spend the next four years of your life when you are just 18, not every student knows what they want their college major to be while they are still in high school. Not every school has every major, and sometimes students have to transfer to a different school that offers what they really want to study. A smaller school sometimes will offer more basic, broader options than a large school. Other times a smaller school has fewer, but more specific academic concentrations than a larger school. Chances are after the first year or two of college, most students realize what their interests are.
While it is easy to find generic reasons online why students should and shouldn’t transfer colleges, there aren’t very many places that talk about how transfer students feel after the switch. Here are three realities of transferring colleges, whether it is halfway through freshmen year or at the beginning of junior year.
1. Financial Aid. Here’s one not-so-secret secret of transferring: almost all colleges will not give you as much money as a transfer student as you would have gotten as an incoming freshman. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that this is the case in most places. Whether or not you applied to the college while you were in high school, you are almost guaranteed to receive less money. In fact, most schools have a set limit for the amount of money that they will distribute to transfers. Private schools can set this limit as low as $7,000 (that is not even half of the tuition for one semester at most schools), while students who entered as freshmen can receive up to a full scholarship.
2. Flexibility. A student’s decision to transfer to a college doesn’t mean that he/she is locked in for the rest of their college career. There is no limit on how many times a student can transfer, as long as they fall under the set number of credits that locks them into a school.
3. Mixed Feelings. The reality of transferring to a new school is that, all of the other students at the school have already met. Transfer students who live on campus will be placed with roommates who already have friends, who know the campus, and are fully adjusted. While this adjustment can be difficult, it is not uncommon for transfers to question whether or not they made the right decision. The transition period for a transfer is never easy, but it is not impossible. After a semester or two, chances are it would be hard to find the difference between the student who transferred and the one who entered in freshman year.
It’s far from easy to make such a big decision, so is it really surprising that so many students transfer colleges each year? No. There are countless reasons why transferring can be a great decision, and why it could be a poor decision, but what is really most important is where do you feel the most comfortable? The best way to decide whether or not transferring is right for you is to make a list of what you’re looking for, what your current school offers, and what your school is missing. From there you can decide which other school to transfer to, or if you just need to take a semester off and get a little perspective.