Image from Flickr

Image from Flickr.

If you are reading this article, chances are that you are an international students seeking to transfer, while feeling a little unsettled by the financial prospects. Or like me, you do not feel the immediate, tremendous desire to transfer, but you are interested in knowing and extending your options to the best possible, meaning you are curious to see how much viable of a choice transferring is—how much difficulty to be foreseen should you decide to walk down that road.

I talked to a high school friend who went through the transfer process in her freshman year. We have always been close on every step of her journey, but I have little insight into the transfer process and understand little of the more technical, cold-pressed aspects of her challenges. The most I did was to give her moral support, knowing—sometimes almost silently—that the decision she made was brave and right. I can assume it was difficult attempting to transfer as an international student in need of financial aid. Can it ever be easy? I asked my friend to speak of her opinions because I feel unqualified describing an experience I can only imagine, never truly undergoing its rewarding pulses and bitter quandaries.

Why did you decide to transfer? Did financial factors interfere with your decision in any way?

Mostly for academic reasons. I want more research opportunities for my major. Money definitely plays into this. I feel that the money I invest in my studies does not pay off, especially with all the limited academic and extracurricular resources at my current school.

Do you find it true that transferring is more difficult for students who need financial aid, including/especially international students?

I certainly believe so, but more like transferring is more difficult for international students, especially those who need financial aid. Financial aid is mostly available to domestic students. Most of the schools I applied to stated specifically that they had “very limited” budget for international transfer candidates as they have already offered financial aid to incoming freshmen. There are also chances that a school would accept you with little to no financial aid despite your stated need.

Well, how did you sort through the fact that your transfer options aren’t quite generous?

At first I was really zealous to search for schools that promise to meet full needs of an international transfer like me, and I actually did find some. However, since the transfer applicants pool is extremely competitive, it’s not easy to get in. At some point I feel a little bad for myself that I didn’t have the privilege that domestic students or international students who could afford full tuition had. But then again, nothing could change my financial situation so I tried my best to work on other parts of my application, like my essays and grades. I wasn’t going to let the seemingly more narrow options be a deterrence to my desire to transfer.

In general, how would you compare transferring to the previous college application process? With the same conditions applied, do your choices become even more limited now that you’re applying for transfer?

I feel more pressure applying as an international transfer who needs financial aid than as a freshman, because, as I said, financial aid is such a big factor. My choices of schools are therefore more limited and the pool is more competitive. However, after one year adjusting to a new way of life, I have understood myself better.

Plus, that one year allows me to explore more options available in America, i.e. major options. In my case, my struggle with cultural adaptation ignited my passion for Psychology as I wanted to, first and foremost, help myself with my own problems, and then reach out help those who were in the same situation as me. Had I not spent this one year in a U.S. college, I wouldn’t have figured out what my real passion is.

What’s an important thing you learned from your transfer application process?

Go for whatever that you believe will make you happy. At first I was worried that my financial situation would make it impossible for me to transfer, and that it would be awkward to return to my current college if I didn’t make it. But the admissions results turned out better than I expected despite the fact that I did not make it to certain schools the first time I applied. My friends and professors still welcomed me at my current college.

Anyway, I’m very glad that I decided to apply and gave it my best. I’m glad that I did not let my financial situation deter me from reaching out for available opportunities out there. As Mark Twain put it, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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Chi Thuy Le likes to think she lives bi-continentally while writing out of Chicago.

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