“Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing.” Those words were spoken by Barry Finlay after he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the highest mountains in Africa.
Anyone who has climbed a mountain can tell you it’s a little bit scary. There is a good chance that the climber will also tell you the view from the top made the entire journey worth it. From the base, the mountain is daunting. The peak seems miles away, and you have no idea how you are going to make it to the top. However, the answer is actually quite simple. You just take it one step at a time until you finally get there.
Just like climbing a mountain, the transfer admission process may seem overwhelming. But if you keep moving forward and taking the right steps, you will reach your goal. And you might just find that your journey through the transfer process has brought you to the exact place where you need to be—the university that is the perfect fit for you.
Step one: Figure out what you want
Before you even start looking at specific universities, you should first take some time to decide what is most important to you in your future school. Maybe you are most concerned with academic achievement and want to attend a university that has a highly ranked program in your field of study. Or maybe you love sports and want to attend a Division I school known for its athletic excellence and long-standing traditions. Perhaps you want to make connections with your peers through specific student organizations. Or maybe you’re looking for the whole package: academics, athletics, and student life all rolled into one.
While considering these aspects, you should also weigh other factors that might ultimately influence your decision. How far away from home are you willing to travel? Do you want to be close enough to stay involved with family, or are you looking to stretch your wings, move far away, and experience something completely new?
Maybe you are looking for a school located in a large city that offers many opportunities after graduation. Or maybe a school in a smaller city is for you, where it is easier to jump in and be a part of the community. During this phase of reflection, be honest with yourself. You are the one deciding where to complete your education, so make sure you know what you are looking for before you narrow your options.
No matter what you want out of your future college, you are ultimately there to finish your education, so you need to finalize what you want to study. While college is about more than classes and studying, the overall goal is to walk away with a degree in your hand and a path for your future. Think about what you are passionate about and how this could translate into a career. If you loved working on the yearbook in high school, then maybe journalism is the field for you. If you love teaching children, perhaps you should consider education. If you like building model rockets, then physics might be a good choice. No matter what it is, you want to make sure you pick a field that will lead to a career you enjoy.
Step two: Start checking out schools
Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for in a university, start researching what specific schools have to offer. The most important thing to know about this step is to start early! From researching schools to the application process to finding housing, this process can take a significant amount of time.
Here are a few tips for making the most of the research process:
Use your resources. There are tons of ways to learn about schools, so make sure you use all of your available resources. Talk to your friends and family and get recommendations based on their experiences. Visit all of those college search websites (like the one on CollegeXpress!). You can also browse a school’s website for a great deal of information.
Visit campus. While websites, brochures, and videos can give a pretty good idea of college life, there is no substitute for actually setting foot on campus. Take some time to explore the grounds, chat with professors and current students, and consider whether or not you could make this place your college home.
Connect with your admission counselor. Seriously, do this! The transfer admission counselor at the school(s) you are interested in has a wealth of information to share with you about the transfer process. Rely on these people as the fabulous resources they are. They are there to help you, after all.
Step three: Make your move a success
Congratulations! You’ve found the school that is the perfect fit for you. You’ve been accepted, registered for classes, and scouted the new campus. However, the transfer admission process doesn’t end when you attend your first class. To truly make a successful transition, there are certain steps you need to take at your new university.
Be ready for a new academic experience. Know ahead of time that the academic experience at your new university will be different from what you have known in the past. On the first day of class, introduce yourself to your professors and let them know that you are excited about becoming a part of your new school. Specifically, ask the professor what you need to do to succeed in the class. Then, do it! Many colleges also offer resources outside of the classroom that can help you succeed academically, from free tutoring and mentoring to finding an internship or job. Learn what options your school has and use them.
Get involved. When you first get to campus, it might feel strange to be surrounded by students who already seem to have deep roots. The quickest way to counter this feeling is by joining a student organization or two . . . or three. From Greek organizations to Quidditch teams, there is something for everybody. Discover what types of student groups are at your school and pick one to join. Some schools have specific organizations for transfers, where you can meet other students who share and can relate to your experience. Another great way to get connected is to go on a study abroad trip. Along with receiving class credit while traveling the world, you will form strong bonds with your peers.
Before you know it, you will be standing on top of that mountain. You will have found the school that’s the perfect fit. You will be involved in student organizations and loving life on your new campus. And you will look back to where you started and realize the journey was entirely worth it.