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5 Survival Tips for Your First Semester as a Transfer

When you're a transfer student, it can feel like you're the new kid again. That can be nerve-wracking, but these five tips can help make the switch easier.

No matter what semester or year it is, transferring can make college more difficult. But if you’ve made the bold choice to transfer, know you’re doing the right thing for your education. Being a transfer student means putting a little extra effort into everything to maximize the benefits you can get out of a new school. Follow these five tips during your first semester at your new school, and that extra effort will carry you to success!

1. Get to know your own class

Move-in weekend at a new school year is exciting and nerve-wracking when you’re a new student. Colleges usually encourage transfers to move in early with the new freshman class and participate in all the fun new student activities. While this is a great idea to get to know your campus and have some familiar faces around, make sure to put in the extra effort to get to know your own class when they move in! It’s easy to make friends with the freshman class when your college has sanctioned events designed to help students meet each other, and there’s nothing wrong with having friends in a lower year than you. Take it from someone who didn’t attend graduation because she barely knew anyone in her graduating class: these guys are your people. Reach out to people in your classes the first week. Ask them to introduce you to other people or groups of people in your graduating class. Build a strong network of friends and acquaintances so when you walk across the stage for your diploma, you feel that sense of community backing you.

Related: Transferring Myths Series: Making Friends

2. Don’t latch on to the first people you meet

Like putting in the extra effort to get to know your graduating class, make sure you keep branching out even if you make a few solid friends right away. It’s great to have a support system right away, especially if it comes easily, but knowing a wide range of people will make you feel more at home in classes, your dorm, clubs, and more—just a few friends can’t be there for you 24/7. Not everyone has to be your best friend either, but the whole point of transferring was because your old school wasn’t fulfilling your needs and making you happy. A huge factor of happiness in college is feeling like part of the campus community, and that won’t stick unless you branch out beyond only a couple friends. Join a club or sport to meet different kinds of people. You could also encourage those first friends you made to join a club with you so you can meet new people together and expand your friend group!

3. Take advantage of the opportunities your first school didn’t offer

Many colleges will have similar clubs, sports, and majors, but there’s a reason the college choice is so difficult. It’s because there are so many factors that make a school unique. Your first school might not have had a club you were looking forward to joining or didn’t have an easy process to start one. Maybe their basketball team didn’t have the kind of community and team dynamics you were looking for. Your new school is a fresh start with new opportunities left, right, and center. Take advantage of those opportunities! Join the clubs. Play sports. Join a committee or student government. Your new school is a new atmosphere and a new chance to make something of yourself outside of academics. After it’s over, there’s never a feeling quite like that of the communities you get to be a part of in college.

Related: It’s Never Too Late to Get Involved on Campus

4. Make the extra effort to stand out to your professors

The lucky thing about professors is they teach a mix of class years and courses. Even if other students have been at your new school for two years already, they haven’t met or built a relationship with every professor. You’ll get to be on a level playing field with many other classmates in getting to know your professors, though there will be students who have already built relationships and connections with certain professors.

It’s not a competition—that’s not what I’m suggesting—but having a strong relationship with some of your professors is imperative to academic success, especially with staff in your major’s department. Make that extra effort to be known and heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up in class and share your opinions. Let the rest of the class filter out ahead of you at the end of class and stay to chat with your professor about the material a little bit longer. If you skipped a prerequisite class taught by that professor because of your transfer credits, ask the professor if there are any key takeaways from their way of teaching the subject that you should know to make the current class easier. Professors love when students take initiative and show they’re passionate about learning and succeeding. As a transfer student, they’ll appreciate it even more because it shows them that they’re making an impact on you and giving you the academic experience you were seeking.

5. Bring your wisdom and experience with you

Just because your first school wasn’t fulfilling your needs as a student doesn’t mean it wasn’t a valuable experience. What you learned was important, and it gave you a better understanding of yourself in that you came to the decision to leave in the first place. Bring that wisdom with you to your new school. Use your first experience in the classroom by comparing how you learned at one school versus the other to maximize your retention, study habits, and class participation. Reach out to other transfer students who may be having a difficult time with the process too and talk about your old schools and what you like about this new one. The point is that your past is valuable to your future, so don’t resent the place you left just because it wasn’t what was best for you. Appreciate what that school offers others and know that you’re just different and needed something better suited for you.

Related7 Things You’ll Learn Your First Semester as a Transfer

Transferring is a big change, but it shouldn’t be scary or overwhelming. If you were able to handle the change of attending college in the first place, then switching to a new school shouldn’t be much more difficult. While it may seem like you’re a fish out of water, you’re not the only student transferring—and you certainly won’t be the last. College students are nicer than you think, and there will be plenty of people to help you along the way. 

Find your best-fit transfer college on CollegeXpress using our featured transfer colleges lists to connect to schools. 

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About Kelli Dolan

Kelli Dolan

Kelli Dolan is the Senior Assistant Editor & Counselor Communications Coordinator for CollegeXpress. Her day-to-day includes editing and writing CollegeXpress articles, running the CollegeXpress Counselors social media platforms, and basically just doing all things CollegeXpress. When she’s not editing other people’s work, she's writing for fun, favoring fiction stories and poetry. You could also potentially find her reading, playing video games, or hanging out with her dog, Athena, and red bearded dragon, Freya.


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