7 Things You'll Learn Your First Semester as a Transfer

Phoebe just finished her first semester as a transfer student, and she's already learned a lot of important lessons. Keep reading for seven tips she has to share with all new transfers.

There’s a lot of things you think you know about transferring and what the experience is going to be like, but many things you may be surprised to learn, never even thought about, or assumed falsely. Here are seven things you’ll likely learn your first semester as a transfer student, and learning them here and now before you head off may help make your transititon a little easier

1. You’re not the only person who transferred

The transfer admission process probably felt pretty lonely. After all, while all your friends at your old school were picking out housing and classes for next semester, you were diving back into the Common App. However, once you arrive at your new college, you probably won’t feel as lonely as you thought you would. Many colleges and universities have their own special orientation program for new transfer students. When I transferred this past semester, I ended up becoming friends with a lot of people who transferred as well. Transferring is a unique experience, so it’s easy to bond with people going through the same experience as you.

2. Picking classes will be tough

Unfortunately, transfer students are often placed at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to picking classes for the upcoming semester. All the other upperclassmen already picked their courses at the end of last year, so you’ll probably be stuck with finding open spots in classes that are nearing capacity. Talk to your transfer and/or academic counselor to see if they can email professors for you explaining your plight. (Pro tip: having a good relationship with your advisor is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a transfer student). Additionally, you may have to take some sort of freshman seminar class, similar to what you already took at your previous institution. Don’t worry; these classes are meant to be fun and help you become acquainted with what your new college expects from you academically. The seminar I had to take as a sophomore transfer was about American short stories. It ended up being a great experience; in fact, it was one of the classes that I got the most out of during my first semester as a transfer student.

3. You can learn a lot from older transfer students

During my first month or so as a college transfer, I would occasionally cross paths with an older student who had transferred the year or semester before. My jaw would drop, and my eyes would grow wide. I could not believe how happy these upperclassman students seemed. None of them stuck out from the community in the way I so feared I would; they were all just going about their lives like regular college students. Let these older and wiser transfer students be an inspiration to you: the first few weeks of being a transfer can be tough emotionally. However, so many people have gone through the process and come out better for it on the other side. Let them be your guides, and feel free to ask them for advice! They have walked in your shoes before—and even made them fashionable.

Related: Inside My Transfer Experience: The Steps I Took to Succeed as a Transfer Student

4. Transfer orientation will probably be awful

The freshmen will all be wide eyed and in awe of the entire college experience. They will cheer and get into the spirit with their orientation leaders. And you, transfer student? You will probably hate the entire thing. To be totally honest, I spent most of my transfer orientation crying in the bathroom (which, to be fair, was more about the emotional experience of transferring). You’ve been through orientation before, you’ve had people welcome you into their community for the next four years, and, well, it didn’t work out. Not to mention, many orientations are labeled as “new student” centered but still tend to cater to freshman. So it’s natural to feel a little dismayed (at best) or miserable (at worst). The best thing you can do in this situation is bond with your fellow transfer students over it. Your transfer group will create orientation memories of your own.

5. You won’t feel like a freshman all over again

One of my biggest fears once I decided to transfer was that I would feel like a freshman all over again. However, this fear proved to be entirely false. I didn’t feel like a freshman—but, at the same time, I didn’t feel like a regular sophomore either. I felt like a sophomore transfer student. I was my own unique breed of student, and that was okay. I wasn’t as dumbfounded and fearful as the freshmen were, yet I still got a little lost going to class sometimes. As a transfer student, it’s okay to not fit into your class year in the same way as everyone else; you can forge your own path through your new college experience.

Related: What's Your Plan? How to Finish Your Degree as a Transfer

6. Getting involved will still be easy

Remember the activities fair that was so nicely marketed to you freshman year? Yeah, that still happens as a transfer. One of the best decisions I made for myself when I transferred was joining Greek life at my new school. I went through recruitment with a great group of transfer girls, and we all bonded over how badly we wanted a sorority to make us feel at home. Once I received my bid from Kappa Delta, I realized how many other girls in my pledge class (and sorority as a whole) had gone through the transfer process too. I immediately felt less alone. After I got my Big and had my whole sorority family, I felt like I had a place on campus. Whether it’s Greek life, a cappella, club sports, or Model UN, getting involved in your school’s community is the best thing you can do for yourself as a new transfer student.

7. Being true to yourself is important to your happiness

As a transfer student, it’s easy to cling onto anything (or anyone) that makes you feel less alone on your new campus. I went through an identity crisis during my first semester as a transfer. So here are a few words of wisdom, from my transfer experience to yours:

  • Remember who you are. Make sure your values transfer with you.
  • Finding a group of people to hang out with isn’t automatically the same as finding a group of real friends who support and care about you.
  • There are things you’ll come across in college that create community very easily. That doesn’t mean these things are inherently good.
  • Real friends are out there. There are lots of ways to meet them (even as a transfer).

Related: How to Make Your Semester More Mindful

Lastly, here’s one tip I recommend above all else: try to meet as many people as possible. It’s very easy as a transfer to find one person, such as one best friend or significant other, and literally spend all your free time with them because you’re scared of meeting new people. Whatever you do, please don’t do that. The only way to be truly happy as a transfer student is to meet lots of new people and find your own place in your new college or university. Don’t look to anyone to do that for you or take that experience away from you.

If you’re still looking for the perfect transfer college, keep searching on CollegeXpress with our College Search tool!

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About Phoebe Bain

Phoebe is a student at the College of William & Mary. She's an avid writer, reader, runner, ukulele player, and user of the passive voice. Her favorite show is How I Met Your Mother, and she loves how giraffes look when they sleep.


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