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Adapting to Your New College as a Transfer Student

Don't let your fears about transferring colleges derail your plans! Here are some of the toughest things about transferring and how you can conquer them.

It can be difficult to transfer colleges for many reasons. You might feel like you’ve missed out on the important initial social, academic, and work-based events that happened in the first year or two at your new school, or you may have difficulty adjusting to a new location or climate. The best thing you can do in the face of any of these trials is to squash it head-on. Here’s a look at the hardest parts of transferring colleges and how you can adapt.

Social setbacks

Life as a transfer student can feel isolating; the freshman activities that promote bonds early have been missed, and it can seem tremendously difficult to try to join pre-established social circles. Something to consider when reaching out to new people: The worst thing that can happen is you aren’t accepted and invited. While it’s an unpleasant thought, there are far worse things to worry about. Having social supports is beneficial to your mental health and greatly correlated with academic- and career-related success, so the risk of not making a friend is worth the possibility—more like probability—that you will. If the thought of approaching random classmates is too much, remember that you aren’t the only student struggling with making and maintaining friendships in college—especially within the transfer student body. Seek out other transfer students or do what you enjoy openly, be it photography or volleyball, and it will lead you to others with similar interests. Be open to new people, ideas, and interests but know you can easily find someone interested in doing homework together or getting lunch. Just be yourself and do your best to be approachable. You wouldn’t want to say hello to someone who didn’t seem kind or interesting, would you?

Academic struggles

Transfer students may be subject to a series of academic complications, from a change in academic policies to credit transfer issues to a new environment full of fundamentally different educators. For example, moving from a small private religious college to a large public university would certainly be a big change. Adjusting to the expectations and values of educators and educational societies can be difficult, but with an open mind and a good understanding of the general expectations, you‘ll have the ability to make the most of your situation and embrace your new school’s environment. Self-motivation is an important tool for college students—especially transfer students. Like any student, you’ll need to consistently meet with your academic advisor to ensure that you’re on track and maximizing your credits if you want to stick to a four-year (or even five-year) academic program.

Related: How to Graduate on Time as a Transfer Student

Jobs and internships

Competition between students for jobs and internships can be high, although it depends on where you go to school and what field you’re interested in. As you reach junior and senior year, this competition is often heightened. Entering the picture as a transfer student can feel like a disadvantage; you may feel disregarded or ill-prepared for an on-campus job or coveted internship. But your transfer experience is not a handicap; it can serve as a great learning experience if you allow it to. By transferring, you’re making a dedicated decision about your future for the benefit of not only your career but your emotional and financial health. Use this experience balancing the struggles of change and choice to stand out in a good light. Your experience is just as valid as others and deserves to be treated as such—but the first step to earning your place at the table is asking for a seat, followed shortly by explaining just why you deserve that seat. When seeking out work opportunities, be prepared to prove that you’re equal to your non-transfer counterparts.

Settling in on campus

Whether you’re moving into a dorm with a stranger or into an apartment on your own, you’re making a huge lifestyle shift. Being paired with an unknown housemate can be rough at first, but by clearly laying out a roommate agreement early on, you can help alleviate stress and keep negative interactions to a minimum. In the end, your roommates could end up being some of your closest friends! If you’re moving to your own room on campus, it might be lonely. Try propping open your door when you first move in and make a real effort to meet your floormates. These are the kind of friends who can show you around campus and aid you in settling in. No matter your housing situation, there are always students and staff who are there to help you find your way around and learn about the student life and academics at your new school. Don’t be shy and reach out early.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Living With Roommates vs. Living Alone

Transferring can be rough, so while you settle in, just try to remember that you deserve your space at the school. A lot of other people are on the lookout for people to spend time with, be it for studying or going to parties and football games, so don’t assume you missed the opportunity to make friends. Honesty and open-mindedness are the most important traits, so do your best to keep them in your pocket!

Get more helpful advice to make your transfer process go smoothly in our Transfer Students section.

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About Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson is a film student and writer, doing her best to avoid a lifetime of debt. You can find her digging through CollegeXpress for scholarships or working on her art at


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