After graduating from an intense Running Start program in high school, Emily was accepted to her dream university. It was a highly competitive, large public school, and she had planned to go there since she was about eight years old. However, things didn’t turn out quite the way she expected. Emily’s first class at the university had enough students to fill a small high school. The lengthy commute drained her energy. She found it difficult to get help from busy professors and TAs. Emily is a self-dubbed “quiet extrovert,” and by juinor year, the huge student community simply wore her out.
She finally decided she had to transfer. Her transfer college search resulted in a small private university with all the programs and amenities she needed (George Fox University, in case you were wondering!). Now she's thriving with the private university’s supportive community, faith-infused mission, and 14:1 student-faculty ratio. Here, Emily shares four tips for transfer students as you choose a school and adjust to a new environment.
1. List the reasons you want to transfer
You know you need to transfer. This school just doesn’t work for you. But what exactly went wrong? To avoid ending up in the same situation the second (or third) time around, you need to clearly define the reasons why your current college isn’t working for you. Do you want to switch to a major that your school doesn’t offer? Was the commute too long or the price too high? Did the culture just feel wrong? Write a list. Then create another list and ask yourself, “What do I want from my new college?” Include the things you need, but also be creative! Do you want to join a hockey team, symphony orchestra, or theater program? Is there a specific part of the country where you’d like to live? Or have you always wanted to travel abroad This is pretty similar to the brainstorming sessions you may have had the first time you searched for colleges that fit you. But now you know from experience what you do and don’t want in a college or university. And that can make all the difference!
Take your lists and divide each into two categories: requirements and preferences. (Even better, arrange the listed items from least to most important. And if you like graphs, why not draw one up? Or two? Or seven? Yay, data!) When we say “requirements,” we mean it—these are the things you truly need in college to be happy and do well. Now that you have your lists of college wants (preferences) and needs (requirements), the game is on. While searching for transfer colleges, make sure your schools fulfill all your requirements. It’s possible that they won’t fulfill all of your preferences, but that’s okay. That’s also why it’s so important to define what college search criteria are your true essentials. Why not make it easier for yourself later on?
2. Check out the environment
Transferring can be tough—new faces, new classes, new culture. You’re accustomed to one college, and switching partway through your program can be stressful if you’re not prepared. You need to get ready to adjust to the environment change. One invaluable solution is to visit the college before you transfer. Once you’ve chosen your transfer college, you should also try to give yourself ample time on campus before your first day of classes. Familiarize yourself with the school by walking the grounds and locating important buildings such as the library and cafeteria.
Another pro transfer tip: Talk to several students and professors when you're visiting to ensure that the environment matches your personality. Will there be enough support? Will you feel safe and comfortable? Research the city where the school is located. Find out more about student life. With all this information behind you, you’ll feel more confident and equipped to face the new experience.
3. Find the joy
One of the best ways to see whether you’ll be happy at your transfer school is to see how current students feel. “Assess the happiness of students by walking around campus and seeing how many students are smiling,” Emily suggests. You can also get a sense of student happiness by looking online at “unofficial” social media groups; student review sites like College Confidential, Niche, and Unigo; and posts on sites like reddit, Quora, and Facebook. If the majority of a college’s students seem anxious, lonesome, or even unfriendly, it’s probably not a good sign of the school’s quality of support and community. That being said, try not to do this research during midterms or finals week! There are better times to visit campus.
4. Reach out and get involved
Once you’re enrolled in your transfer college or university, try to get involved on your new campus and give others the pleasure of meeting you! Others will likely reach out to you, especially other transfer students, but it’s important to make an effort also. Remember that you’re the new student; finding your place in the community is primarily your job.
After she transferred, Emily started by just smiling and greeting every person she passed on her way to classes. Overall, people responded positively. Even that simple action helped Emily feel like part of her new college community. Sometimes your fellow students won’t smile back, but one returned friendly face is definitely worth a few disappointments. In the beginning of the school year, Emily also made an effort to eat lunch with a different person each day. Now she has a firm place in the community and a regular lunch group, but eating with someone new each day helped her make friends and benefited her as she met as many people as possible.
Keep these transfer tips in mind, but also remember that you know yourself best—and you know what’s best for you as a transfer student. Ultimately, your goal is to find a school that suits your personality and prepares you for life after college, no matter how many colleges it takes you to get there.
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