My Decision to Transfer Colleges: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Phoebe's transfer story has a happy ending...but it took a long time to get there.

I did the unthinkable.

On a dark and stormy night in April of 2016, sitting in my dorm room at Brandeis University, I submitted my enrollment deposit to another school, the College of William & Mary. It was official; I was really transferring. But although my story has a happy ending, it took a long time to arrive at that destination…

Even though my regular freshman college application process was stressful and emotional, the transfer process is far more taxing. This wasn’t supposed to happen. After all, you went through freshman orientation, where everyone jumped up and down and welcomed you to your home for the next four years. You never thought you’d be leaving after just one or two.

But for whatever reason, it didn’t work out.

There are a million reasons to transfer. Sometimes financial situations change. Sometimes you wish you were closer or farther from home. Even more often, those who decide to transfer just don’t feel like their current school is where they are supposed to be at that moment in time.

So you think about transferring. You think about it really hard. You write pros-and-cons lists on yellow legal pads. You show them to your best friend at college, and she writes her name in bold letters on the pros of transferring column (hi, Madie). You wonder where you will go next. You research colleges all over again, thinking about reapplying to places that rejected you in the past, talking to your parents about their alma matters, Googling places that you never thought you’d find yourself in during your senior year of high school.

Then you compile your list of possible transfer schools with a slight grimace. You discover you can’t use the same Common Application account that you used last year. So you have to go through this entire painstaking and monotonous process again. You have to pay all your application fees again. And, worst of all, you have to wait and wait and wait…again.

For a while you kind of forget about the fact that you applied to transfer at all. You might even start to like your current school more than you did before you applied. You’ll find people in your clubs and study groups that you hadn’t met before and really click with. You get a good grade on a paper, and you’re proud of how this school has made you a better student. Sure, you still don’t like the cafeteria food and wish the weather was different, but maybe things aren’t as bad here as you thought. Maybe you can stick it out for another year, or learn to like it here. You will have second thoughts. I repeat: you will have second thoughts.

And then the day finally comes when you receive your transfer admission letters. Hopefully, you will have some options—but that means you have decisions to make. These choices could include staying at your current institution, transferring to another one, dropping out, or a combination of the three. Either way, this will be one of the hardest decisions you have made so far in your life. Get ready for more pros and cons lists, crying with your friends, and maybe even breaking the news to your significant other. The few weeks between getting your admission decisions and the ominous date when you have to submit your enrollment deposit will be rough, to say the least. 

Ultimately, you have to make a final college decision, and the best thing you can do for yourself is go to the place where you have the greatest potential for happiness. The fact that you even applied to transfer at all shows an immense amount of bravery. You wanted to make things better for yourself. Now your job is to really spend some time analyzing where you can find the most joy in your next few years of life.

As I said before, my story has a happy ending. Last May, after submitting my enrollment deposit, I packed my things, kissed some Brandesians goodbye, and watched my old campus and home recede into the background through the back window of my Uber. I spent the summer visiting my friends from Brandeis and trying not to think about the fact that I was going to a whole new school full of strangers, and that worst of all, I might feel like a freshman again. 

But when I got to William & Mary, after a few days, I knew I had made the right decision. The transfer process was well worth it, and I really found my home at my new school. I just hope that everyone else out there going through this can do the same.

Phew! Anyone else feel like they just got off an emotional rollercoaster?! (No? Just us? Well, we’re sensitive.) Anyway, if you’re thinking, you’ll find all the transfer advice you need right here. And let us know how you felt about your transfer in the comments.

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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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