Featured Image

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.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

how to transfer real life stories student profiles student stories transfer colleges transferring colleges

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.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.



High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

College Matches