If you’re transferring to a new college, you could experience something called “transfer shock.” It’s a phenomenon many students experience at their new school that includes a temporary dip in grades during the first semester or two, along with some social disorientation. Don’t be alarmed if it happens to you; it can happen whether you transfer from a two-year to a four-year school or from one four-year college or university to another.
Why does it happen?
Sometimes students underestimate the increased academic expectations and aren’t prepared to level up. If you’re going straight into a university’s upper-division classes from your community college, the more difficult coursework and faculty expectations can catch you off guard. Even transferring from another four-year college can mean more difficult classes at your new school. Every college is different. Transfer students often assume that because they’ve handled college already, the change will be easy—so a bumpy adjustment can be surprising.
The other thing that can sneak up on you is the number of ways the campus is different—different traditions, policies, school web portals, amounts of help provided, and the social scene. Then there’s the challenge of making new friends and feeling connected. Getting adjusted and finding your people requires effort and time, particularly if you live off campus. Try not to make too many comparisons to your previous school because that will just lengthen the adjustment period.
How can I minimize transfer shock?
Just because you’re experiencing transfer shock, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or that it’ll be forever. In fact, if you take the following tips into consideration, you may get past it faster than you think.
Find out how your school handles academic/transfer advising
Your college might have a transfer office that can answer questions and help you learn about the campus. Also, find out if your new school assigns a transfer or academic advisor to you or if you’re expected to make an appointment on your own. Not all schools assign advisors, but meeting with someone once a term is a good idea. Alternatively, if you’ve declared or are about to declare your major, find out if you’ll be assigned a department advisor and if they will help with registering for classes each term.
Don’t miss transfer orientations and events
You already know how to do college, but your new campus is different. These events are just for you, and the information is tailored to your experience, which is different from incoming first-years. The more familiar you are with the campus before starting classes, the easier the transition will be.
Explore campus resources
Visit your professors during office hours to get to know them, and check out the tutoring center, writing center, career center, and library. Introduce yourself to the professors in your department. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help with academic guidance, choosing a paper topic, or what to know about job prospects for your major.
Expect classes to be harder
Upper-level classes come with more rigor, and faculty expect students to think analytically, be ready to participate, and learn more independently. Beef up your study habits and time management skills (the tutoring center can offer tips) and find a study buddy or study group.
The best way to integrate with a new campus is to get involved right away. Join a club, go to campus events, and find a way to exercise by joining an intramural team, hitting the campus gym, or going for a run with a new friend. Check out the campus job board for available part-time campus jobs too. A job can be a great way to meet others, and studies show that part-time work (less than 20 hours is ideal) helps with better time management.
Hopefully, your transition to your new college will be smooth, but if you experience a dip in grades, remind yourself that it’s normal and will self-correct with time. Maintain good study habits, keep working to meet others, and be patient with yourself.
For more advice to help make the transfer process easier, check out our Transfer Students section.