Transferring to another college or university is no easy task. At your target schools, your class has been previously selected, and unless the attrition rate is significant, there typically isn't a whole lot of space in the class for extra students coming in from the outside. Recognize that transferring will require you to go through a modified admissions process, complete with applications, essays, interviews, and a whole lot of bureaucracy as you try to transfer credits and your financial aid package.
So how do you determine whether transferring to another school is a wise choice or whether you ought to stay put, redoubling your efforts and making things work out where you are?
The Five Most Popular Bad Reasons To Transfer
Let's look first at some of the bad reasons to transfer.
I Had a Bad First Semester
Yeah, and as you've already seen, so does about 50 percent of the college population out there. There is a lot of adjustment associated with going off to college, packing up and moving to a new place, living with a new roommate, and being more or less completely responsible for your own life and academic progress. First semester typically confronts freshman with an astounding array of difficult choices"about alcohol, drugs, sex and sexual identity, friends, life, and, oh yeah"all that academic stuff too, such as what classes to take, what to major in, and when and how much to study.
Having a tough first semester is no reason to transfer to another school.
I Miss My Boyfriend [Girlfriend] from Home
Time to echo the familiar refrain again: if it was meant to be, it will wait - and to be honest and blunt, chances are, it wasn't meant to be. Almost every college campus has someone who transferred in from somewhere else to be closer to a boyfriend or girlfriend who then almost inevitably dumps him or her within a year of the transfer. You want to talk about putting pressure on a relationship?
Most relationships are not ready for this kind of pressure during freshman or sophomore year of college. Yeah, yeah . . . we know you think you're different and that you and your significant other are more mature and have really thought this out and all that.
I Hate My Roommate(s)
Yes, this can make for a tough year - but it is still not a reason to transfer. First, do everything you can to work things out. Remember that the roommate relationship is a two-way street and that you have part of the responsibility to make things work out.
If you've done all you can on that front and things just can't be worked out, then take your complaints to the next level. Maybe your roommates truly do suck. If they do, spend a lot of time out of the room studying in the library, hanging out with friends from outside your dorm, or throwing your energy into an extracurricular activity, athletics, or something else.
I Haven't Found Any Friends Here
How hard have you tried? And what have you actually done to find a group of people with similar interests? Have you talked to people in your classes and in the departmental office of your subjects of greatest interest or your intended major?
Have you joined an extracurricular activity or two that reflect your interests? Have you reached out to the other people participating in those activities? Have you engaged in some form of athletic activity - be it at the varsity, junior varsity, club, or intramural level - and tried hanging out with those people? What about a religious or spiritual group, where people will be likely to embrace you? Have you explored Greek life on campus?
Some people fall in with a good group of friends right off the bat. For others it takes time and integration into the campus culture to find a good group of people with similar interests. Once again, getting halfway through freshman year is not enough of an experience to determine that there is no one on campus with similar interests.
This is another incredibly common experience for college freshmen - but not a reason to pack it in and move closer to home. If you're homesick on campus, chances are you're not keeping yourself connected enough or busy enough to overcome those feelings. Dive into your coursework, join an activity or two that you really enjoy, bond tightly with your roommates and new friends, and try to keep your mind off what you left behind at home. Soon enough, it will be Parents' Weekend or Thanksgiving or winter break or spring break or summer. You are rarely more than a month or two away from a significant opportunity to see your family and friends from back home"and in today's world of low-cost air travel and increasingly convenient transportation options, it is becoming easier and easier to do so.
If things get really bad, make an appointment to see a counselor at your Department of Undergraduate Health. You'll be surprised to hear how many other students seek the same assistance and how easy a fix these issues tend to be.
Some Even Worse Reasons To Transfer
Some of these may seem ridiculous, but hey - we're not making this stuff up. These are reasons your classmates are coming up with!
The Weather Sucks
You knew this when you chose Bates over Stanford, or Oregon State over Arizona State - and there must have been a reason why you made the choice you did. So stock up on long underwear or buy an umbrella (respectively), but forget about transferring because of the weather.
The Food Sucks
Please. The food sucks almost everywhere.
The Campus Is Too Liberal [Too Conservative]
Listen to the counterarguments, then speak your mind anyway - this is what college is all about. Whether you are a defender of liberal causes on a very conservative campus, a conservative on a very liberal campus, or a moderate who feels like a man or woman without a country, you have an important role to play in the dialogue on your campus. Don't run from that"embrace it. If you are willing to listen to others and conduct that dialogue with grace and principle, you will ultimately be respected for it.
Our Sports Teams Suck, and the Campus Has No School Spirit
No doubt it is fun when your football team is kicking ass and the stadium is full of a rowdy mass of people cheering them on. Unless you're planning a career in football or cheerleading, though, chuckle at the fact that men's soccer lost both ends of its home and home series with the junior high all-stars from across town, and keep your eye on the ball.
Some Good Reasons To Transfer
Of course, not all reasons to transfer are bad. As we noted at the outset, sometimes things just don't work out the way you expected. If you are in any of the following situations (or something similar to them), then you may in fact be a candidate for transfer.
I've Discovered a Legitimate Interest in a Discipline Not Offered by My College
Perhaps you've discovered a gift for the stage, improvisational comedy, or screenwriting, for example, but your school does not have a workable major in any of those areas, and it can't satisfy your academic interests through independent studies, offering you visiting-student status at another school, or the junior year abroad program. As long as your interest in this discipline is legitimate - and is not simply a pretext to, say, move closer to your girlfriend at Columbia by attempting to transfer to NYU - then this is a reasonable rationale for pursuing a transfer to a school more suited to your academic interests.
My College Just Cut My Major
You went to this college or university with the express intent to study Tibetan philosophy, but due to state budget cuts and other cost-saving measures, and the departure of the two visiting professors who headed up the program, it is no longer offered - and now the school is just like any of the others you turned down to come here.
Again, as long as your continued interest in Tibetan philosophy is legit, and not a rationalization to escape from a psychotic roommate, you're justified in pursuing greener pastures.
I Have a Family Emergency
Chalk this one up as a "maybe," because you do actually have some options in such a case. We hope you'll never face the circumstance where you need to consider transferring due to a family emergency, but we know that it sometimes happens. If a family member is terminally ill but you otherwise like the experience you've been having in college, consider asking the administration for a semester or year's leave of absence to go home and attend to your family during its time of crisis. Chances are, your attention will be divided anyway, and spending time memorizing equations when your dad is dying is not something you'll care much about.
If the situation is more protracted, however, as in the case of a more debilitating illness that will require more long term but less intense participation on your part, moving to a campus closer to home may be the best option. Before you make a decision, talk things over with your family and your dean of student affairs, who may be able to offer you additional options or solutions.
I Can't Make Ends Meet
Your inability to fund your college education in your present circumstances should rarely have to be the impetus for a transfer. If you find yourself in such circumstances, you should first consult your college or university's financial aid office to see what changes might be made to your financial aid package. Bringing your situation to the attention of the financial aid officials at your school is often all that's necessary to bring about the change in circumstances that will make your remaining at school a possibility.
Even if this initial step does not solve your problem, though, you need not give up. Work your way up the chain of command. Talk to your dean of students to see if he or she can offer any suggestions. If you still get nowhere after that effort, make an appointment and take your case to the college president. How many people do you think take that extraordinary step?
If despite all these efforts you still come up empty and cannot make ends meet, then, and only then, a transfer for financial reasons might be in the offing.
I Think It's a Bad Fit - After a Full Year of Effort
Sometimes it's not the unavailability of a major, the departure of key professors, or financial issues that derail you. Sometimes it really is a question of fit.
If you've given it a year and you can articulate specific and legitimate reasons why your college or university is a bad fit for you - and you have identified one or more schools that you know would be a better fit - then go head with the transfer.
Campus Confidential Mentors and Uber-Mentors:
Campus Confidential contains the collective advice of a a diverse group of people who have traveled the road to college. Some are recent college graduates who can counsel you on the college experience as it is today. Other are a few years removed from their college days and can provide a longer view of the decisions you will need to make before, during, and after college. Here is a little bit about the mentors and uber-mentors in these articles.
Dan Bissell – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B.A. Middlebury College cum laude, 1993. Major: Geology
M. D. University of Colorado School of Medicine, Adler Scholar, 2002
Tom Teh Chiu – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Brooklyn, New York
B. A. Yale University, 1993. Major: double major in Chemistry and Music
M. M. Juilliard School, 1995
M Juilliard School, 2001
Jim Bright – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
B. A. Duke University, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1997. Major: History
Amanda Cramer – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Paso Robles, California
B.A. Cornell University Phi Beta Kappa, 1993. Major: Mathematics
Graduate study in food science – Enology, University of California at Davis 1997-2000
Zoe Robbins – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B.A. (1) Wellesley College magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1997. Major: Economics
B.A. (2) University of Pennsylvania, 2001. Major: Nursing
Carolyn Koegler – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Hopkinton, New Hampshire
B. A. Tufts University, cum laude, 1993. Double major: History and Spanish
Erik Norton – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B. A. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993. Major: Mathematics
Lyndsee Dickson – Campus Confidential Mentor
Concord, New Hampshire
B.A. New York University, cum laude, 2004. Major: East Asian studies
Kevin Donovan – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Boston College, honors in the major, 1993. Major: English, Minor: Creative Writing
Tiffany Chan – Campus Confidential Mentor
Concord, New Hampshire
B.S. New York University, 2005. Major: Communication Science
Erica Eubanks – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Tennessee State University, National Deans List, 2003. Major: Criminal Justice
Dave Irwin – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Middlebury College departmental honors, 2004. Major: American Civilization, Minor: Education
Chase Johnson – Campus Confidential Mentor
B. A. Duke University, with Phi Alpha Theta distinction in history, 2005. Major: History
Aaron Paskalis – Campus Confidential Mentor
West Point Military Academy, then transferred to UMass Amherst
B. A. University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2005. Major: Legal studies