Adjusting To Life as a Transfer Student
By Steve Pemberton
President, Road To College
Despite extensive research into picking the "right" school, you may find that the reality of the
college you choose is not what you had expected. You may even decide that
transferring may be the right option for making you happy. It's very likely that you chose your current
school with no intention of transferring but found that something didn't quite fit-perhaps it was the
cost, social life or academic program. It's okay if you have to transfer—nearly 30% of college
students actually do. In fact, if you have decided to transfer (with good reason, we hope) you should
be congratulated for recognizing what you don't want. However, the grass is not always greener on the
other side and there are certain aspects of transferring to a new school that you should spend some
time considering. Generally speaking, we can categorize these into academic and student life adjustments.
Before we get to those points, we do have one general bit of advice: ask more questions than you did at
your previous school. There is a lot riding on this decision-being unhappy at your next school is
definitely NOT an option. Not sure what questions to ask: write down a list of the reasons you're
transferring and you will have your list of questions.
Academic adjustments come in two forms: what will academic life be like once you're enrolled and the practical
matter of what courses will transfer from your previous school. While those are separate issues, they can and
do have a bearing on one another. For example, many of the classes from your current school may not transfer and
you could find yourself in a situation where your classes amount to review sessions of material you've seen
before. Let's talk about academic life at your new school, first.
Certainly if academics are the primary reason you're transferring then you will have a good handle on what is
going to be important to you. Major, the size and availability of classes, academic advising, career counseling,
and opportunities for internships are just a few examples of areas where you want to be quite comfortable. Identifying
a faculty member in your intended major with whom you would like to take a class is also good way to test the academic
waters. In most cases, the first place to go to find answers is the transfer admission counselor. If they don't have
the answers to your questions, they will be able to direct to the faculty or staff member that does.
Understanding exactly how you're going to enter the university is of great importance. Regrettably, each university
has different policies and procedures and it is difficult to capture them all in this article. However, what we have
done is compiled a list of questions you should ask each of your schools. Starting with the university's websites,
where most have specific sections dedicated to transfer students, is the best place to start.
Questions Every Student Considering a Transfer Should Ask
- What grade do I have to earn in a course for it to transfer? Will a "D" transfer?
- What GPA do I need to transfer?
- Will my GPA at my old school transfer?
- How will I know how many credits transferred and how the credits fit into a major?
- When is the deadline for transfer applications?
- What is the maximum number of credits I can transfer?
- Are certain courses required in order to transfer?
- If courses do not transfer, what happens to them?
Student Life Adjustments
Of the two general challenges you face in transferring to a new school, student life is the biggest.
Why? For the most part, you can actually get a pretty good handle on academic life prior to
actually enrolling at the university. Student life is a bit different-often times it is not until
you actually get there that you understand the social elements of your new school.
Generally speaking, it is not uncommon for students to feel isolated and disconnected from the student
body at their new school. Many question if transferring was the right thing to do. Still others will
focus on simply getting their degree and graduating-denying themselves of one the most important elements
of college life—interaction with your peers which often form the basis for long lasting friendships.
While it is not absolute that you can eliminate all of these potential factors, you can decrease the
likelihood of them happening by taking the following steps:
Take advantage of Orientation
If there is one common change in student life in recent years, it is the focus on transitional issues for
transfer students. Colleges have become far more aware of the need and have taken significant steps to
reduce some of the anxiety you might feel about transferring. It's not a stretch to say that the transfer
orientation is more important than freshmen orientation was at the initial school you attended. During
orientation, you will get to meet representatives from the university dealing with a variety of student
life topics. This is a great opportunity to establish contact and to begin building relationships that
will help make the transition smoother. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you've "been there and
done that" as it relates to orientation. This is a new environment and having as much information about
life there is of critical importance.
Reach Out to Student Organizations
Let's face facts-when you transfer from one school to another you are entering a world where many
friendships have already been formed. Inserting yourself into this new element is often a challenge
for transfer students, but one of the ways to diminish this is by connecting with students who
are involved in campus organizations. Doing so gives you common ground with your new peers and
can often lead to long-lasting friendships.
- Ask the Registrar if there are people from your hometown who are current students at the university.
- Think about playing intramural sports as a way to meet people.
- Try to live on campus or, if you live off-campus, try to live in areas where there are other undergraduates.
About the Author
Road To College
is a premier college consulting service offering personalized
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