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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

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.

Additional Tips

  • 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 college preparation solutions to students and parents. Our goal is to provide parents and students from all over the world access to quality, affordable college counseling services. Our products help prospective candidates assess their strengths and weaknesses, create a plan of action and prepare for the admissions process.