As college students come home for the holiday break, some of them will be convinced they don’t want to go back. Freshmen who have had a difficult time adjusting to college may decide they are at the wrong school. It’s certainly possible, but leaving home is a major transition and some students just need more time and support before they feel comfortable on campus. Loneliness can hit freshmen hard, and students who don’t immediately find a group of friends in the residence hall may need to expand their social network.
Students who pack their high school years with AP classes and demanding extracurricular activities may burn out by the time they arrive at college. It’s not uncommon for freshmen to go through an “is that all there is?” phase. That doesn’t mean they should transfer. Sometimes it’s a matter of adjusting expectations.
Of course there are good reasons to transfer, like curriculum. If a student realizes she wants to major in marine biology and her college doesn’t offer a marine biology major and is 500 miles from a body of water, it makes sense to find another school.
More often, students may realize once they are on campus that they didn’t choose a college for the right reasons. When you get caught up in the competition to get into a competitive college, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it may not be the best school for you.
That’s what I did when my high school counselor said that as an out-of-state student, I didn’t have a chance of getting into University of Virginia. When I was admitted, I thought if the school is that selective, it must be great. Virginia was and is a great school, but it wasn’t great for me. As a shy person who had no interest in fraternities or sororities, I should have paid attention to the fact that this was a big university with a strong Greek presence. When I was accepted as a transfer student at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought this school would be perfect because it was Ivy League. But it was another big university, more overwhelming than welcoming to a shy person arriving mid-sophomore year. Several years after graduating I realized a small liberal arts college would have been a much better match. What can I tell you, I’m a slow learner.
One of the reasons I love my work is I can help students avoid my mistakes. There’s no need to spend your college years at a school where you feel you don’t belong.
When you’re thinking about applying to a college, it’s important to visit and talk to students who attend the school. During the winter break, ask friends who are home from college about their experiences. Students who want to transfer next fall should use this time to do their research and begin preparing applications.
Most University of California campuses only accept transfer applications during the Nov. 1-30 application window, but the application deadline is often February or later at other colleges.
While the UC accepts primarily junior level transfers, many schools do allow students to transfer earlier. Students in their first year of college will usually need to submit SAT or ACT scores and a high school transcript in addition to their college transcript. Since sophomores have a longer track record in college, most schools focus on the college transcript.
While many transfer students are happy and successful in their new school, it’s less stressful to get it right the first time. Whether you’re applying as a freshman or transfer, make sure to clarify what kind of college environment would be best for you.