Sometimes you just don’t find the right college or university on the first try. When do you know if you should transfer to a different university or college? As a third time (yes, three times and I’m only a sophomore!) transfer student, I know that there are a lot of factors, and sometimes it can be difficult to decide between the “right” and “wrong” reasons for leaving a school and searching for academic happiness elsewhere. Here are some common factors in leaving schools, and some advice for each.
You aren’t getting the “college experience” you were hoping for.
The “college experience” is a term that is thrown around all the time, but it doesn’t really have an exact definition. It really depends on what you want your college experience to be. Does that mean partying five nights a week? Does that mean joining a fraternity or sorority? Think really hard about what you actually want out of college, outside of what you have heard from older siblings and movies. If your idea of a college experience is hiding in your dorm and studying like mad to get a 4.0, then do it! If your college environment isn’t suited to what you really want, then maybe it’s time to check out other colleges.
You miss your friends/significant other.
This is a big problem I had during my first semester at Hunter College (CUNY). My boyfriend and virtually all of my friends went away to college, and I was left alone in my hometown and really lonely. After leaving Hunter to The University at Albany (SUNY) where my then-boyfriend attended, I was honestly a lot happier. But, that won’t happen to everyone and it really depends on your school. For me, Hunter was NOT a social school at all, and part of the college experience I wanted involved making lots of new friends.
My advice: stick it out. Join clubs. You’ll probably meet new friends and significant others quicker than you think. A general rule to follow is, don’t transfer for a boyfriend or girlfriend because no matter how in love you are today, you don’t know how you will feel tomorrow (it’s not so different with friends, either!) I do sometimes wonder: if I had stayed at Hunter longer, would I have met some really great people? Don’t let friends or relationships be the only factors in your decision to transfer.
You loved the programs at first, but now they just aren’t what you hoped for.
This is a totally legitimate reason for transferring schools, after you have done your homework. The bottom line is you are furthering your education for a reason, and if your chosen major just isn’t what you thought it would be, it’s definitely time to transfer – and fast. If you wait too long to transfer, you might take longer than expected to finish your degree, which is fine, but it can be a big waste of money if you realize it in your junior year. At Hunter College and the University at Albany, I didn’t really feel great about any of the majors offered there. For my 3rd semester, I transferred to Brooklyn College and declared a creative writing major and have never been happier!
It’s costing too much money.
This is a tricky question, because higher education in the US tends to cost a lot in general. Do you love your school? Was this the school you have dreamed of going to since you were a kid? Then no, money shouldn’t make you leave unless it’s some sort of family emergency. If you think it’s worth it and will help you land a job after college, take out student loans. If you’re not too attached to your school, then maybe try a state university since they tend to be cheaper than and are just as good as private schools.
You aren’t warming up to the environment.
Looking back, I hated everything about my experience at my first school. It took me 4 hours on public transportation every day; there was no hope of living in a dorm (which had been a dream of mine), virtually no clubs to get involved in and no one was very friendly. Although I loved being in Manhattan every day, I was constantly exhausted from travelling so much and I felt very lonely. If you find that the environment of your school is just not suited for you, then it’s time to move on.
This is common, especially in first semester students (but not exclusively.) Most schools have counselors for this, which you should definitely utilize. The fact is that most of us will have to move out of our homes eventually, but maybe you just aren’t ready and that’s okay! I do recommend sticking it out for a little while though. It’s normal to feel homesick all of the time but if it is really impacting your studies and mood, maybe it’s time to move back home for a while.
Sometimes all you need is a change of environment, and sometimes you just need to give your school some time to draw you in. I probably should have taken a little more time at my past schools, but right now I’m really happy at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and wish I had chosen it from the beginning. However, it’s never too late to find your perfect school!