Transferring schools is not easy; there’s no point in sugar-coating it. It’s the college process all over again while taking on a college-level course load and a lot less support. Your parents aren’t around to constantly check-in on your Common App, your teachers won’t be accommodating, and the people around you won’t be going through the same stress. But transferring is also completely possible and not as hard as you may think. To transfer successfully, however, you have to be prepared for what’s ahead.
Telling your freshman year friends that you won’t be returning to school is far from comfortable. You’ll be asked the same questions over and over or even pushed to stay. What’s important is that you enter these conversations only after you’ve made up your mind. With the exception of family, counselors, and close friends, the preliminary conversations regarding your potential transfer should be kept to a minimum. When it comes down to it, it’s your decision and only yours. If you have a hard time convincing your parents that it’s right, make a pro-con list. Be honest. Clearly writing it all out will help them to understand why you’re unhappy.
Filling out the Common App, scholarship forms, and financial aid requests all while juggling your freshman year courses is hard. Your professors – unless you tell them – won’t know that you’re doing it all at once. And you’ll want to succeed academically so you have a higher chance of being accepted by a new school. You probably won’t have your high school guidance counselor there to help and remind you of deadlines. This all sounds daunting, but it’s also entirely possible. When it comes down to it, time-management is vital in your transfer process. Set goals for yourself for finishing essays, documents, and forms. You can even reward yourself for meeting these goals; whatever it takes to get it all done.
If you’re like me, you may not have your parent’s blessing initially in the transfer process. That means paying application fees. In addition, you may have to travel to visit new schools you didn’t consider in your first application round. These costs can add up, so applying for fee waivers and scholarships can be a huge help in this department.
You have to keep in mind that most schools are directing their focus toward potential freshman applicants, not necessarily transfer students. Because of this, you have to be aware that not all deadlines are the same for you and you may have additional responsibilities. The best way to handle these inconsistencies is to communicate with the college directly. Sending emails, calling admissions offices, and even Tweeting at schools (yes, I did that) can be the most effective way to get their attention and get your questions answered. If your first attempt at contact fails, keep trying. When you’re opening that acceptance letter, you’ll be glad you did.
It’s a little scary.
One of the hardest parts of the process for me personally was approaching professors and administrators to write letters of recommendation and sign transfer forms respectively. It’s hard to say hey, you’ve put all this effort into teaching me, but I’m leaving; can you help me with that? What you have to remind yourself is that chances are, in the end, these people want what’s best for you. If that means leaving their institution, so be it. And if they do have a problem with it, ask someone else who has your best interest in mind.
There are tons and tons of successful transfer stories. I’m one of them. Ask your friends; they probably know a couple too. Just because it’s not the ‘average’ college path doesn’t mean it’s not a completely worthwhile and positive outcome. Work hard and good luck.