Transferring colleges is one of those taboo topics that people don't always know how to respond to. Whether you're saying, "I'm thinking about transferring" or "I'm a transfer student," there's always a weird mix of confusion, discomfort and concern that flashes across the other person's face. So why go through with it?
College is personal. After the SAT scores, countless essays, endless tours and stressful interviews, it's hard to admit that a decision you spent months and months working toward could be so off. In hopes of giving advice to anyone in the same boat as I was during my freshman year and clearing up the stigma behind the "transfer student," here's my story of why transferring was the best choice I ever made.
Transferring is not a black and white decision
I vividly remember sitting in the stairwell of my freshman dorm dialing my mom's cell to tell her that I wanted to transfer. I was on the eleventh floor of my building anxiously listening for footsteps of anyone who might overhear my conversation.
First things first: I don't hate my old school. I never have, and I never will. My friends who go there mean the world to me, and though it's cheesy to say, my memories there will last a lifetime. But my feelings about freshman year are reminiscent of a bad relationship, where you feel as though something is off and you can't totally place a finger on it. It was an amazing school, but it just wasn't the perfect school for me.
After joining clubs, exploring the city, enjoying nights out and making friends, a really important question crossed my mind that I hadn't fully considered when I applied during my senior year of high school: What do I want to get out of my four years of college besides a degree? I wasn't sure that I was working toward that, and I felt like I needed a fresh start to try it all over again.
Transferring is isolating
Everyone tells you that if you're unhappy, you should transfer—but no one really talks about how hard it is to finish your semester at your first school or to adjust to a new school with another college history behind you. It was difficult to talk with friends at my old school about what I was struggling with, and it was even tougher to insert myself into existing friend groups when I arrived at Washington University for my sophomore year.
Though I had supportive friends and family to talk me through the process, I still had to get over my fears, on my own, of making the same mistakes twice. Within my first month at Wash U, I rushed a sorority, joined Spoon and tried out a few other clubs, despite a voice in my head that kept telling me college just wasn't for me.
Transferring is empowering
When you apply to college the first time, you have high school counselors, online programs like College Board, and countless orientation meetings to guide you through the process. When you apply to transfer, the only real resource you have is yourself.
The college you're leaving doesn't want to help you because you're taking away business, and as much as your family and friends want to provide guidance, transferring is often a foreign process to them as well. Online information is also mostly about community college transfers, which is somewhat of a different process. You have to be proactive when making phone calls, setting up meetings and submitting applications—all while staying on top of school work and spending time with friends who you know you'll see far less in the future.
It's all worth it, though, because when you get that acceptance letter, you don't feel stuck anymore. In fact, it felt even more incredible the second time around because I had done it on my own—despite the pressure to follow the expected post-high-school track of picking one school and sticking with it.
Transferring makes you feel loved
After my first semester at Wash U, I had my doubts. I had made friends, but I wasn't getting as close to them as I had hoped. I was feeling unsettled now that I'd had over a year's worth of sub-par college experiences spanning two schools.
But now that I'm a second semester junior, I can happily say that I couldn't feel more differently. I have to thank everyone that has turned to me and told me how happy they are that I transferred. Thank you to my suite mates for being just as weird as I am, and thank you to everyone who supported me even when you didn't totally understand what I was going through.
So stop me on campus if you need directions, dining hall advice or want to hear about unique places in St. Louis to visit on the weekends. And if you're thinking about transferring, don't be afraid to go for it. It takes determination and a whole lot of patience, but I promise that if you put everything you have into it, it will be 100% worth it. For me, the decision to transfer gave me the college experience I'd been hoping for: somewhere I can truly call home.