As first-year college students near the end of fall semester, sometimes they find themselves faced with minor, or even major, doubts about the school they are attending. Perhaps a “dream school” isn’t living up to expectations, or a life as an engineer isn’t really all that appealing after all. So is the grass really greener on another quad? If you find yourself pondering the idea of transferring, we’re here to help. Before you subject yourself to another round of grueling applications, we suggest you read through our tips and take some time to evaluate how you really feel. IvyWise counselors, many of whom are former admissions officers, know that students often transfer for the wrong reasons, including:
Academics: Remember, college is very different from high school. Some students flourish and others have a harder time adjusting to this new, less structured environment. You may not feel as supported as you did at home, but know that you deserve to be there. If you are finding college overwhelming or even too easy an academic advisor or on-campus learning center can help you manage your coursework.
School Reputation: College is what you make of it. If your school was not your top choice, or you are concerned that your degree will be considered less prestigious, keep in mind that you are in control of your education. Taking advantage of the opportunities that your school offers, or even creating your own opportunities, will boost your resume and make your degree far more valuable than an education from a school with better name recognition.
Homesickness: Maybe you miss your family or friends from high school. Perhaps you haven’t yet found your niche in this new place and are feeling a bit adrift. It takes time to make new friends, so before you consider transferring, reach out and join new clubs and groups. Whether in the form of a sorority, ultimate Frisbee team, religious group or the school newspaper, sometimes finding a new group of like-minded individuals reminds you college is a place to make new friends and grow socially. You’ll begin to feel at home in no time.
Financial aid: Very few colleges offer financial aid for transfer students, so if you are looking to transfer to receive more financial aid and scholarships, be warned that another college’s pockets might not necessarily be deeper. Instead, talk to a financial aid officer at your current school, and ask about ways to petition for more aid. Some schools and departments offer need-based scholarships that aren’t awarded during the initial financial aid period. You can also appeal to update your FAFSA form if there’s been some sort of family emergency, or unexpected change in income. Lastly, don’t forget about outside merit-based scholarships and grants—you’re still qualified. Check out FastWeb and Scholarships.com for options.
If you’ve thought about your reasons for transferring, and are still sold on the idea, here are some tips from the experts at IvyWise. Start by identifying 3-4 colleges that you are interested in and then research each one carefully. You’ve already gone through this process once, and probably know what you want (or don’t want) by now, so you shouldn’t have more than four colleges on your shortlist. Keep in mind that the application and decision process for transfer students is tougher than that for first year students. In addition, financial aid is often handled differently for incoming transfers than for freshman applicants, which usually means there is less money available. If this is a concern for you, find out from each school how the financial aid process works, in advance, to determine if it is still a good choice.
Academics: For the last semesters at your current institution pick rigorous classes with serious academic content (not ‘Juggling 101′). Try to select seminar-style courses with a small class size, so that you can develop good teacher relationships. You will need to ask at least one professor for a recommendation and the better you know him or her, the more personal and impactful that letter will be.
Soul-searching: Know WHY you want to attend the colleges you are applying to. Find out about the academic and social life. Research as much as possible, and try to visit if you can. It is highly unlikely you’ll be able to transfer again, so spend some time reflecting on how you feel about the school.
Be positive: Your personal statement is vital to your transfer candidacy. It is critical that the admission officer knows that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve intellectually and socially and what makes their school the perfect match for you. Keep your tone upbeat and enthusiastic, which means focusing on what you love about the school you’re applying to. DON’T write about the things you dislike at your current school in the personal statement.