As soon as the bell rang on my first day of senior year, I was forced to confront the one thing that my teachers had spent years preparing me for: college applications. All of a sudden, everyone was asking me where I was going to college, even though it was only August and I had no clue where I would even be applying to, much less attending. Between all of the deadlines, essays, and informational packets that I was constantly receiving, I found myself feeling more stressed and confused than ever before.
Throughout the entire process, the one thought that kept me sane was imagining what college would be actually like, especially since I would finally be past the madness of the application process. Throughout school, it seemed like my teachers were always talking about how great college was, and how many fond memories they had, so I couldn’t help thinking about all of the interesting classes I wanted to take, studying abroad, gaining new independence.
Of all the ideas that crossed my mind, becoming a transfer student was never one of them.
There are many reasons why students decide to transfer colleges; some do it because of homesickness, finances, or just not liking the college they picked. For me, it was my major. I wanted to pursue a degree in Interior Design (a.k.a. Interior Architecture), a program not offered by the first school I was attending, which meant that I would need to transfer schools. There was no question about whether I should consider finding a different program of study instead of transferring; I knew interior design was the career for me. It just meant that I would need to go through the dreaded application process all over again.
In some ways, the application process was just like it was for me in high school, but in other ways, it was different. Of course there were the basics, like filling out the application and sending out a transcript, but I knew that sending in a transcript wasn’t just sending out a transcript (for admission). It meant finding out what my courses would transfer over as, and which ones wouldn’t count as anything. I was less than thrilled at the thought of retaking any courses and falling behind, especially now that I understood how rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming college courses could be. When I received the course equivalency report, I was so thankful to see that a majority of my classes would continue to be counted as credit at my new school, keeping me on track for my degree.
After receiving my acceptance, completing the online orientation, and signing up for classes, the last thing to do was tie up loose ends at my old school. This involved sending out a lot of emails–and even filling out a few forms–notifying the university that I would not be returning the next semester. This was to help things like my housing get cancelled (which meant a refunded deposit!) and for the university to know that I didn’t just vanish off the face of the Earth without notice.
Even though going through the application process again and filling out the forms to notify my old school weren’t easy (just time-consuming), they weren’t the hardest part of the transfer process, either. The hardest thing about being a transfer student was leaving my closest friends behind, and not knowing when we would see each other again. It would be starting over at a new school all by myself, not knowing a single person, and trying to figure out the new campus, policies, and classes. While this itself should have been what worried me the most, it wasn’t. It was not having my friends by my side that made transferring schools so scary. Even then, it didn’t hit me how big a part of my life they had become until I found myself on my new campus without them. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t cry.
But as hard and confusing as being a transfer student has been, the experience has made me realize that there are some good parts to being a transfer student as well.
Being a transfer student has given me the chance to experience how different two colleges can be, even though they may just be a few hours apart. Location, size, culture, and so many other factors go into this, and their impact on a student’s experience wasn’t something I fully realized until experiencing two different colleges, and it wasn’t something I could fully pick up on a campus tour. The two different academic environments have given me some wonderful opportunities and memories, many of which wouldn’t have been possible if I had just stayed at one college.
Being a transfer student has also given me the chance to learn to take risks and face my fears. After all, becoming a transfer student was scary, especially since it carries around a certain stigma at times. And it wasn’t only campuses I was changing, but lifestyles. I would be going from being a residential student, where I lived in my own suite and my classes were just a mere 5 minute walk away, to being a commuter student where getting to the classroom could take up to an hour, depending on traffic and the availability of parking.
And as much as it hurt to leave my friends behind, I have gained some new ones in the process. Some friends I made in class, and others just by the simple act of holding open an elevator for them on the first day. Now I have friends far away and close by, and I hate to think of how different my life would be if our paths had never crossed.
Although my experience as a transfer student has been overwhelming, the most positive outcome has by far been getting to pursue my dream major. There’s something thrilling about walking into the classroom every day excited to learn, and knowing deep down that this is the career I love doing and am going to have for the rest of my life. No doubt the journey to get here has had some sacrifices, and will continue to have them until earning my degree, but I’m thankful for each and everyone of them. The experiences I’ve had on my journey have been because I’m a transfer student, and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.
Are you a transfer student? What have your experiences been?