Transferring colleges symbolizes a new beginning and a fresh start. Ahh, the sound of exhaling that comes from wiping the slate clean, both academically and socially. A chance to put that best foot forward on a new patch a land still confusingly called “the quad”—alright, maybe not everything will be different. But given a second chance to rewrite the college experience lends a sense of relief and excitement. At the same time, entering a new college as a sophomore or junior—while figuring out how to not look like an incompetent freshman—places transfer students in a unique situation. So distinct, in fact, that we lean on those who survived the first year as transfer students to dish out the insight.
The story of the transfer student begins even before stepping foot onto a new campus, as transfer students face a mountain of struggles. For instance, transfer students have to suffer through a long gap period between when they know they plan on leaving—and therefore no longer belong to—one college before starting at the next. Think of it like an athlete who ditches his team, spends some time as a free agent, then signs with a new ball club, and finally after a few months, plays in his first game. The wait is unbearably long and scary.
During that unusually long “off-season,” transfers get pounded with the same questions over and over about why they left Frostbitten State University (home of the Eskimos). “The hardest part about transferring is telling other people that you want to transfer. When you tell people that you want to transfer, they look at you as if you’re doing something wrong,” said Bowling Green State University junior Gary Malveaux. As a transfer student you unfortunately deal with the people who are insufferable thorns in your foot, those hardos who can’t understand your unhappiness with Rubber Ducky Tech College; but when you finally start transitioning to that new school, it becomes easier to simply tell the doubters, “Look, I go here now. Stop drinking haterade.”
CHAPTER ONE: AN ANXIOUS OPENING DAY
As year one starts, transfers have more to deal with than the average student—praying to the Transfer Gods (who are very much real!) that all their credits applied to a new academic program, wedging their way into already-formed friend groups all while hoping they finally made the right decision this time. They don’t want to stand out like the kid in the bubble, they just want to settle in like any other student.
CHAPTER TWO: ACADEMIC ADJUSTMENTS
Like shades of freshman year all over again, there’s no way around the uneasiness of a new academic environment. “It took me a while to get acclimated to the tough classes and the amount of work required in each of my classes,” said Boston College senior Jason Lam. “After speaking to my professors and going to office hours I began to understand what was required from me and how I could better adjust to the course work.” With anything that’s brand new—a town, job or flavor of frozen yogurt—natural bumps and hiccups are bound to hit. By talking to your professors sooner rather than later, you can smoothen the ride (or the yogurt…maybe this is where the analogy falls apart).
CHAPTER THREE: WHERE ARE THY FRIENDS?
Although it feels like it sometimes, transfer students don’t walk around wearing a sign that screams, “Hi, I’m a transfer student. Watch me look lost.” During the first few weeks especially, when transfers stumble around campus alone watching established packs of friends giggle and “toss a disc around the quad, bro,” the social climate appears like Everest. But if nothing else, on day-one transfers get bonded with each other. “I loved how Boston College put transfer students together in the same [dorm] room because we understood the struggles and pains everyone was going through as transfers,” Lam said. Together transfers do a damn good job of pretending they are actually seasoned veterans.
CHAPTER FOUR: RIDING OFF INTO THE SUNSET
By year’s end transfer students want to look back on their decision to come to Pot O’ Gold State as if a rainbow led them there. “Finding the perfect college is like finding a really great pair of shoes. You won’t really know how they fit until you break them in,” Malveaux said. Transfer students have a rare ability to sense when something’s just not kosher. Luckily they exercised their customer return option, found something that feels good and made it through the breaking-in process. As for the rest of year one? A gallant ride off into the sunset.