Perhaps you were lured by the promise of original Abraham Lincoln speeches (Boston College) or a castle (Emerson’s Kasteel Well, a 12th century landmark in the Netherlands). Or maybe you had an inexplicable weakness for the school’s elephant mascot (Tufts’s Jumbo). Whatever the original attraction, you’ve been in school for a while and the wool is off. Your college campus isn’t quite as shiny as the brochures made it out to be. Never mind the fact that the classes are nap inducing and your department doesn’t offer the programs you want. Once you realize your school’s iPod giveaway isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (I’m looking at you, Duke), you may finally accept that it’s time to move on.
“I’m always struck by how few students consider transferring, even when they’re unhappy with their current situation,” writes Gary McKissick, a political-science professor at Tufts University and undergrad transfer student himself. “The initial choice of school is an incredibly hard and freighted decision for your average 18-year-old (and her or his family). The notion that we get it right every time is simply not tenable.”
If you’re in a rocky relationship with your current school, say goodbye to old, musty dorms. Hello, new love. You have several million eligible schools to choose from (actually, 4216 according to the National Center for Education Statistics). And you’re not alone. At last check, the national transfer rate between four-year schools was 26 percent. The rate of students transferring from two-year to four-year schools is as high at 42 percent.
Here, my TXFR-seeking friend, by way of case studies and expert advice, are some things to take into consideration before you take the plunge.
Consider your options neutrally
“A lot of students see transferring as, in some respects, an admission of failure or something, as if transferring means they ‘can’t cut it’ where they are. . . . I try to discourage that mindset,” says Tufts’s McKissick.
At the same time, you need to weigh your desire to cut bait against financial and emotional concerns. Ask yourself a number of questions, the first being, “Why do I want to leave?”
To phrase it in extremes, poor reasons to transfer include: smelly classrooms, strange paint colors, and a dearth of Uggs. A good reason to transfer? You settled for your current school because of last-minute considerations in the application process. Hey, it happens. Newton native Julia Throop knew she wanted to transfer to a different school the day she enrolled at Suffolk University. So she made it her business to get out.
“I had applied to schools all over the country,” Throop says, “and then I realized that all I wanted to do is go to school close to home.” She settled for Suffolk, but later transferred to Boston University.
Even if you signed up enthusiastically for your school, you may find you’ve entered into a less-than-perfect situation. Kerri Maddock, for instance, arrived at Villanova only to find it chock-full of sororities and “in the middle of nowhere.” While home on winter break, Kerri realized she didn’t want to return; she ended up transferring to Boston College.