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The Benefits of Transferring Colleges When the First One Doesn’t Fit

It was around this time in September – my first month at college many years ago – that I realized I had chosen the wrong school. Some recently arrived undergraduates are now having similar thoughts, in part because of pandemic confusion.

There is an obvious solution: transfer somewhere else. It may seem scary and difficult. But it worked for me and many others. It’s an option that experts say can bring benefits even in these changing times.

The small, well-regarded private college I went to right after high school had a program for future diplomats. I liked that. I wanted to be the American ambassador to China. With a wave of my laid-back parents, I boarded a bus and arrived at the lovely hillside campus. I had great confidence in my future there.

Unfortunately, during an introductory tea given by the head of the diplomacy program, this former senior State Department official revealed that he had no idea how to motivate freshmen. Instead of describing the intriguing lessons he had for us, he spent several minutes scolding us for not responding formally, as a good diplomat would, to his invitation to this meeting.

The emphasis on the label seemed wrong. I didn’t want to be in a program run by this guy anymore, so I went looking for another college. This search gave me a much better idea of ​​what I was looking for. I’m still amazed at how ignorant I was when I was a senior in high school, but it’s not unusual even today.

Elite Transfer Admissions Inside: Community College to U-Va.

Transferring is an adventure in self-discovery and a way to make yourself more attractive to college admissions offices than you were when you first applied. Transfer candidates have “a better understanding of what they’re looking for in college, such as a particular major or social aspect that their current one doesn’t fit,” said Thomas J. Jaworski, an independent college adviser based in suburban New York. Chicago.

Many students today want another try. “The transfer market is booming,” said California-based admissions counselor Jon Reider.

There is a lot of free time in a freshman’s day. If dissatisfied students seek out their best transfer targets, rather than drown their grief in local social activities, they can gain vital information. They can also think about, free from pressure from parents and high school peer groups, which field of study is best for them.

Experts say the most common reasons students give for wanting to transfer are choosing the wrong school (like I did), changing majors, finding their current school doesn’t provide enough in their major, or to want to move to a more prestigious campus.

Colleges understand the importance of attracting good transfers. They usually have at least one specialist advisor to help people apply to other colleges. Applicants are more likely to succeed if they can show that the school has something important that their current school does not.

I made a point of telling the university to which I applied that it offered Chinese lessons, unlike the university I was studying. I still don’t understand why I hadn’t noticed it before. Like many 17-year-olds, I was greedy and impatient and often didn’t think about it.

John Leddo, a Virginia-based college consultant who focuses on careers, finds his young clients are deeply unaware of what colleges offer. “A question I ask students who tell me about their dream school is, ‘Can you name a professor who teaches in the XYZ department of this school?’ The answer is still no. I go on to say, “Can you name a project that people from XYZ department are working on?” Again, the answer is no.

“Computing, for example, is a great openness to interpretation,” Jaworski said. “Some colleges have an in-depth and in-depth study of CS, with different concentrations (cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, game design, etc.), while others will teach students basic theories and fundamentals.” A careful examination of college strengths and weaknesses may even reveal that the college you are attending is comparatively better than you thought.

Reider, who served as a senior counselor at a private college and admissions officer at Stanford University, said transfer difficulty, like admissions in general, depends on the selectivity and size of schools. “Easy to do in big public schools, harder in smaller liberal arts colleges, which have limited space,” he said, and very difficult in Ivies.

Another facet of transfer admissions these days is “bringing diverse life experiences into the classroom,” Reider said. “At Stanford, that means veterans, adults with work experience, community college students.”

So you’re disappointed because your favorite college said no. Read it.

A transfer candidate focusing on specific schools can create a favorable impression simply by asking questions. “I always tell students to find the professors they want to work with and communicate with them ahead of time to see if the professors are willing to mentor students and let them into the labs,” Leddo said. Intelligent investigation of a researcher’s specialty can improve the chances of admission. The professor can call the admissions office about a bright candidate who might be a good (and inexpensive) addition to their research team.

I did no such thing. I may have mentioned that I was developing an interest in journalism and that my target school had a daily student newspaper while the college I attended did not. I would have looked for other colleges my sophomore year if the school I applied to in freshman year hadn’t taken me.

We transfers are quite common. We represent about one-third of graduate students from four-year schools. We include John F. Kennedy, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, transfer enrollments have fallen 16% overall over the past two years. However, transfers from one four-year school to another have only slightly decreased over this period.

The fluidity of the American higher education system is here to stay. I’m not just talking about the transfer craze sweeping college football. There are plenty of options, even for us non-athletes. You may have been stupid, like me, in your first choice of school or maybe just unlucky.

Keep trying. Figuring out what you want and doing your research will likely get you where you need to go.