College: It's something many people look forward to years ahead of time and expect it to be the best year of their life. But it's more common that you may think for students to end up at a place that they once believed would be perfect but isn't the place they're meant to be. In a previous article, "You Don't Have To Love College", I offered some suggestions of ways to power through school when classrooms and the role of a full time student don't suit you, but even with these strategies, sometimes the right step can be transferring to another university. If you've reached this point in your college career where you feel you should look elsewhere, you're not alone.
There are many reasons why people decide to transfer schools, from not liking the college itself to wanting to be closer to home. For me, my first semester was enlightening in the sense that I got a much better understanding of what I wanted to do with my life and the career steps I should take. I had grown up in Alabama and chosen a school in New York for a change of scenery and the desire to study theatre, with the intention of working for Disney in the future. But a few months into my first semester, it became clear to me that my heart belonged in Disney and that I wouldn't be content until I was pursuing that dream; I felt like I was killing time until I could be happy. So I sent in transfer applications to schools in Florida and ended up selecting a college that I had applied to senior year of high school, which was convenient because I had already visited the campus and done research into the types of services the school offered.
When looking for possible new schools, be sure to look for places that fix the negatives of your old college. If location is a problem, focus on finding universities in the area you wish you lived in; the same goes for academic departments, school size, or demographics. Transferring after one semester often means that you can get more scholarship money, however, it also means that you have to make up your mind about changing schools in a shorter period of time.
I'm not an organized person by any means and therefore hardly ever makes lists, but I found crafting pros and cons for my decision to be extremely helpful. Putting all the thoughts and uncertainties that I had on paper and being able to look over all of them at once helped me get a better idea of what I wanted.
Don't be afraid to reach out to other students who have transferred as well, and ask them what they wish they had known. It also can't hurt to get advice from a friend who doesn't go to your current school or your potential one, who can give you more of an outsider's opinion.
In addition, don't put off your applications until the last minute. If you decide you want to leave your current school, you'll have your options ready for you, and worse case scenario is that you spend a bit of money on applications that you don't end up needing, which is better that not being able to go when you're ready.
Lastly, and most important of all, once you've made your decision, commit to it. It's natural to feel guilty about leaving your first school and the inconvenience moving might cause, but if you're doing what's best for you, you don't owe anyone an apology. Over 37% of college students chose to transfer each year, as people learn more about themselves and the path they want to take. Being able to know yourself and your goals well enough to see that you aren't in the right environment shows maturity and drive, and is nothing to be ashamed about.
Your future has so much potential, and who cares if you have to shift gears along your way?! This is your life and it's up to you to choose what direction you want to go in. If it makes you happy, then go for it. And whatever you do, know that those that care for you will support you no matter what!