A common misconception is that you’re stuck for four years wherever you mail off your college acceptance letter. Well, like most things in life, it just takes a bit of hard work and motivation to change. There are a whole slew of reasons why college students choose to transfer out of their original school. Financial issues, homesickness, academic trouble, personal drama, unfulfilled expectations, wanting a second chance to get into their top choice… you name it.
For me, I just wasn’t all too thrilled with the college where I spent my Freshman year. It was a small state school in the middle of Pennsylvania Amish country where everyone went home on the weekends. I made up my mind quickly that I had to do everything in my power to get out of there as soon as I could so I wouldn’t die of boredom or get run over by a horse and buggy.
I applied as a transfer student to Northeastern University in Boston where I studied Music and ultimately graduated. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, but getting out of Amish country wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.
So if you’ve already got it in your head that you need to transfer schools, here’s what you can do to prepare yourself for a pain-free transition:
1. Figure out what exactly you want to study before you start filling out transfer applications.
Like many college Freshman I chose not to declare a major when I started my first semester. However when it comes to transferring into another school, not intending to declare a major gives you a huge lack of purpose. Even if you do get accepted into your next school as undeclared you may find yourself having to tack on an extra semester or two to catch up with your degree requirements.
At the time I was trying to decide on what schools to research I was passionate about music and considering a potential career in entertainment law or artist management. Fortunately not too many colleges in the country have Music Business programs and this helped me narrow down options quite easily. After comparing colleges with similar programs and reading college reviews I decided I needed to be at school in a city with a good music culture, which led me to Northeastern and Boston.
2. Build relationships with your current professors.
Even though I didn’t have the best overall opinion of my first college, it was nice that the class sizes were small enough for me to really get to know my professors without exerting too much extra effort. When it came time to ask them for recommendations for my transfer application they knew exactly who I was and could easily whip up a glowing letter on my behalf.
If you’re transferring out of a big school, you’re going to have to put yourself out there a bit more. Be sure to actively participate in class and don’t be shy to visit your professors during office hours even if you don’t need any extra help. Don’t forget to send a thank you note after you receive their recommendation letter either – you never know when you’ll cross paths again.
3. Be prepared to fight for transfer credit with examples of previous coursework.
Any college transfer student can’t stress how important enough it is to check out the course requirements for the degree program you’re transferring into. I had the benefit of taking mostly general education courses that were taught at almost every college and just about all of my credits transferred over to my new school. However, there was a hang up about not accepting my Freshman level writing class. There was no way I was going to waste time and money on repeating the same course over again when I earned an A in it at my old college.
I talked to the admissions office at Northeastern about what I could do and they put me in touch with the head of their English department. They said they would reconsider accepting my course credit for the class if I faxed them a copy of the syllabus and copies of graded writing assignments. It took a bit of paper wrangling but at the end of it all they accepted my credits and I didn’t have to retake the course.
Before you apply, do some extra research and compare course descriptions for what classes you’re taking. Make sure that there’s an equivalent course at the school you’re transferring into. And of course, don’t forget to hang onto and make copies of all syllabi and graded papers in the event you have to do a little convincing.
Have you been through the college transfer process? Share your advice on transferring in the comments.