A Year Later, Five Things I Wish I Knew
Starting college is difficult for everyone, but for transfer students who don’t get the hand holding freshmen do, life at a new school can be overwhelming. I know – last year I transferred from the University of Delaware to Boston University. To help you avoid some of the blunders I made, here are a few suggestions from someone who has been there, done that and made that mistake you’re about to make — sometimes more than once.
1. Don’t put off telling your friends.
One of the most difficult things about transferring was telling my friends at Delaware. I had a close-knit group of friends, and leaving them behind was hard. But as tough as it is to tell your friends, you have to. I had trouble finding the right time to tell my friends I was leaving, so I kept putting it off, which made it harder. I ended up telling a lot of my friends at inopportune times. Worse, I didn’t tell some of them at all. Don’t do what I did. There is no right way to tell someone that you’re transferring, but if you value their friendship, you need to let them know you are leaving, and you need to tell them in person. They don’t deserve to find out when you suddenly switch networks on Facebook.
2. Throw your plans out the window.
…at least for now. Before I got to B.U., I had the next two years planned perfectly. I would double major, study abroad for a semester, and join a sorority – all while finishing my degree on time. A year later, my life looks a lot different than I expected it to.
I’m not in a sorority, I have only one major and no plans to study abroad, and I am still not graduating on time. I didn’t accomplish anything I planned to, yet I still had an amazing year. I joined Model U.N., traveled to conferences around the country, and was even our club’s Vice President this spring.
No matter how much you plan, you can never anticipate what will happen when you get to your new school. Leave some wiggle room for the unexpected.
3. Your school calendar is different now. Learn the new one.
Most important, learn when certain deadlines are, like tuition payments. The fee for missing a payment is usually around $100, which I discovered the hard way after missing my first tuition payment. Another deadline I didn’t anticipate was for course registration. Spots for classes fill up fast everywhere, but at my new school, I needed an advisor’s approval to unlock a registration code. Most advisors probably won’t be too pleased when you email them frantically two hours before registration (mine wasn’t). It’s a good idea to plan at least a week ahead. Other dates I didn’t know, but should have: school-recognized holidays, special schedules, scholarship applications and housing lotteries. Keep a list of important dates you need to know on your wall so you don’t forget them.
4. Stop Facebook stalking your old friends!
The first few weekends at a new school are some of the loneliest, and it’s tempting to Facebook stalk friends at your old school. Don’t. It’s easy to convince yourself that you made the wrong decision transferring, and looking at their pictures will only make it worse. I spent my first Saturday night at B.U. scrolling through my old roommate’s Facebook albums, and with each new tan face smiling back at me, I became more depressed.
All of the very real reasons I transferred flew out of my head, and I wanted desperately to go back and join in on the fun. If you can’t find someone to hang out with, find something fun you can do alone instead. Watch a favorite movie, read a favorite book, or explore – anything is better than sitting alone at your computer.
5. Don’t let the questions get to you.
As a transfer student, you will undoubtedly get the standard questions: why did you transfer, did you hate your old school, are the academics better here, did you get rejected here in high school, etc. Most people are just curious, but sometimes the questions can get overwhelming. This is one of those things that get easier with time. After a while, you’ll be able to anticipate what questions you’ll get.
At this point, I’ve polished my auto response for why I transferred: “I loved my friends, and the school was great, but I really wanted to be in a city.” As boring as my response is, I’ve found that, with the odd exception, it’s all people really want – or need – to know.