Every year, in one of the greatest migrations in the animal kingdom, thousands of undergraduate students transfer colleges. Maybe they didn’t like their school’s location, class size, atmosphere or price tag, but whatever the reason, students change schools with a surprising regularity. Perhaps, though, it shouldn’t be surprising, as giving an eighteen-year-old the responsibility of choosing where they plan to spend the next four years of their life has “Actually, I changed my mind” written all over it.
Sometimes, students make it to a massive state university and, in the midst of cavernous classes, student bodies that outnumber most American towns and an infrastructure so vast that it feels like your school could double as its own country, neophyte academicians get overwhelmed and want to backpedal their way back to high school.
Oftentimes, it’s the exact opposite. If you were going to a smaller school and felt like you weren’t getting that “classic” college experience, the one you see in movies and on television that features big sports games, a dynamic social life and the buzz of extracurricular activity, you might opt to supersize your surroundings and transfer to a bustling four-year university.
Either way, if you decided to switch schools, then you should be prepared for these nine experiences.
1. It can be a bit of a shock.
After spending an entire year at a different college, it should come as no wonder that when you change schools, you can experience some major culture shock.
You got accustomed to a certain way of life at your old school where you had your group of friends, a favorite dining hall and that one perfect spot in the library. Those little things that made your other school great are gone now, but soon enough you’ll find a new group of friends, another favorite dining hall and a different perfect spot in the library.
2. It can be hard to meet new people.
While everyone already had the classic freshman experience at your new school, you were having that same one at your old school. So, when you are the transfer student, it can be hard to meet new people your age because they probably already have their own friend group.
Since feeling like an outcast can be very intimidating, you’re going to have to become outgoing. Whether you join a club, Greek life or just open up to your neighbors, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone will help tremendously when you are the new kid.
3. Picking classes can get confusing.
At your old school, you probably picked your classes in a group of other eager freshman with step-by-step instructions from an academic advisor. When you are a transfer student, your new school thinks that because you have picked classes before, that picking classes at your new school will be a breeze. They are wrong.
When you are a transfer student and picking classes, the academic advisors let you have free reign over your schedule, but classes are most likely very different at your new school. And the worst part? Everyone else has already picked their classes, so you really have slim pickings. This is when the add/drop period becomes your best friend, because it will allow you to change your schedule around to fit which classes you actually want to take.
4. You become your own advisor.
Advisors at any school are going to be, well, not very helpful at advising. It might be their job, but the truth is, they do not know you well enough to give you advice on what to do with the rest of your life.
While some advice that your advisor gave may have been good, it is ultimately up to you to decide what you want to do with the rest of your college career. As a result, when you are a transfer student, you have to become your own academic advisor and take classes that interest you, not just the classes that you are told to take.
5. You will have to explain to people numerous times that you transferred.
The conversation comes up more than you would think, especially when you go home for the holidays. All of the people in your home town will probably still think you re at the first school you attended, and when you tell them that you transferred, they will most likely ask why.
Then you will have to sum up what is, in reality, a very detailed reason for why you transferred into a few words like “It was cheaper” or “It was just the right move for me.” When you are on campus, it’s no different. Since it is one of the first things new people will ask you, the good news is that you will get pretty good at explaining your transfer story.
6. You will have to get all new college apparel.
When you went to your first school, you probably decked yourself out head-to-toe in all of the apparel for that school.
When you transfer, you no longer can wear that comfy sweatshirt from your old college bookstore at your new school. Well, at least not in public because everyone else on campus is wearing apparel from your new school.
7. People will think you are a freshman.
Being a transfer student is a lot like being a freshman again: you don’t know where any of your classes are, which dining halls to avoid, what the best party houses are on campus, where people hang out in between classes or really anything about living at that school. People around campus will most likely think you are a freshman for those first few weeks of school. Get used to it.
8. You will not feel like a freshman.
While you may act like a freshman for the first few weeks, you do not feel like one. You’ve already had the freshman experience with the awkward roommate encounters, nerve-racking orientation and walking into the wrong classroom the entire first week of classes.
However, once you transfer, you do not feel exactly like a sophomore; you feel like a sophomore transfer student, which is even better. You have the experience of a sophomore, but you are eager to try new things and be in a new place like a freshman.
9. You’ll realize transferring schools was the best decision for you.
You will probably have moments where your confidence in your decision to transfer wavers, but you transferred colleges for a reason. Once the initial shock fades and you became settled into your new school, you will realize that while your old school was great, your new school is an even better fit.