In the fairy tale of college admissions, we apply to seven schools, get into our top choice, and spend the next four years happy as clams knowing we are right where we belong. Reality, on the other hand, is hella messier. Sometimes you don't get into your top choice, or your second, or your third. Sometimes you get there and it is not at all what you expected it to be. Sometimes, after giving it your best shot, you even come to the conclusion that you should transfer schools in the middle of your college career.
The word "transfer" in college has an inherent cringe-iness to it. To some people, transferring is a concession that they failed in their first choice; that they were wrong, and in being punished for that wrongness, they now have to start all over again some place else. To others, transferring is a race to prove yourself — particularly if you transfer to a "better" college, maybe one that didn't accept you the first time around, and you're afraid that everyone there will remember that you're not ~as worthy~ as they were.
It's time to change that narrative. Transferring isn't a failure, or an invitation for people to judge you. Transferring is an opportunity. Transferring means you had the self-awareness to look around at the surroundings that were controlling you and take that control back for yourself. Transferring is, quite frankly, scary as hell — but when you know it's the right decision, and you take that leap, there is no looking back. And if you are experiencing any of these particular feelings, it might be time to assess whether or not transferring is the kind of leap you want to make.
You Changed Your Major, And It Didn't Fix Anything
At first you think that the growing pains are just a matter of your studies, so you switch from English to Psych and wait for that homey, settled-in feeling that everyone around you seems to have. Sometimes it's as easy as that. Sometimes you're in the right place, and you really do change your major once, twice, five times before you find the right one. But sometimes you're in the wrong place, and no amount of changing your major will make you un-feel that.
You Are Reluctant To Make Any Long-Term Commitments
Your roommate starts asking you about signing a lease for next year, and you bookmark the email. You avoid the student activities fair like the plague. You're reluctant even to take any two-part courses that span over one semester. Your foot isn't halfway out the door yet, but you're still staring out the window, trying not to get wrapped up in what's going on inside.
You Are Still Upset Seeing Pictures Of Your Friends' Colleges On Facebook
Jealousy is an ugly, undeniable feeling that sometimes you have to let yourself feel in full force. There's always going to be someone in your life who got something you desperately wanted, and didn't get. That's a part of living. Another part of living is getting over it, and accepting what you've got. If you haven't gotten over it after a semester or two at school — if you're still looking at your friends over at That One School You Really Wanted To Attend, and are hating them for it — the game isn't over yet.
Because listen up: A rejection the first time around means nothing when you're transferring. If anything, the fact that you tried a first time and are coming back for more looks good to a college admissions board. The stuff you did in high school doesn't count nearly as much as what you're doing in college as your grown-ass self right now — so don't sit around and resent people for going to your dream school, when you still have the power to join them. This is one circumstance in your life you can control, so get on that.
You Spend Most Of Your Time In Your Dorm Or Apartment, Away From Other People
Maybe you're naturally introverted, and you would be doing this no matter where you went. But most people, even the shy people among us, have an inherent need to be social. It can be in a quiet setting with a few friends, or a crazy balls-to-the-wall party, but it's still something. There is nothing weird about wanting to be alone sometimes, or even most of the time, but when it gets to the point where you actively avoid or even dread interacting with people on campus, it isn't a personality thing anymore — it's a situational one.
Your Family Can Tell That Something Seems ~Off~
They start asking you pointed questions on the phone, or they sense some kind of shift when you come home for a weekend or during a break. Whenever you talk about school with them, you're either feeling like you're trying to fill up space in the conversation, or stuck in awkward silences that you're not quite sure how to remedy. Often your family will start to get a sense that something's not quite right before you do — so listen to them if they bring it up, even if it's not something you want to hear.
You Inexplicably Dread The Start Of Each Semester
College semesters aren't like high school semesters, which hands down suck no matter what. College semesters are the start of classes you chose, in a major you're passionate about, reconnecting with groups of friends you've missed. There will always be a slight anxiety, of course, but louder than that should be an inherent excitement for a fresh start in a familiar place. If that's not the feeling you have walking onto campus in the spring or the fall, something is amiss.
You Are Not Working Your Hardest, And You Know It
You're phoning it in. Sure, you go to class. You get decent grades. You do the bare minimum to successfully exist on campus. But you're not actively working toward any singular goals, aside from the goal of getting through it. You're not challenging yourself with hard classes, or putting yourself in new situations, or growing as a person. If someone ever calls you out on it, you're defensive, because you know deep down that you're capable of so much more — but you're so uninspired that you've lost sight of that person you used to be.
You Ultimately Know That You Are The One Influencing This Feeling
Some of us — myself included — will feel outside pressure to transfer. Your friends or a significant other want you to join them, or your relative wants you at their alma mater, or your parents are concerned that the school you're going to doesn't live up to your "potential". In the end, though, other people's opinions are just background noise. If you can tell yourself with utter certainty that your thoughts on transferring are your own, and not a secondhand opinion from someone else, then — and only then — can you take the transferring process seriously.
Even In Your Happiest Moments At School, You Still Think About Transferring
You're walking home from the best party of your life, or the sun is shining on the most beautiful part of campus, or you're clutching an A plus on a killer final in your hands ... and you could still imagine yourself someplace else.
You Had That "Come To Jesus" Moment
Or, if you're like me, you had several. One of mine was on the way home from a late night rehearsal, a beautiful night when I was in a perfectly good mood and leaving a group of very close friends, and I just looked up at the sky and was like, "Crap. I gotta do it." Another less sweet moment was when I went to a party where I didn't drink and left before midnight, only to discover halfway home that aaaaallll of the contents of my wallet had been stolen (and were eventually found scattered across someone's lawn the next day). Whether you're at an all-time high or an all-time low, everyone's ~moment~ will be different — the only thing that is the same is once you have it, there's just no denying your feelings anymore.
You're Not Under Kind Of Any Illusion That Transferring Will Fix Everything
Transferring is not a Band-Aid on your personal life, or an escape from your problems. Your problems will follow you wherever you go. You'll be the same person, form the same kind of relationships, pursue the same kinds of activities. Transplanting yourself somewhere else doesn't change who you are as a person; it is merely a chance for you to take your fully-formed self somewhere you feel more like you belong.
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