Rewind to August. The car was anxiously packed, summer reading was done (does the movie count?), and it was time to start the journey to campus. There had been so much anticipation for this moment and you excitedly thought about what your first few days on campus would be like. Maybe they were everything you thought they would be, maybe not. Maybe somewhere along the way this fall all those positive feelings left and instead, as you now arrive home for Christmas, you find one thought in the back of your mind: I can’t go back there.
Mom and Dad may have heard how you’re feeling, or perhaps you’ve been too nervous/ashamed/guilty/depressed to talk about it. College was supposed to be amazing, the best years of your life, but for some reason you’re not happy. It could be because of the classes you’re taking, where the college is, or the lack of peer connections you’re making. Regardless of the why, chances are you’re blaming yourself; seeing your unhappiness as a failure. You picked this school, right?
If nothing else, please let me assure you that is not the case. This feeling is not your fault and not a failure. Think about the bigger picture: millions of students start school at thousands of colleges each fall. Chances are, some will be unhappy. The important thing now is to decide what to do about it.
Option #1 is to try again. While this can feel like the path of least resistance it’s far from easy. This means heading back to campus next month with a game plan of how to reengage. Find some new activities to join to expand your social group. Rethink your major. Try to land an internship or a research grant. Sometimes it’s possible that approaching college from a new angle is all that’s needed.
And sometimes it’s not. Option #2 involves taking the leap to start fresh elsewhere. While there can be some fear associated with this path it could have big rewards. Transferring schools is not nearly as tough as it seems. Generally speaking the application is often much more streamlined and straightforward; you will probably have a very good idea of your possibility of your acceptance based on your transfer GPA. If you’ve got enough credits under your belt that college transcript may be all you need to submit.
But you’re saying, “What if I’m not happy again?” Chances are you’ve got a much better idea what you’re looking for this time around. Instead of an idealistic high schooler you’ve now spent some time actually in college. Your concerns and questions while investigating schools will be different now and you’ll have an understanding of what you need to be successful. True, there are no guarantees, except for the fact you’re not happy now, right?
Even though the Spring semester is due to start in barely a month many colleges are still very willing to consider transfer applicants. Give some schools a call, it might surprise you how many options you have. Try to remember that submitting a transfer application (or two!) are solely that: options. Just because you do some applying this Christmas doesn’t mean you’ve decided to leave. That said, as the middle of January rolls around and you’re dreading going back to school, wouldn’t it be nice to know you have a choice?
Worst case scenario and your transfer school of choice is not going to accept your application for spring you can always come home, attend community college for a semester, and reapply for the fall. It could be a great way to save some money and refocus your goals!
My biggest word of caution about transferring is about cost, however. Many colleges are far less generous with scholarship dollars for transfers than they are for freshman. It’s certainly something to ask about and consider while weighing options.
It might sound like I’m campaigning for transferring schools and, full disclosure, I was a transfer student myself, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. But it might not be the right path for you. My purpose in covering this topic is simply to highlight that it could be a very positive move instead of the admission of failure that many students see it as. Please reach out to me if this column speaks to your situation and you want to talk about your options.