When I was in high school, I applied to 2 colleges I REALLY liked. I ultimately chose to apply early decision to one of them, and I was accepted. When I came home after my first semester in college, all I could think about was getting back to school. At that point, I believed I had made the right decision (which was, at that time, probably the hardest decision I’d ever made).

But a year later, after the first semester of my sophomore year, I wanted out. I started to become more aware of the social scene at my school. I personally enjoy going out on the weekends (when I finish all of my schoolwork, of course), and realized that I was tired of the repetitiveness of seeing the same crowd of people at every party, every weekend. I would see the same faces on my daily walk to class. Frankly, the atmosphere and social scene became toxic, and I did not want to continue on the slippery slope I could see myself going down in the near future. At this point, I had two options: I could transfer to a new school and pursue my interest in communications, or I could continue to grow unhappy at a school that I, unfortunately, could no longer call home. The choice sounds easy, right? Wrong.

I felt really torn. I was in the middle of my sophomore year and if I transferred, it would mean leaving people who had become my best friends over the past year and a half. But, on the other hand, it would mean going to another school where I could take much better and more useful classes in the field of communications — my passion. Part of me wanted to stay where I was comfortable and familiar, but a bigger part of me wanted to move on. After weighing the pros and cons with my family, I realized that I had to follow my gut. After all, we don’t stay in college for long, and I wanted to get the most out of my collegiate career.

Here’s what I learned from MY experience to help YOU make a smooth transition.

First and foremost, the transfer process is not easy. It was stressful and, in my particular case, everything needed to happen in a short period of time in order to submit my application before the transfer deadline. I applied, heard back and committed to my new school within a 3-week period. It was unusual to go through the transfer process so quickly, but I only had 4 weeks from the time I came home from school during my Christmas break to complete the process. I was really lucky to have all of my credits transfer and to be able to start right away for the spring semester. Sometimes, not all of your previous credits will transfer to your new school, which adds additional stress and could mean needing to take a class you’ve already taken. Also note that each school has a different timeline for admission deadlines. If you are looking for a change, make sure you know what the dates and deadlines are for the school you are interested in pursuing.

Second, when I first got to my new school, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. Then I realized that there were a ton of other transfer students, and a transfer orientation weekend, which made it so much easier to start networking and making friends. The moment I realized I wasn’t the ONLY person transferring was a huge relief. In fact, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about one-third of all college students transfer from one school to another at some point in their collegiate career, and fifty percent of the third that transferred end up transferring again. You won’t be alone.

Third, don’t be afraid to ask for help at your new school. There is so much information that the school can provide you, and sometimes we forget what we were told when we were Freshmen at our first college or university. Although you might feel like a ‘pro’ because of the similar welcome experience at your previous school, don’t assume you know exactly what you need to do. The best way to have everything under control at your new school is to work with your teachers and advisors. They will only help you manage your work if you go and see them. Believe me, they want you to have a successful transition.

Fourth, when I transferred, I made an extra effort to get involved and meet people. I got involved with the Hillel house on campus, and joined a fraternity as well. Those are just two ways of how I made some friends at my new school. Pushing myself to attend school run events, and step out of my comfort zone, was so crucial to making a smooth transition in my new school.

In our current society, change and reconstruction have become the norm that we have become accustomed to hearing about it. In our fast paced, technology-driven world, we can immediately find answers to even the most complicated questions, by asking the AI devices in our pockets. Because of this, we have a skewed perception of many aspects of life, specifically our understanding of perfection and quality. This relates directly to our expectations for finding a ‘perfect’ school. We are chasing a ghost by doing this.

Social media platforms are the root of these misperceptions. When students see friends from high school post exciting pictures and videos of their college experience, it sparks a demented ideal of what each college experience is really like. What we can’t see in their social media posts is the underlying unhappiness and loneliness that we try so hard to keep inside.

If you’ve read this far, and are still considering transferring, keep in the back of your mind that your new school may not make your dreams come true. What I mean by that is: it takes time to adjust. There will surely be days where you miss your friends from home, or your previous school, and the familiarity of your old school, but that doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice in transferring. Everybody runs into obstacles during their move  – whether some credits don’t end up transferring, or you find out the closest Chipotle to campus is 30 minutes away… and you don’t have a car.

You’ll never know how much happier you might be if you don’t have some faith and trust yourself to make the right decisions. Trust your natural instincts. As for me, I am so much happier now at a fantastic university with a much stronger communication program. I have been able to take courses that focus on public speaking, strategically writing for the media, and creating online media content. If I never followed my gut instinct to make a change to my life trajectory, I would not be here, writing this blog, saying how satisfied I am now that I made a switch for my best interest, not anyone else’s.

Michael Ellick (Elon University, Class of 2020)

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