5 Things I’ve Learned as a Transfer Student

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After my first semester as a transfer student, I’ve learned a lot about getting accustomed to campus and life as a first year student. Transferring has had its ups and downs, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities and support that have come my way.  

Here are five essentials I have learned over the course of this semester:

1) Prepare well in advance

One thing I have heard from fellow transfer students repeatedly is, “I wish I took that class last year” or “I wish I got this over with before coming here.”

Many students who plan on transferring may not know which institution or career path they want to pursue and that’s 100% OKAY. Your freshman and sophomore years are a time for exploring your interests and figuring out what you may or may not want to do.

However, if you want to stay ahead and make sure you get your degree on time, it’s important you try to take as many core required classes as possible, especially if you plan on transferring as a junior.

If you have an idea of what schools you want to apply to, or plan on transferring to, visit their websites or meet with an academic counselor to discuss what classes are required at most institutions. This way you can get the requirements out of the way at the college you’re currently attending. Not only is it less stressful to fulfill your graduation requirements on time, but it also looks more competitive to the schools you may be applying to. They’ll be looking to see if you’re able to handle the rigor of the courses they offer!

Prepare in advance and you will thank yourself in the long run.

2) Be patient and keep an open mind

One of the unique parts of being a transfer student is having to go through the experience of being a first-year student twice. Although getting to know a new institution and a new group of people can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming and stressful.

It’s important to keep an open mind and remain calm when going through mundane orientation events or information sessions. Make sure not to zone out completely thinking you know everything already, because you may miss some important information or tips about campus resources you might not have been aware of.

Remember that you will eventually settle in with new friends, your new routine, and your new normal. Be patient, and don’t stress out if you don’t make a ton of friends right away. Everything worthwhile takes a little time.

3) Accept your new surroundings

One HUGE tendency among transfer students is to compare their new institution to their old one. Although it  can be positive to  realize your new institution is a better fit for you, it can also be detrimental if you contrast your new school in a negative light.

When you find yourself thinking, “They didn’t do this at my last school” or “Wow I really miss doing this at my last school,” try to stop and remind yourself of the reason you transferred. You may find there are lots of positive aspects of your new school that they did not offer at your old one. Again, it just takes time and getting used to your new campus.

Everything happens for a reason, and the sooner you accept your new surroundings, the happier you will be.

4) Embrace your transfer community

One regret of mine is not taking advantage of all the resources and events designed specifically to connect and help transfer students. No matter where you go, you will not be the only transfer student, so you should always try to connect with others, even if they don’t become your best friends. Who else will be able to understand the struggles and benefits of being a transfer student other than fellow transfers? Don’t be afraid to reach out!

It’s also beneficial to connect with faculty or advisors at your old and new institutions that work specifically with transfer students, since they are most experienced with the transition process. You have nothing to lose by contacting them, and it’s only a chance to learn more.

In addition, try to seek out support from upperclassmen who were also transfer . Out of everyone, these classmates are the most valuable and comforting to connect with, since they understand exactly what you’re going through and can give you helpful advice specific to your school. It also doesn’t hurt to have friends there to support you and remind you they made it through the same process.

My fellow transfer friends really helped me get through my first semester. There is nothing better than having a community of people you can relate to and bond with over your shared experiences.

5) Don’t listen to the critics

Don’t listen to anyone who says or implies you do not belong or deserve to be at your new institution. You worked just as hard as your fellow classmates who didn’t transfer.

When I first arrived at my current school, one of the first professors I met with told me that some of the smartest, most motivated students she has ever had were transfer students!

Just because you took a different path to get to where you are doesn’t mean you are less than or greater than your peers. Being a transfer student has its unique advantages that are desirable to professors or employers. You learn skills like being able to adapt to new environments easily and having an open mind and a determined work ethic!

At the end of the day, everyone is getting the same degree, and you should be proud of all of your hard work. Own your transfer status!

Overall, I had an amazing and challenging first semester as a transfer student. Although there are definitely some struggles of being a transfer, I wouldn't change my path for the world and have learned so much in just my first semester at my new institution. With preparation and an open mind, any transfer student has the ability to adapt and make the most of their transfer experience!  

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About The Author

Linda DePaolis is currently a sophomore at Cornell University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations seeking a career in law. Last year, she was selected as a delegate for the United Nations Youth Assembly and as a presenter for the Global Resolution Project. During the school year, aside from HerCampus, Linda is an active member of Cornell's Society for Women in Law, ILR Women's Caucus, ILR Student Government Association, and the Chair of the Campus Chapter Committee for the Unspoken Smiles Foundation.