My College Transfer Experience

To preface this story, I want to start by saying I didn’t hate my experience at the University of South Florida, nor do I think it’s a “bad school” or anything like that—it simply wasn’t the right fit for me.   


When I decided to enroll at USF after graduating high school, I thought that every day would be filled with warm weather, tan skin, and palm trees.  While this was mostly true, I neglected to realize that moving so far away from home can be scary, and especially moving to a new environment I had never experienced before.  But I took a chance and decided to hop on a plane over to Florida to start a new chapter of my life.   


I had a lot of fun times at USF, met some of my best friends, and enjoyed the warm weather, although I had this lingering feeling that I didn’t belong there.  Something didn’t feel right or natural about being there—I’m not sure if it was that USF had many commuter students (not the best when you’re living on campus and trying to get to know people), if it was being so far away from everything I’d ever known and feeling lonely, or whether it was more of a gut feeling.  Probably all the above.  When I told my friends I was transferring, they were obviously sad, but also understood that I didn’t feel like myself in Tampa.    


I knew that James Madison University, in my home state of Virginia, was where I wanted to go.  When I decided to transfer, I didn’t want to apply anywhere else, because JMU was what I always wanted.  All throughout high school, I was set on going to JMU, changing my mind to USF last minute when they had offered me thousands in scholarship money.  But as cheesy as it sounds, at the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants, and JMU was where I wanted to be.   


Fast forward to my second semester at JMU, and I couldn’t be happier.  I love the environment here and the way everyone treats each other like family.  I’ve been getting involved in different clubs and activities on campus, and when I’m missing my parents, they’re only a two-hour drive away.  Living off-campus has its perks too, like being able to come and go as you please, buying the food that you want when you want it, and of course, having a room to yourself.   


Overall, I think the main thing I’ve realized about transferring schools is that it isn’t really about the school—it’s about how you feel at the school.  Honestly, at USF, I felt like a number, I wasn’t thriving, and my efforts (rather, lack thereof) in everything I did reflected that.  Your environment can truly shape you and allow you to be the best or worst possible version of yourself.  At my old school, I felt like the worst version of myself—my grades were subpar, and I wasn’t really excelling at anything.  At my new school, I feel amazing—I’m doing good in school, meeting new people every day, and always filling up my days with different activities.   


My pieces of advice to students who are thinking of transferring:  


1. If you don’t like where you’re at, there is never going to be a perfect time to leave. 

While packing up my things from my tiny dorm room, I had second thoughts as to whether I was making the right decision.  Whenever making big decisions, there are those “what if” thoughts, but you know yourself better than anyone else—if a decision feels right, then stick with it and own it.  

2. The transition process can take time. 

When I first came to JMU, knowing only a few friends from high school, it was a little scary because I felt like I was starting over again.  Learning where everything on campus is, making friends with people you don’t know, and adjusting to a new town can get stressful when it feels like every other sophomore is three steps ahead of you.  But it just takes time! You learn to catch up. 

3. Get involved. 

Being lazy, locking yourself in your room for hours, saying “later” to everything that comes your way, and using the excuse “I don’t know anyone” is a surefire way to drag yourself into a never-ending loop of unhappiness and boredom.  Getting involved is a great way to fill up your time and meet people at your new school, and you’ll feel so much better adjusted afterward. 


Transferring can be nerve-wracking and difficult at times, but it is worth it.  Since I’ve been at JMU, I’ve never had regrets about my decision to leave my old college, and I feel that the process pushed me out of my comfort zone and was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.