Transferring Colleges: How I Learned to Overcome My Fears

Transferring colleges is relatively common these days; common enough that we rarely think anything of it. I have a handful of friends who have transferred, and they all seem to have had a good experience. BUT, what people don’t talk about is the absolute terror transferring can be: moving to a new place, having to meet new people, potentially switching majors, and feeling like an outcast along the way. Here’s a bit about my story and how I learned to overcome a lot of my fears by transferring. 

I began my college journey by studying musical theater in Philadelphia. It took half a semester for me to realize this wasn’t where I was meant to be. I wasn’t having the college experience everyone else seemed to have. I had some friends, but not best friends. I was doing ok in my classes, but I wasn’t excelling. I felt isolated, like I was watching my friends live their college lives through a window. My first year sparked a total identity crisis in me. Is this still the path I want to pursue for the rest of my life? Why am I unhappy doing what I’ve always loved? I knew I couldn’t spend four years feeling like this so, at the end of the spring semester, I made the decision to withdraw from my university. Following that, I did something I never thought I would do: take two years off from college.

There is a lot of shame associated with dropping out of college. When I took my gap years in an attempt to make some sense of my life, I received constant questions about my future. “When are you going back to school?” “Do you know what you want to do yet?” “Why are you home and working?” “You should be in school!” Plus, the always helpful and patronizing, “You’ll figure it out.” It felt like my life decisions were a constant topic of discussion. Oh, I should be in school? Tell me about it! I’m trying to figure it out but it isn’t always that easy. I constantly felt like I was ten steps behind my friends and other people my age. The feelings of embarrassment and being stuck in my hometown definitely began to take a toll on my mental health. I knew I needed to make a change and college was the right answer for me. After plenty of deliberation, research, and mental breakdowns, I decided to apply for psychology and drama therapy programs. Spoiler alert: it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

My mom used to have a magnet on the fridge that said, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” so that’s exactly what I did. I enrolled in a school in New York City and got my very first apartment (adult alert!). To say I was terrified is an understatement. I had been out of school for two whole years. Did every ounce of smart leave my brain? Do I even remember how to make friends? But, at the end of the day, you feel the fear, and you do it anyway. 

I dove right into my new college experience by taking the maximum amount of credits and signing up for way too many clubs. While I may owe my life to my beautiful planner, I’m glad I became involved on campus. Being an active part of your college’s community gives you a sense of belonging and family. For me, it warmed the cold feelings of isolation and shame I had grown used to during my time out of school. As long as you stay involved and keep an open heart and mind, opportunities and friendships will start coming your way. You just have to take that first step.

If you’re transferring or taking time off from college, I want to let you in on a little secret that’s taken me almost three years to learn: you have nothing to be ashamed of. Repeat. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. That’s right, you are exactly on time. The idea that you have to graduate high school knowing exactly what you want to pursue as a career, go to at least four years of college, make something of yourself, and start a family is a societal construct we’ve placed on ourselves. There is no correct timing except your timing. Need some time off? Take it. Want to take college classes in your thirties? Get that degree, girl. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re falling behind. If you’re doing what is most beneficial for you and your journey, do it!

Transferring colleges has given me a level of self confidence I never thought I could achieve. I love my school, my friends, and my city. This can happen for you, too. If you’re feeling stuck, take a look around. It may be time for a change of scenery. It may be time to feel the fear and do it anyway. No matter where you are in your journey, remember to be proud of yourself for how far you’ve come and look forward to the great things you’ve yet to accomplish.