The end of senior year is an exciting time. You can see the paths of the classmates you’ve grown up with diverging as you all begin your individual journeys beyond high school. However, some were more excited for those journeys to being than others. With the college admissions process officially over and our fates sealed, I found that many of my classmates weren’t excited to be attending the universities to which they had committed. Some were rejected from their dream schools. Others were holding out that they’d finally get off that waitlist. Unfortunately, it is a reality for many students that they simply couldn’t afford their dream schools.
“It’s okay,” they’d say. “I can always transfer.”
That was my exact mentality coming to Stony Brook University in the Fall of 2018. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had underestimated myself in applying to colleges as a senior. With only one reach school, you could definitely say I was afraid of rejection. By the end of March, I was left with six acceptances to universities I wasn’t excited about going to and being placed on one waitlist at the college I really wanted to go to. I ultimately never made it off that waitlist. I made it my mission while at Stony Brook to do everything I could to get into a big, fancy, competitive school, somehow thinking that would give me the validation I was seeking. I was placing my self-worth into something as arbitrary and unimportant as the school I attended. The worst part is that this wasn’t some realization I had after the fact– this was something I was fully aware of before, during, and after my transfer process.
Keeping my grades high became my number one priority my first semester of Stony Brook. During one of the most crucial times for anyone’s social development in college, I was in my room studying, keeping any potential friends at arm’s length so as not to get too attached when I inevitably left Stony Brook. I was left with a handful of acquaintances, no real friends, and my mental health in shambles. I could only chuckle when an academic advisor had asked me to what I attributed my academic success in the Fall semester.
The stress of transferring is only compounded when transferring to highly competitive schools. There are typically more components to these transfer applications such as the Mid-Term Report, the College Report, multiple letters of recommendation from professors, in addition to the standard essays and extended answer questions, extracurricular activities, resumes, and overall wellrounded-ness.
This is something Michael Beeli knew all too well in transferring from University of California, Riverside to Georgetown University in Washington D.C. “My time commitment was fairly ambitious throughout the transfer process. In addition to my standard full class schedule, I was a regular writer for my school newspaper’s Opinion section, a volunteer with the campus student activist group, a fellow in the student government office, and I worked with the educational nonprofit IMUNA to teach high schoolers about international affairs through Model UN.” As the semester progressed, Michael had to give up many of these activities in order to dedicate more of his time to the requirements of the transfer process. “It was difficult to walk away from those commitments, but transferring is a difficult and demanding process, so I knew I needed the proper headspace to complete the application properly.”
If that doesn’t sound stressful enough, the sad reality is that you’re on your own when it comes to figuring out this “difficult and demanding process.” No matter how helpful you thought your high school guidance counselors were, you will be thankful for any kind of advice since (shockingly) universities are not interested in helping their students transfer out of their school. It is critical that you are on top of all of your deadlines, as there are many. The Mid-Term Report, College Report, full application for each school, financial aid, and letters of recommendation all have separate deadlines that you are responsible for being aware of.
There is a happy ending here, I promise. Michael’s dedication and sacrifices paid off and he now studies at one of the best universities in the country. As for me, I did get what I was seeking in an acceptance letter from New York University only to then decline admission due to financial reasons. In the end, I felt silly. While I had proved to myself that I was capable of getting into a competitive school, at what cost? Not only was it not as fulfilling as I had built it up to be in my head, I had missed so much of the traditional college experience in my first year, almost like a form of tunnel vision where I never thought of any other future besides one where I was no longer a student at Stony Brook. This semester I have taken a different approach in making the best of my situation and fully immersing and applying myself as a student should.I feel it is important to mention that mine and Michael’s experience with transferring is not true of everybody. Samantha Eves, a recent graduate, transferred to Stony Brook her junior year from Hunter College. Samantha found applying through the SUNY system simple saying, “There wasn’t a huge time commitment in the transfer process. The SUNY app is pretty easy and all they really wanted to know was my New York State residency and my grades at Hunter. I was accepted to Stony Brook in a timely manner (a much more timely manner than I was accepted to Hunter).” Samantha was also impressed with the resources available to transfer students at Stony Brook to help make a painless transition. Some people she attributes her success to are department coordinators and advisors Alissa Betz of the philosophy department, Victoria Judd of the economics department, and transfer seminar instructor Tara Powers.
Some of the most stressful parts of transferring for Samantha were not during the transfer process, but the consequences and unforeseen personal turmoil that occurred after transferring.
“Transferring is super stressful, especially when you’re only three semesters from graduating. It was stressful being away from home and my boyfriend. Also, I really wanted to make friends and make them fast. While, I did eventually end up meeting some of the most amazing and kind people at SBU, it was incredibly stressful trying to meet people and make those bonds. Additionally, I had so much going on in my personal life during my first semester at Stony Brook. I was trying to cope with the passing of my brother, my aunt also passed that semester, and my parents were getting divorced. At times, it did feel like I was drowning in stress, but like I said the resources were super helpful, especially CAPs.”
While Samantha, Michael, and I all transferred for personal reasons, some are not afforded that privilege and transfer out of necessity. Such was the case with Stony Brook student, Madelene Sucuzhanay who had transferred from the University of Vermont.
“I transferred due to safety reasons. The university was not persistent in investigating nor taking
student conduct judiciary measures to protect me from a stalking situation. The school
environment also became tense due to the political climate shift that occurred and its heavy
involvement in racism.”
No matter how cumbersome I’ve made the transfer process out to be, if Madelene’s situation is in any reminiscent of yours or someone you know, one’s safety should come above all else. If that means transferring to another university, then do what you must in order to stay safe. Thankfully, Madelene also had better experience during the transfer process and was able to be removed from a dangerous situation quickly being admitted two weeks after submitting her application. Like Samantha, Madelene also took advantage of the resources made available to her at transferring seminars.
I would like to end this article with advice for those seriously considering transferring.
Michael: “My primary advice is if you really know that you want to transfer schools then don’t limit yourself to the institution you currently find yourself in. Transferring has quite literally changed my life — almost entirely for the better. The most clear sign to me that I had to transfer was I was not comfortable being myself openly and pursuing what I wanted to pursue at my prior university. If you feel like you have muted yourself, or you know you would be more comfortable, more dynamically challenged elsewhere, I cannot recommend transferring to schools that will both affirm and challenge you enough. The process is incredibly difficult and is a serious time commitment, so if you are serious, make the necessary sacrifices because it is worth it.”
Samantha: “The advice I would give to a transfer student is to stay on top of the process. There are going to be a lot of phone calls you’re going to have to make to ensure that x received y, etc. And you’re probably going to have to pester a lot of people to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Once you transfer, try not to stress about making friends although it is hard. Joining clubs, especially a club that stands for something you’re passionate about, is the best way to meet like minded people. Also, I loved the topics I studied at Stony Brook, so it was really easy to make friends with people who had the same major as me. You automatically have something in common when you have the same major and so it’s quite easy to transition to friendship from there.”
Madalene: “If they have a major, I would suggest looking into schools that have good programs for it. I would also suggest to talk to the registrar’s office and ask for an equivalency sheet so that they may see beforehand which credits will count. Based on this, they can have a rough estimate of how many credits may count. This is important for those who would not be comfortable with extra time spent in school.”
From the perspectives of those who have gone through the transfer process, this is what they don’t tell you about transferring. If you are beginning the transfer application, be sure to remain on top of your deadlines. Something that worked for both Madelene and I was listing all of those deadlines so as to better prioritize what needed attention. Not only with this help you stay organized, but in turn help know when to focus and when to tend to some much needed self-care. Remember that you can succeed anywhere as long as you apply yourself and stay motivated and taking the necessary steps to keep yourself healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally.