The question of whether to transfer colleges is one faced by many students. In fact, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that "approximately one-third of students beginning at either a four- or two-year institution" will transfer "during the course of their postsecondary careers."
[See the colleges and universities with the most transfer students.]
The difficulty comes, however, in figuring out if transferring schools is really the right choice. While some things may change if you transfer, some problems may duplicate themselves just when you think you've settled into your new campus. So how can you sort out the reasons why you should transfer from the reasons why you shouldn't?
1. Don't transfer if you haven't given yourself some time: If you've only been at your school for a week or two and hate it, don't drop out right away and plan to transfer somewhere else later. Adjusting to a new location, new academic environment, new friends, and new life can be overwhelming at first.
Give yourself time—meaning a semester or two—to adjust to and learn your new environment. After all, if you drop out and want to transfer somewhere new, you just might find yourself in the exact same situation six or 12 months from now. Not knowing anyone, feeling out of place, and even feeling overwhelmed happens at every school. Do your best to push through it until you've given yourself—and your school—a fair shot at success.
2. Don't transfer if you think the classes are too hard—or too easy: If you're in courses that seem above or below your academic level, consider switching classes, not schools. Talk to your adviser or upper-level students in your major. If you want to major in a field that your school doesn't offer, that's a legitimate reason to transfer. But if you're not finding your courses challenging during only one semester, that's not.
Look around for more (or less) rigorous courses, see if you can do research with a professor, consider independent study classes, and give yourself another semester (when you can take more advanced classes once your prerequisites are out of the way) before deciding the entire academic program is not a match.
3. Don't transfer if you're not making friends right away: Not making friends right away is much more common that many students might think. Meeting people and finding the right group of friends takes time and patience. Consider joining a club that interests you. Ask about writing for the school newspaper or even getting an on-campus job (such as at a campus coffee shop) where you can socialize.
You are just one person of many on a large campus, so it stands to reason that it takes time for all students to find people with whom they click. Be patient with yourself while also challenging yourself to go out to meet people whenever and however possible.
4. Don't transfer because of one bad experience: OK, so your first roommate really was a nightmare. And that chemistry professor didn't give you the grade you felt you deserved. But letting one bad instance ruin a potentially fantastic four- or five-year college career is a horrible way to treat yourself. If you've had a bad experience with one person, don't let that ruin your time at a particular school. Dust yourself off, forgive and forget, and move on—without moving away.
[Read 8 things you should know if you want to transfer.]
5. Don't transfer because you miss people back home: You may find the homesickness overwhelming some days during your time in school. Rest assured, however, that this is completely normal for many students. If you were to return home, would things really change? If you lived at home, how would that be different from when you were in high school? Would the factors that motivated you to go away to school find you again if you returned home?
Being a college student often means being heavily involved in your campus's academic, intellectual, cultural, and social scene. The people back home who you miss dearly undoubtedly are proud of you and what you're accomplishing. They will wait for and support you, no matter where you go or what you do. So if you're at a school that is perfect except for its distance from those you love, the solution is simply more phone calls, video chats, and visits home—not a complete transfer of institutions.