5 Things to Expect When Transferring Colleges

It's September, 2014. I am on my tiptoes at the head of my twin bed in an attempt to hang my black and white Jay Z poster inside my new dorm room. Hova, if you will, is posed in his signature style, extending his hands out in a diamond formation.

Ah, yes, this will pull my room together.

I plop down on my bed and lean back into the open arms of my husband pillow to observe my mere 75-square-foot, white-walled dorm room. I ponder the irony of this pillow's name, considering I just transferred to an all women's college in New York City. It is 9:30 p.m. during orientation week, in the city that never sleeps. At this point I'm pretty certain that I am going to spend the rest of the evening in my bed. Needless to say, my first night as a transfer student was unlike my first night of college when I was a freshman, circa 2013 of the fall semester. My first night as a transfer proved to me that even though I had done the college adjustment once, I was in no position to anticipate what was to come. Transferring is such a completely different process, and many college students face the predicament quite frequently of whether or not to transfer. So, here are five insider tips and feelings someone may experience when transferring colleges.

1. You're going to want to transfer back.

This may sound counterproductive, but all of the reasons you left will become the exact reasons you want to go back. You will likely convince yourself that you complained too much and those things you criticized are actually the things you loved about the school. It's similar to the fact that the majority of first semester college students want to transfer (one in three, according to a 2010 New York Times article). Well, guess what? Even transfers want to transfer -- but not to somewhere different, just back to their own comfort zone. We always want what we don't have, right?

2. You're going to have trouble getting into classes.

And it's going to be the most frustrating thing ever. Everybody picks classes in the spring, so you get the runt of the fall litter. Pulling the "transfer" card (emailing and/or approaching your professor in person to explain your grave situation in hopes of a pity invite into a capped-class) doesn't always work. Professors have no mercy. And after having all of your surroundings changed (again), getting into your desired classes feels like your only hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But not to worry, don't forget that Babe and Seabiscuit were the runts of their litters.

3. It's going to be hard to make friends.

Sure, it is always hard to make friends. It takes courage and a lot of effort, and time. It's not that people don't want to be your friend -- certainly by the end of high school, everybody (at least most people) has gotten over the Mean Girls clique world. But, as freshmen, nobody knows each other or the school. They are all adjusting and making friends together. As a transfer, you're an awkward sophomore (or junior) because, in some ways, you're one year behind your class. Unlike your fellow classmates, you don't know how to get into classes, where class even is, which dining halls to eat at, and you may be behind in a new major because of different requirements. Eventually, though, there comes a time when "I just transferred here from..." is no longer a part of your introduction.

4. Your patience will be tested.

To the max. One of the most frustrating things about transferring is that you just did the whole college adjustment (maybe you nailed it, maybe you didn't... but the point is that you did it). You became familiar with an entire school, but now you have to do it all over again. You made friends last year, and now you have to put yourself out there and make new friends. You got an idea for your major, and now you have to accommodate accordingly to the selection of majors offered at your new school. You're in new surroundings that you want to have explored, yesterday. Having the expectations of a sophomore or junior student while in the position of a freshman at a new institution puts your patience to a true test.

5. You will wonder what on earth you were thinking when you made the decision to transfer.

While deciding whether or not to transfer, it is easy to become so focused on the big picture that you may overlook the impact of such a big change. "Why on earth did I decide to transfer?" is probably the most consistent question you will ask yourself throughout the year, and it will receive the most inconsistent answer. You will probably start from wondering why on earth you transferred and wanting to just turn back, to hoping that the adjustment would just happen quicker. After a while, you will likely come to terms with the fact that you just did not realize all that transferring would encompass. By the end of the year, when you will realize you've basically reached your big picture goal, you will finally understand what on earth you were thinking when you made the decision to transfer.

For your own good, in some way, the sooner you stop asking yourself this question, the better off you will be; and that is the day when you never look back again. By taking the transfer process day by day and step by step, you will likely finish the year with the reward of ending up where you decided you ultimately wanted to be almost exactly one year earlier when you accepted your transfer admission.