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How to Decide if You Should Transfer to a New College or University

Breaking Down the Situation Can Make It More Manageable

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A common factor in many students' college experience is transferring schools. After all you did to get to your current college or university, transferring can sometimes seem like the only option when things don't work out as you had planned.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed with everything you're balancing, break it down into the following categories and explore each individually. Then, take a deep breath and step back as you look at the larger picture.

Academics

Are you unsure about how to pick a major? Did you decide on a new major that's not offered at your current institution? Do you feel you are not academically prepared for the level of academic rigor at your school? Is your school not challenging enough? Are you having problems connecting with faculty? Does managing your time seem impossible?

Although they sometimes get lost amidst everything else, your academics are the most important thing about your college career. Ideally, you'll be at a school that challenges you, provides you with the course of study you want, and supports you along the way. Keep in mind, too, that most students' GPAs drop when they arrive in college. There's a difference between being challenged appropriately (and learning from it) versus being unprepared. The former is a reason to stay; the latter is a reason to transfer (or at least get help).

Finances

Has your, or your family's, financial situation changed since you first headed off to college? Did a tuition increase have a significant impact on your ability to pay for school? Are the costs of commuting higher than you planned? Did you lose your scholarship?

Financial problems are some of the biggest concerns for college students, no matter what their situation. If you've done all you can -- including making a budget, knowing smart tricks for saving money while in school, and getting an on-campus job if you need extra cash -- but still can't make ends meet, it might be time to talk with the financial aid office. If they can't help work things out, it may be time to consider transferring. Keep in mind, however, that most schools want to keep you there, and that there are tons of resources available for students experiencing unexpected financial difficulties.

Social & Personal Aspects

Are you having problems meeting people? Are things not going well with your roommate, and you're unsure how to approach the situation? Do you not feel safe on your campus? Does your campus have a social scene that doesn't fit with what you need or want? Is the ethos of the student body different than what you're comfortable with?

The social aspect of a school can be hard to describe to others, but students can usually tell when it doesn't fit. If you don't feel safe, aren't comfortable, or generally don't like the social side of your school, it can have a significant impact on your college experience. Keep in mind that a school's social scene doesn't just mean parties and other events. It also means how differing viewpoints are tolerated; how students, faculty, and staff treat each other; and how a campus supports the learning, development, and health of everyone in the community. Make sure to be honest with yourself about what is really bothering you. If it's really the campus, you may want to think about transferring; if the problem could be solved by taking more risks or stepping out of your comfort zone, the problem will most likely follow you to your next school.

Extenuating Circumstances

Have things changed significantly in your life since you started classes at your current college or university? Has your health changed? Have things changed in your family that require you to be closer to home, contribute financially, or help out in other ways? Have finances changed in ways that you weren't expecting?

Being in college doesn't mean that life won't still happen. People get sick, families experience unexpected problems, and other "life" events still occur. Some extenuating circumstances are pretty clear-cut about the need to transfer; others can be worked out in a way that still supports you and your desire for a degree. Talk to as many people as you can -- your adviser, your RA, your family, your friends, the financial aid office, the dean of students office -- to see what your options are. Keep in mind, too, that, while it may be hard, staying in school can sometimes be the best way to help yourself or your family in the long-run.

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