What Transferring Between Colleges Has Taught Me

Posted by Andy Cunningham on September 8, 2017 at 2:30 PM

students in class 5 copy.jpegAs you approach your senior year of high school, the most frequently asked question you get at any family gathering is, “Where are you going to college?” Adults only ask this, because either they are genuinely interested or know that this is the stereotypical question that you should ask seniors in high school. Now, adults, we know you mean well, but this question is much more weighted than you think.

Though it seems like a simple question, as teenagers we hear, “Where are you spending your next four years?” and “What are you going to study that will determine the rest of your future?” We scream internally because the truth of the matter is regardless how prepared you think you are, jumping into a new chapter of your life is scary.

The typical college applicant is 17 years old. We most likely have limited life experience and don’t know all that the world has to offer. What no one tells us is that we don’t have to have it all figured out. When I committed to my first college, I dreamt it was a place that I was going to love and where I would thrive. The reality was much different. My freshman year of college was the worst, loneliest year of my life.

I applied to that college and Fitchburg State University during my senior year. Many people ask, “Do you regret not going to Fitchburg State during your freshman year?” And as much as that year was a horrible experience, if I could go back and change my decision, I wouldn’t. Going through the worst period of my life taught me so much about myself and I believe I am a stronger person for it.

If you found your perfect college on your first try, I am happy for you. If you didn’t, then this post is to let you know that you’re not alone. In this blog post things are about to get real. We’re going to be talking about why I decided to transfer and what I learned about myself and college in the process.

What I’ve Learned

1. It’s OK to change your mind

When I was in my senior year I thought that I had to have it all figured out. I was always a planner. I knew where I wanted to go to college when I was in eighth grade. My entire high school career was dedicated towards getting into my dream school. I had a dream and I had a plan to get there. The plan was as follows: 1.) get into a great school 2.) make great friends 3.) land dream job 4.) live happily ever after.

But after a couple months of college I realized that everything was not going as planned. I had planned to love the city of Boston, but I soon realized that I hated the crowdedness of it all. I planned to love my major, but I found that my passion for it was fading. I had planned to make lifelong friends, but found myself struggling to connect with others.

I thought I had it all figured out, but I didn’t and that’s OK. It’s OK to go into a school and hate it. It’s OK to pick a major and change it a couple of times before you finally figure out what it is that you want to do. Not everything in life goes as planned and that’s OK. Letting go of expectations opens you up to new experiences. It’s OK to change your plan, if your plan doesn’t work for you anymore. The only thing that matters is sticking to a plan that makes you happy.

2. Your happiness comes first

Making the decision to transfer colleges was not an easy choice for me. At the time I was going to school for film at one of the top 10 film schools in the entire country. I knew that I was getting an amazing education. I knew that I was getting amazing opportunities. But at the end of the day, I knew that I was not the one thing I so desperately wanted to be: happy.

At one point I thought to myself, “Well, I might be miserable, but at least I’m getting a good education, right?” And, then one day, I said that sentence to myself out loud and realized how ridiculous it sounded. Life is too short to be unhappy and only you have the power to take yourself out of an unhappy situation.

3. What works for one does not work for all

Thinking about whether or not you want to transfer is rough. In my experience, all of my high school friends were posting game day selfies and having the time of their lives. I, on the other hand, was spending a majority of my time alone. For me this brought up one scary question, what’s wrong with me? Why wasn’t I making friends? Why wasn’t I thriving in the city? Why wasn’t I happy? Why wasn’t I like everybody else?

It took me a long time to realize that the college life you see in the movies is not always what you get in real life. In the movies the girl goes to college, struggles a bit to make friends in the beginning, but ultimately meets her life-long besties and spends the next four years having the time of her life. I’m here to say that if that doesn’t happen to you, it’s OK.

What most people won’t tell you about college is that it’s different for everyone. Some people graduate in three years and some people graduate in five. Some people find their college home right away, and others have to try a little harder. You can’t focus on what works for other people. You have to focus on what works for you. Everyone is different and therefore everyone’s college experience will be different. You don’t have to stay in a toxic situation because it seems it’s working for everyone else. Do what makes you happy and forget about everyone else.

4. You will come out stronger

As the wise singer Kelly Clarkson once said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. When you decide to transfer you have to think about where you want to live, what kind of education you want to receive, how this will affect your social life, and ultimately, how this will affect your future. Reassessing what made you unhappy at your old school will make you take a closer look at what does make you happy.

When you know what makes you happy you can take further steps towards achieving that happiness and bettering your life. If you don’t like your major, take new classes at your new school. You are stronger because you made it out of a rough year and still have the courage to take steps towards this new happiness. I am proud of you.

5. Everything will work out

This is wise advice that my mom has always given me. I have always been an over-anxious worrier. Because of this, I always think about the worst things that could happen in any given situation. So, when I decided to transfer, I was relieved to be leaving a toxic situation, but was faced with a new list of worries. What if I hate this school, too? What if I never make friends?

I voiced these concerns to my mother and she told me confidently that everything will work out. After reflecting on her advice, I realized that she was right (and let’s be real: are our mothers ever wrong?). Nothing positive is ever going to happen to you if you go into a situation with a negative attitude. The law of attraction states that you attract what you put out into the world. If you wish to make friends and you put forward a positive attitude towards this goal, then people will see this and want to be your friend. Now I’m not saying that everything in your life will be better overnight, but to achieve happiness you have to believe that you can achieve happiness.

For your consideration

So, you just transferred to Fitchburg State. Transferring is a part of the college experience that no one tells you about in high school. They don’t tell you that almost 40 percent of students transfer within their first six years of school. There are so many people on campus that are in the same boat as you, or have been in the same boat as you in the past. I am an example. Since coming to Fitchburg State I have found a new major and amazing friends, and am hopeful about my future following graduation. These are things that I could not have said before I transferred here.

So, here is my advice to transfer students. Put your troubles in the past, but do not forget what they taught you. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for, and I believe in you.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”
-F. Scott. Fitzgerald-

Adjusting to college is hard for everyone, but some problems are more serious than others. If you or someone you know has had suicidal thoughts, please speak with someone from our Counseling Services office on campus (Hammond Building, 3rd Floor, Room 317, 978-665-3152) or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Thinking of transferring?

Schedule a visit today


Topics: Student Experience