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Insights into Transferring Colleges

Are you thinking about transferring colleges? If so, you’re in the right place, because I’m a transfer student and I’m going to tell you about my experience.


Insight counselor Jason’s insight #1: Don’t blindly follow the college rankings.


When I was a senior at Palo Alto High School, I applied to approximately ten colleges. I did not work with an Insight counselor, and thus did not receive a lot of educated guidance regarding what college would be the best fit for me. My parents were helpful, but most of their information about colleges was 30 years out of date. My guidance counselor at PALY was so overworked and overwhelmed that I was only able to meet with her twice. So, I was left with how prestigious I perceived colleges to be and their ranking in US News & World Report.


Once I received all my acceptances, I decided to attend New York University—mainly because I thought it would be cool to live in New York City and because of NYU’s ranking in US News & World Report.


Insight counselor Jason’s insight #2: Don’t be fooled by your initial impressions. College is a four-year experience.


When I first arrived at NYU, it was cool and exciting! So much to see, so much to do. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Broadway plays, every type of restaurant imaginable, nightclubs, Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, Central Park, running into celebrities on the street, and on and on. I went to a Yankees game, I stood in the fountain featured in the opening of “Friends”, and supposedly my dorm room was across the hall from the dorm room Adam Sandler lived in years earlier. And that New York pizza—to this day I still haven’t found a better slice of pizza than the one a block away from my dorm room at Mama Mia What A Pizza!


However, after the initial rush of excitement about living in New York City wore off, I began to realize that my experience at NYU was missing many things. First and foremost, I’m extremely close with my family and they were across the country in California—I was homesick. Additionally, having grown up in the California suburbs, I was used to sunshine and temperate weather—not below freezing temperatures and sleet and snow. Not to mention I enjoy lots of trees and grass, and room to roam without running into someone. This environment that I craved is found in the suburbs—not in the middle of New York City.


Finally, I realized that not only was living in the most fast-paced, unforgiving city in the country not for me, but that NYU itself was a poor choice for me. I wanted a school that had a defined campus, had a real sense of community, and had more school spirit.


So, despite the fact that I was doing very well academically at NYU, I made the difficult but necessary decision to transfer. The question was—where to?


Insight counselor Jason’s insight #3: Again, don’t blindly follow the college rankings.


Although I did have good times at NYU, my experiences there pretty much taught me what I did not want in a college. I did not want a college in a big city, I did not want a college located in a freezing cold area of the country, and I did not want a college that lacked a true campus and school spirit. However, don’t get me wrong—NYU is an amazing place and is a great fit for many students, just not for me.


So, like when I was a senior at PALY, I put together another college list and began applying. And although I had a better sense of the type of environment I wanted in a college, I was still caught up with the US News & World Report rankings. I was accepted to schools like Vanderbilt, the University of Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Virginia.


However, in the end I blocked out the cultural pressure and decided not to let the rankings dictate where I transferred to. I thought about the reasons I was leaving NYU, the most important of which was being close to my family. Thankfully, almost as an afterthought, I had thrown in an application to Santa Clara University and this is where I ended up transferring to. As added bonuses, SCU also happens to be a school with nice weather, a beautiful defined campus, and lots of school spirit.


Insight counselor Jason’s insight #4: No college is perfect.


Although SCU turned out to be a great choice for me, there were a couple of downsides to transferring. For example, I wish I had received more guidance regarding how many of my credits from NYU would transfer to SCU. It would not have changed my decision to transfer to SCU, but it would have lessened the shock and disappointment I felt when I arrived at SCU and was told that many of my credits from NYU would not transfer to SCU.


Another downside was the social aspect of transferring. Summer orientation for freshman and freshman year in general, is a seminal moment in many people’s lives when life-long friendships begin. (I can attest to this, as the best man at my wedding was a friend I met at NYU’s summer orientation). So, if you transfer colleges, you will have missed out on freshman year at the school you transfer to, and it can sometimes feel like you are behind socially, and that many friend groups have already been formed. Once these groups have formed, it can be difficult to join in.


Insight counselor Jason’s insight #5: Transferring is not for everyone, but it was the right choice for me.


The bottom line is that after the initial excitement wore off, I was not happy at NYU. I probably could have “toughed it out” at NYU and graduated faster than I did by transferring and losing some of my initial college credits. But how would staying at NYU have affected my mental health and emotional development? Probably not in a positive way.


Transferring gave me a second chance to make the correct college choice for me—with a much better understanding of what I wanted out of a college than I had when I was a senior at PALY.


Read more: Why is it important to find your “best-fit” college? 

Thinking about transferring between UCs? Check out this post: Transferring Between UC Campuses…Wait, That’s Possible?


Written by Jason Katz

This article was written by Insight Counselor Jason Katz.

Jason has helped hundreds of students gain admission to their best-fit universities. In addition, he wrote more than 170 college admissions/college life columns for the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. Read his full bio here.

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