For most college freshmen, coming home for winter break usually consists of hanging with family, catching up with friends, watching holiday movies while drinking eggnog, doing some last minute Christmas shopping for all the people you forgot to buy gifts for and above all, doing everything possible to avoid thinking about school.
But if your first semester at college was less than stellar (if you were homesick, hated your classes or just didn't feel like you fit in), you may find yourself thinking about school quite a bit – that is, about finding a new one. While winter break is a popular time to consider transferring schools, there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't transfer to another college after just one semester. So before you make a decision that you might regret, read the rest of this article.
1. Most colleges are pretty much the same.
You might be thinking "if I just transferred to another school, all of my problems would be solved." When asked where you might transfer to, you might say, "anywhere but this dump." But the truth is that it doesn't really work that way. No matter what well-meaning relatives, friends, teachers and movies/TV shows might have told you, college isn't like a soulmate. There's no one school that you're guaranteed to "love" more than all the rest.
Most of the time, how much you enjoy college, whether it be an Ivy League, a state school or even a community college, depends on what you, the student, makes of it. You might protest by saying "But how can you say that when all colleges are unique?" Well, that's the thing. They aren't all unique. In fact, when you look more closely, it's easy to see that, at their very core, most colleges are almost exactly the same. Don't believe me? Read on.
Throughout the college admission process, I must have gone on four or five college visits. To those who visit ten (or more) colleges, that might seem like a small amount, but I can assure you, it was not. While it was nice to have an excuse to travel and get a bunch of t-shirts and water bottles that I didn't really need, in retrospect, I could have just as well gone on only one tour. That's because at some point, probably when I was hearing about free laundry and meal plans for the 12th time, I realized that despite every university's desperate attempt to sell themselves as being "different" from the rest ("that's right, we offer 100 different majors as opposed to the nationwide average of 30") almost all colleges are virtually identical.
The campus? Manicured to perfection (using your tuition dollars). The classes? They all use the same textbooks, and even some of the same professors (if they're part-timers). The food? Good at first, but pretty easy to get tired of. The parties? Mostly lame and filled with alcohol. The people? The usual crowd. And there you have it. Those few sentences pretty much sum up 90% of American universities today.
2. Transferring won't always save you money.
What if you're transferring due to financial reasons? Understandable. Maybe there's been a change in your family's financial situation, or maybe you simply realized that your school is more expensive than it's worth, but transferring colleges won't necessarily improve things.
In terms of financial aid and scholarships, colleges tend to be much more generous to first-year students than transfers. That means that even if the college you want to transfer to looks cheaper on paper, it may end up being more expensive after the financial aid package comes in the mail.
Some of the classes you took in your first semester also may not be accepted by another university, so you might end up graduating later if you transfer, which might be even more costly. Also, if there has been a sudden change in you or your family's income (i.e., a loss of a job) reach out to your university to see if you qualify for more aid before making any rash decisions about transferring.
3. You may just need more time to adjust.
Now, that's not to say that transferring is always a bad idea, but there are specific reasons why you shouldn't transfer after just one semester. For one thing, you may just be confusing a difficult time adjusting to college with an overall dislike of your school. Despite what you may have seen or heard, everyone struggles their first semester, whether they go to Yale or community college. Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably lying to themselves.
In that sense, transferring colleges won't put an end to your feelings of hopelessness or inadequacy. If anything, it will only prolong them, as you attempt to adjust to a new environment and be a new student all over again. And there's always the possibility that you'll end up disliking your new school more than the old one, which will leave you wondering "what could have been" if you had decided not to transfer.
A cynic might ask, "Wait, aren't you freshman too? What would you know about transferring?" A lot, it turns out. I can't even count the number of times I've wanted to transfer, and I know many more people in the same position. Like I said, college is nothing like it is in the movies or on those glossy brochures that colleges give to high school seniors to coax them into attending.
While most kids dream of getting away from home and going to college, what they don't realize is that, at first, the bad days will probably outnumber the good ones. That there will be days where you long for home cooked meals after eating powdered eggs and meat so dry that you almost choke on it, and days where you find yourself falling asleep while typing for the third night in a row, and days where you wonder why you don't have any friends yet. And when they do realize this, students are all too quick to chalk it up to their particular school, instead of recognizing that these situations and feelings are universal to every college student.
Instead of calling it quits during winter break, go back for your spring semester with a new mindset, one that allows you to examine why it is that you want to transfer in the first place. Although you may still want to transfer after freshman year, you also might find that what you were looking for in a college has been right beside you all along, and that it just took you a little bit longer to find it. In short, you probably chose your college for a reason. Trust your initial instincts and don't give up on your college so easily. And remember that transferring is not the end-all-be-all cure to all of your problems.