Picking a college can be a stressful process, in part because it's a choice that will have significant effects for the next several years of your life. With all the challenges and stressors going to college so often entails, it's not unusual for students to have strong emotional reactions and start to question their choice of school, even several years into the process. So what if you find yourself asking "should I transfer colleges?"
There are a lot of reasons you may not feel like your current college or university is right for you, but how do you know when it's worth transferring and when you're just experiencing a rough patch? If you're starting to think your current school isn't the right fit, try asking yourself the following questions before making any big decisions.
Do you feel challenged enough (or too much)?
A big part of college is being pushed (and pushing yourself) to new academic and intellectual levels, so it's important that your institution provides the challenge and stimulation necessary to grow. However, it can also be easy to get overwhelmed and wind up feeling like you can't devote yourself fully to any one course. If you feel consistently overwhelmed, or if you're rarely being pushed to challenge yourself beyond what you experienced in high school, it may be a sign you need to look into transferring colleges.
Remember that not every semester is the same, and your workload will likely increase as you get many of your gen eds out of the way. Give it enough time to get to some of your 200-level classes in your degree program before deciding you need a change.1,2
Do they offer the right academic programs and options?
Beyond just how challenging your courses are, you should look ahead to your junior and senior years to make sure your school offers the right options to help you prepare to enter the workforce. This could include academic honors, internships, or even more specific degree concentrations. You may also look at any professional extracurricular groups or networking opportunities they offer. If you don't feel like the opportunities and support networks you're looking for outside the classroom are available, it may be worth considering other colleges.2
Have you found social circles and extracurricular groups you feel engaged with?
The college experience is often about more than just your courses. It's important to have a strong support system of friends and peers you can count on during stressful periods, and who can help hold you accountable for challenging yourself and meeting your academic goals.
If you haven't found many other students to connect with, try seeking out social groups on campus based on your academic or non-academic interests. You may also think about the city the college is located in—do you feel comfortable there, with plenty of ways to relax and take your mind off of schoolwork when you need to?1
And if the school you are attending is online, you can connect fellow students on the university's social media profiles. Even something as simple as posting a helpful reply to a question or offering words of encouragement can help you feel more engaged with the community.
Are you homesick?
Homesickness can start to set in if you go away to college, especially if you're still in your first year. Sometimes this can translate into feeling lonely or out of place, which in turn can make it feel like your college just isn't the right fit for you. If you find yourself seriously asking "should I transfer colleges?", try scheduling a quick trip home over a long weekend or break, or if you're too far, set aside time each week to call your family and close friends more regularly. While it may well be that you haven't found the right fit with your current college, you may also find that you're still just getting used to being away from home for the first time.1,2
Are tuition costs causing undo stress?
While people often don't want to talk about money or loans when it comes to college, these are important factors in evaluating whether the experience you're getting from your current school is meeting your needs. This can become especially important if you find yourself needing to work many hours per week just to cover the costs of books and tuition. If everything else about your current college is a great fit, consider talking to the financial aid office about additional funding options that may be available to help take some of the stress off you. However, if stress from tuition payments is just one of a larger set of issues, you may consider transferring.2
Will your credits transfer?
One really important thing to think through before making any final decisions is whether the credits you've earned at your current university will transfer. All schools have their own transfer credit policies, and it's not guaranteed that even basic gen ed credits will all be accepted by a new university.
This can get even trickier if you're well into your higher-level degree courses, which can be more difficult to transfer depending on the exact corresponding degree offered at the school you plan to transfer into. If you're more than halfway done with your current degree, you should speak with an academic advisor to make sure you won't have to retake a semester or more of classes once you get to your new school.1
Ready to take the next step? Learn more about transferring to AIU.
1. USA Today, College Choice, "How You Know You Chose the Wrong College (and what to Do About It)?" on the Internet at http://college.usatoday.com/2014/07/06/how-you-know-you-chose-the-wrong-college-and-what-to-do-about-it/ (visited March 9, 2016).
2. CollegeXpress, "Should I Transfer?" on the Internet at http://www.collegexpress.com/interests/transfer/articles/how-transfer/should-i-transfer/ (visited March 9, 2016).