While college-bound high school seniors are working on their college applications, many first-year college students are heading into their second full month on campus. On the horizon is Thanksgiving then the year-end holiday break, Oh, let's not forget about Halloween!
I'll be the first to admit that the reality of college sometimes doesn't live up to the hype and anticipation. The moment of truth can far exceed (many times in a negative way) our expectations. This can lead to frustration, loss of focus, and even depression.
Any of you parents or first-years out there reading this may have already sensed or experienced the first signs of unhappiness. Thinking back to when our daughter, our first born, went to college, I recall large monthly telephone bills from a quite homesick young woman. My wife was Counselor in Chief during that period when our daughter was having a hard time being away from home and friends. The pressure of a much higher level of academics didn't help, either. College isn't (or at least shouldn't be) the same as high school.
Anyway, her discomfort and pessimism passed and she went on to a highly successful college career and has now claimed a masters degree in her field. That shaky start turned into a solid experience.
However, if you are reading this from your college dorm room (yes, I am an optimist about my readership!), you may be wondering if the negative feelings you have now, like my daughter's, so early on in her college years, are genuine signs of unhappiness or merely annoying details in need of tweaking.
In doing some research about this, I came across quite a few articles that relate to underclass (as in first- and second-year) students hatching a desire to transfer to another college. This is a rather common syndrome. I call it "The Greener Grass Effect." I can imagine these students sitting alone in their dorm rooms or in the library -- anywhere promoting introverted self-examination -- thinking, "I've got to get out of this place and find some place better." How can you know these feelings are real versus temporal and, if they are real, what can you do about them?
To give you a snapshot of how to judge your discomfort, consider this cool article by Abby Stubenbort: 5 Signs it’s Time to Transfer. Here are some highlights. Abby notes:
... In the first week of my freshman year of college, I realized that the “school of my dreams” turned out to be the school from my nightmares. Therefore, in the spring semester of 2013, I became another statistic of Pitt’s “Transfers Accepted” percentage. Luckily for me, I was able to realize early on in my college experience that I needed to make myself happier. And the way to do that was to transfer from my tiny, suburban, there-is-literally-nothing-to-do-here campus in Ohio, back home to the bustling and alive campus of Pitt. I’m a city person, and I thought taking myself out of my element would be a great way to experience a different lifestyle than what I was used to- I was WAY wrong. So, I made the decision to leave. However, for a lot of students it’s not as easy. I’ve spoken to a lot of friends who were transferring or thinking about transferring, and I gave all of them the same advice I gave myself: the five warning signs telling you that you need to transfer.
- You’re not happy
An ambiguous word, but an important word. College is supposed to be one of the most exciting times in your life. You’re supposed to be “excited” about a lot. Yeah, class and work can be a drag, but you shouldn’t be miserable every day. I, slightly embarrassingly enough, cried to my parents back home every single night because I absolutely hated my school. For the most part, I’m a happy person; so this constant sadness day after day wasn’t normal. I just was not happy with where I was. The strain of being sad can take a toll on you mentally, physically, and academically.
- Your schoolwork starts slacking
Homework isn’t necessarily categorized in the “fun” category. But for the most part, when we have homework, we know we have to get it done. I started to not even care about my work. I hated my classes, I hated the place I was in, so I couldn’t even bring myself to focus on my work. I just stopped caring.
- You’re TOO homesick
Whether you’re near or far from home, we all find ourselves a little homesick at one time or another. However, being so homesick that it literally casts a dark cloud over your entire day may be a sign that it’s time for a change of pace. I’m close with my parents, but I knew I would be able to handle being apart from them, so this wasn’t just a case of homesickness.
- Where you are just doesn’t feel right
When I’m walking down Forbes on a Friday afternoon and there is an event going on inside and outside the union, with Pathfinders leading tours everywhere, people all over the sidewalk, horns blaring, and music blasting, I know it’s where I’m meant to be. I’m meant to be going to school in an urban setting. However, my first school was the total opposite of that- situated literally in the middle of a town with an enrollment of 6,000. The nearest city was 45 minutes away by bus ...
- You’re negative about everything
Not liking where I was, missing home, and being bored out of my mind was a deadly cocktail of straight misery. Every day I would wake up and dread going to classes. I would be so upset that I had another day ahead of me- another day of being unhappy! If you’re scowling at everything from the tours going on to the food on your plate in the cafeteria, it might be time to leave. ...
Any of these sound familiar? Well, then you may be a transfer candidate. Time and money are part of the transfer equation. Don't forget about those two important elements. All of your degree credits may not transfer with you and you may have to go additional terms or semesters to accumulate enough credits to complete your degree at a new school.
However, if you are committed to transferring, what tools are available to do that? I'm glad that I asked. The answer appears in a headline from earlier this year, in May:
The Common App Expands Student Population through New Transfer Application
Here's the scoop on that:
For more than 40 years, The Common Application has been committed to access, equity, and integrity in the admissions process. With that mission always in mind, we are working to increase educational opportunities for all students, regardless of their path to college. The Common Application will release a new transfer application to expand access for today's evolving students while also providing an even more diverse applicant pool to our member colleges and universities.
The new Common App for transfer will provide a modern interface, an intuitive flow, and a user-friendly portal for applying to multiple programs with one set of application materials. It will help transfer students discover the breadth of opportunities available at participating Common App member institutions. Students will have access to fee waivers when applying via the new Common App for transfer. ...
... The new Common App for transfer will be released in collaboration with Liaison International, the leading graduate and professional admissions solution provider. The Common Application and Liaison have compatible and like-minded goals in enrollment management for higher education supporting and serving different yet complementary segments of the admissions landscape. The new Common App for transfer as well as the new visual analytics tool stem from the efforts of several member advisory committees.
This new transfer application will not only better serve returning adult students (over the age of 25, representing 38 percent of undergraduates) and students applying from community colleges (43 percent of all undergraduates), it will also facilitate the process for recommenders and member institutions. The new Common App for transfer will present a more streamlined and simplified application experience as admission requirements are often different for these applicants. Such flexibility will prove to be an essential and lasting benefit, as the student population is aging, and the share of adult learners is expected to grow another 23 percent by 2019. ...
... The new Common App for transfer will be available in early 2018 for an early adopter group of 10 to 12 Common App member colleges and universities, with a full release set for August 2018 - available to all members of The Common Application. The Common App will be convening a Transfer Advisory Committee in early June 2017.
So, there you have it, in short -- a snapshot analysis about "Are you a true transfer candidate?" plus "What you can do about transferring." Of course, these are shortcuts. The long process comes beforehand. Keep my daughter's case in mind. She grabbed eventual victory from the jaws of the doldrums. You may be able to do the same thing.
Time for some serious pondering. First, though, maybe you should keep in mind those wise words from the song Dedicated to The One I love: "The darkest hour is just before dawn." The sun may be about to rise on your campus -- and mood. I hope so.
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.