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Dispelling the Transfer Student Stigma

Transferring schools is difficult. It’s a serious leap of faith to trust that it is worth it to leave behind a school you have become familiar with and move to an entirely foreign college, knowing that you have missed out on freshman year. With that said, in my experience, transferring can be incredibly rewarding.

I certainly haven’t figured everything out yet, as evidenced by the fact that I’m binge-watching Netflix during finals week in a desperate attempt to avoid studying and have exactly 71 cents remaining on my meal plan with a week of school left. Despite this, and despite the initial turmoil that accompanied changing universities, transferring to Boston College was one of the best decisions I ever made. With that said, it is important to recognize that there is a certain stigma attached to transferring—many students are hesitant to leave what they know. This begs the question: Why does the stigma against transferring exist?

The obvious answer is that there are a number of logistical challenges—from new travel expenses to transferring credits. Compounding these impediments is the fear of social alienation; many college students feel it will be impossible to make new friends after having missed out on the all-important freshman bonding experience. More than that, transferring suggests you made a mistake in your initial college choice, which can cause great anxiety.

These worries, as it turns out, are largely unfounded. According to JoAnn Moseman, who serves as transfer coordinator at the University of Nebraska, transferring can be an incredibly worthwhile endeavor, as moving to a school that is a better fit can be beneficial both academically and socially.  Moseman does, however, warn about the potential detriments of a premature decision to leave. Most college students struggle to some degree during their first semester, and deciding to transfer before getting an accurate feel for a school can cause you to miss out.

Moseman also highlights the rather obvious truth that transferring cannot be judged in a general sense and instead must be judged on a case-by-case basis. Her statement does little to dispel the central fear that many have with moving schools, which is that being a transfer student will cause you to be unique among and separate from your new peers.

Interestingly, data does not support traditional assumptions. According to The New York Times, about 1 in every 3 college students transfer. This statistic belies the fact that the decision to transfer automatically casts you as an anomaly or a disappointment. Rather, it shows that transfers are a significant subset of college student population. Moreover, it serves to refute the central stigma associated with transferring: that doing so is rare and automatically places you in an alienated minority.

I write this article not to encourage people to transfer, but rather to highlight that there is a misconception that exists in the public eye. While I may have faced some struggles with beginning as a sophomore at Boston College, I know that I am personally grateful to have transferred schools and wish I had known earlier that my fears about transferring were largely baseless.