Ever have a strong desire to relive your freshman year? I did apparently, when I decided to transfer. I’m not the only one, and I can say seven months later: what a ride it has been.
That’s my go-to shtick when people ask me about having transferred. It’s slightly self-deprecating, slightly humorous and only slightly the truth. Yes, it’s a new location with new people and a transition, but there are two resounding differences. First, you are among a minority of people. There is no sense of a shared bewilderment and lack of experience. Secondly, for the most part, the indefatigable excitement that comes with the first weeks of college is noticeably absent the second time around.
It’s about being a pragmatist and adjusting as quickly as possible as not to be that one sophomore or junior who does not know the simple things (For example: what are the correct colloquialisms for ordering a sandwich?). That’s not to say the tactless networking has been left behind—it’s ever so necessary but ever so painful. Don’t get me wrong; there is still a joy in making friends, meeting new people and experiencing a new environment. But it is the means to those ends that are much more difficult the second time around. Over and over in my mind I would be reminded of how I had gone through this already, that I had been there, done that.
I’ve gotten off to a bad start. To describe and ultimately discredit the transfer process in a narrow social lens would largely ignore the many great things about transferring and distract from the fact that I am absolutely certain I made the right decision in transferring.
I’m going to avoid specifics—because honestly nobody reading this will care–but the gist of it is that I did not have a bad experience last year; it just wasn’t great. Ignoring many other factors, the sheer cost of college would lead anyone to strive for a great experience. And so I decided to transfer after the joy of the engaging in the college process yet again (For those of you of sophomore status and older, the silver lining is that the College Board’s new interface is infinitely better). Before I delve further, I will say that the place I ended up is great. Not perfect, needing improvement and with noticeable flaws, but great. Boston College works for me.
If I had come to BC directly following high school, I’m not sure I would be in the same place. Retrospectively, I had no clue what I was looking for in higher education when I applied to college from high school, and I’m frankly dumbfounded how so many of you appeared to know exactly where you wanted to be right away. Truthfully, I don’t buy it. That’s not to say everyone here is a bunch of phonies, but having existed in a place that wasn’t entirely what I wanted, it's not too hard to see through the screen. I wish that the transfer process were more normalized because I think many people would really benefit from a change of pace, or from the realization that their first school doesn’t have to be their last. This is not BC-specific, but I think in a fairly homogenous and normalized student body like BC, a change of pace could have a very positive result for some people.
The most overwhelmingly positive experience I have had has been academic. More than anything else, I learned last year that friends will come, but what is truly important in higher education is the intellectual engagement. If I wasn’t happy in the classroom, there is no way I could be happy outside of it. That might be a bookish perspective on college life, but I believe that it is more or less the right one.
Up to now I certainly haven’t done the BC student body justice. Often criticized for being a homogenous, conservative, affluent and cliquey bunch, I was certainly surprised how welcoming people were when I mentioned that I was a transfer. During the weekdays and weekend nights, the people I have met have been accommodating and understanding. Take this anecdote with a grain of salt: I am a white, upper-middle class, heterosexual male.
And so, despite its many challenges, transferring has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Indubitably, it is a social challenge, but finding a place that truly fits what you are looking for in higher education is invaluable and ultimately will facilitate the long lasting friendships that we so crave.
Considering the fact that I have spent the past two years in two different schools, I’m curious what it is like to return to the same place the next fall. I’m excited to see what the next two years have in store. Transferring is not without its hurdles, but neither is being a college student. Taking action to improve ones own situation is a valuable lesson at any point in a person’s life, but is even more important in college if for no other reason than its high cost.