College is a time for growth, both academic and personal, and it’s understandable to seek an environment that will encourage you to do it. Unfortunately, if you feel at odds with an aspect of your college’s culture, you may find the experience quite isolating and not as rewarding as you had hoped. Big schools with thousands of students can be really hard for introverted people to manage, but on the other hand, smaller schools can have more rigid social cliques, which can also be uncomfortable. Some schools may have a wonderful reputation, but upon taking several courses, you can feel unfulfilled. There may also be financial concerns: Is the debt worth it? Is this education so remarkable that I can’t get it at a more affordable college?
There are countless reasons why your undergraduate experience may not be turning out to be the awesome years you had dreamed about and worked towards in high school, and transferring to another school is definitely one way to find a school that’s better suited for you. However, if you’re on the fence about transferring, there are a couple of alternatives that may help make your current school more palatable before you start that app:
Take a Semester Off
Taking some time away from school to focus on yourself and pursue your own interests can be extremely beneficial. If you’re unsure of your major and worried because you already declared it, taking an internship in your desired field can help you gain a better understanding of your potential career and whether it is right for you. Most people do finish college in four years, but you shouldn’t concern yourself with “looking bad” because you stayed in college longer than the majority of your peers. After all, you’re in college for you — not anyone else.
If you are unable or uninterested in taking a semester off, going part-time is a happy medium. As a part-time student, you can reduce your course load considerably, and if your anxiety or discomfort was caused by excessive work or difficult classes, you’ll find that you have time to breathe and, more importantly, live outside of a textbook. If you’ve felt unable to develop a social life, you can use your free time to join groups and meet people with similar interests. For financial aid recipients, this option may be harder considering some stipulations attached to aid, so check with a financial aid counselor if you’re considering this.
Try a Semester at a Different School
Many schools allow students to attend other domestic schools for a semester, and it’s a great way to get an entirely different college experience without the application and burden of expectations that accompanies transferring. If your school doesn’t officially offer a program like this, speak to an advisor and department head about an independent study; if you believe your school lacks course offerings related to your academic interests and are able to prove it, it will be easier to participate in one of these programs. You’ll also be able to make new contacts, social and academic, and you can continue to stay in touch even after you’ve left the school.
At the end of the day, whether you choose to transfer or not, the decision is up to you. In order to make the best decision, try and identify what exactly it is that you don’t like about your current situation. By articulating these things, you’ll be able to see if your issues are specific to the school and worth working on, and you’ll know what exactly it is you’re looking for. Good luck!
By Sarah Fudin -- she works in community relations for University of Southern California Rossier School of Education's online masters programs. USC Rossier Online offers current and aspiring teachers the ability to earn a Masters of Education online or MAT online. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
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