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3 Tips to Survive and Thrive as a Transfer Student

I was not ready at all for college by the time high school graduation rolled around. While all of my friends got their college acceptance letters, I was barely ready to think about the subject, let alone make the leap into higher education. Graduation came and went, those friends moved across the country, and there I was. I knew that college was my eventual goal, but my journey was beginning to look a bit unconventional. Honestly, it took me a while to realize that that’s 100% totally okay!

After taking a gap year teeming with retail work experience, I started my undergraduate experience at my local community college. While I truly enjoyed being a student again, the community college life wasn’t the right fit for me. The commute was rough, it was hard to bond with classmates and professors, and I wasn’t really studying and exploring my passions. After a while, I was determined to transfer to a four-year institution. Halfway into my sophomore year, my hard work paid off, and I was accepted to my first choice college (Juniata, duh!).

Transferring was definitely the right move for me, but it wasn’t without its challenges. From one transfer student to another, here are some tips and realizations I’ve gathered from my own experience:

1. It’s okay that your first choice college wasn’t the best fit for you, or you’re ready for something new.

First thing’s first, it’s important to accept the situation for what it is: an opportunity! You’re in the process of learning what does and doesn’t work for you, and that knowledge is invaluable as you go through your higher education journey and later, the professional world. Gather as much information as you can, make informed decisions, and act in your own best interest. Degrees are an investment in yourself and your future; if you need to adjust your path, there’s no shame in that. Transferring can feel like a scary step, but don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from doing what’s best for you and your education.

2. It might take some time, but you will make friends!

For me, it kind of felt like I was a freshman all over again during the first weeks after transferring to Juniata. I got lost on campus, I sat by myself for some meals, and I navigated social situations feeling like an outsider stepping into an unfamiliar place. Fortunately, I got more comfortable in the coming weeks, and you will, too! I know it’s cliché, but it’s crucial that you put yourself out there. While you’ll probably bond with other incoming students during your orientation, it’s okay if those friends aren’t the ones you stick with forever. Your experiences, passions, and interests will guide you to like-minded people, and those people usually become great friends. Give it time, and trust that you’ll fall into the social side of things as the semester progresses.

3. No matter how late into the game you transfer, you can always make the most of it.

It might not seem like it, but you have options. Whether you want to study abroad, start a club, get an on-campus job, become a student leader, or anything else you like, your status as a transfer student doesn’t hold you back. In truth, it can be a huge bonus. You come to the table with a unique college experience, which can be an interesting talking point that sets you apart from other students. Being a transfer student shouldn’t diminish the opportunities available to you- if anything, it should open doors!

So, don’t worry if your college experience isn’t fitting into the common narrative. There’s no one “right way” to achieve your goals. Remember, invest in yourself!

-Mariah Dorsey ’20