When I transferred out of my first college, it was truly a case of, “it’s not you, it’s me.”
You see, I made the wrong decision. I adored high school and had a difficult time planning my next educational step while simultaneously making the most of senior year. As a result, I selected a college that was well-respected, but not remotely right for me. I realized this immediately but felt obligated to stick it out. Every day was made tolerable only by my friends and one incredibly supportive professor, but the truth was that each night I dreaded returning. I unfairly resented professors for not specializing in the area of history that I wanted to study and hated that the campus was located in a suburb when I longed to be in the city. What appealed to others made me miserable.
My parents encouraged me to investigate other schools, but I was terrified. When even my advisor suggested that I would be happier elsewhere, I could no longer deny that something needed to change, and soon. Then I discovered my second college, one I didn’t know existed while I was in high school due to my lack of emotional readiness to properly research my options.
The minute I stepped onto that compact urban campus for a tour, I felt more at home than I knew was possible. I was two years late, but I finally felt the excitement that so many of my classmates enjoyed in twelfth grade. Getting accepted made me feel renewed, and I became someone once again in love with learning.
I enthusiastically transferred before my junior year. The classes were more challenging, but I loved how hard they made me work and that this college offered classes specifically in the topics I wanted to study. I joined choir. I attended professors’ office hours just to say hello. I clicked with my classmates. The two years it took to complete my BA were wonderful, so I applied to obtain my MA from another branch of the same university. That led to meeting the friend who created Footnoting History, the podcast I have worked on for over six years.
There are innumerable reasons why a person might want (or need) to change schools. The truth is, about one-third of students transfer colleges while in pursuit of their degree. For many people, college is the first time they have to make real decisions about their education and their futures. It can be overwhelming, and it is okay to begin at one school, for any reason, and then move somewhere else. Few people will ask you where you started school, but many will ask where you got your degree. You deserve to graduate from a place that makes you smile when you name it, regardless of the road you have to take to get there.
I had to experience was what wrong for me in order to discover what I needed. If you’re not thriving where you are, assess the reasons why, research institutions that might better suit your needs, visit them and talk to current students and faculty if you can, and consider the steps you need to take to get there. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take the leap—it might be the best thing to ever happen to you.