Debating on transferring to USC or staying at Top 10 LAC

Hi everyone. So I got accepted to USC as a transfer student, my dream college since high school. However, I am on the fence on transferring. First and foremost, right now, I attend a top 10 LAC in the Northeast and there are many things about it that I hate and a few things that I like.


  • I am leading a research team (which is good for my professional and potential graduate career) studying something that I really love and find genuine interest in. I am working close with my professor who I admire a lot.

  • The flexibility of this LAC has given me the ability to easily double major without having to apply to be a double major. It’s easy to say I want to be this major and to get it in a snap. I don’t know if USC has a thesis or capstone project but I can pull two senior theses for my majors.

  • I love the small student:teacher ratio. I love having close interactions with my professors and have them know my face and name.

  • The financial aid at this school is really good. It’s a really big scholarship with gift aid and grants rather than loans. Additionally, I managed to get three pretty good on-campus jobs (TA, Resident Advisor, and IT Support) which keeps a good income flowing which I can send back to my parents.

  • The school offers free therapy and I have clicked well with one of the therapists there which has helped my mental health a lot.

  • I can study abroad for cheap during my junior year (this upcoming spring semester) in Europe.


  • Socially, I feel so miserable. Literally I only get severe depression and anxiety when I am back at this school. My grades are not terrible considering I’m at a 3.9 GPA but it took dragging my feet through hell and crying myself to sleep every night at 2am to get there. I like what I am learning but the environment sucks the fun and joy out of me. I thought it was just the routine that was wearing me down so I tried my best to swap things up everyday (i.e. study at new academic buildings, coffee shops, student center, etc) but I find myself still being sad.

  • The location and weather are so bad. It snows a lot and I don’t mind it but it gets extremely brutal and activates a seasonal depression for me. It’s probably sunny 10 days out of the 9 months I’m there.

  • I feel unwelcomed by the community there as a POC, LGBTQ+ person, and low-income student. Everyone there treats me like I am incompetent sometimes and have iced me out of their clubs (i.e. formed their own cliques which I don’t relate to). I spend most of my days alone and probably hang out with 2-4 people maybe twice a week. I also can’t find many people that have the same interests as me.

Pros of USC:

  • Vibrant community and location. Los Angeles is amazing, socially and culturally for a POC like me. I used to live in California and would visit family every now and then and the place never fails to amaze me.

  • Prestigious education. USC is a really prestigious school, education wise and name wise. I know there has been some scandal in the news nowadays about USC but that doesn’t deter me away from how much I’ve made it my dream school.

  • Large research opportunities and to work with a very diverse population. My research at the LAC focuses on the experiences of POC, just because how much it means a lot to me as a POC. Problem at this LAC is, there’s not many POC here to even talk to. I know it sounds petty but it’s what I’m feeling.

  • Closer to family and support systems. A lot of my family members live in California and one of the things that made me feel isolated up north is the lack of familiar faces and family. Additionally, parent weekends were often so lonely.

  • Larger population and chances to meet new people. Cons of the LAC is faces tend to recycle. Making an enemy means you’ll be stuck with them and have a higher chance of running into them. Additionally, gossip at the LAC spreads like wildfire, it drives me insane.

Cons of USC:

  • I got rejected for my film major but accepted for psych. Figures with film, it’s USC :confused:

  • Expensive. I didn’t receive my fin aid package yet but I know USC is notorious for being expensive and I am a pretty low income student. Loans are something I would really like to avoid.

  • I am going to have to start over. Academically, I know my credits are not all going to transfer and that I’ll probably have to graduate late to finish gen ed requirements. I haven’t been taking calc classes or foreign language classes at all. At my school, I’ve just been taking arts classes and a few science classes (microbiology, neuroscience, statistics, psych labs, etc). I’ll have to reset making friends and hope my social awkwardness won’t render me friendless for the next few years.

  • I lose the opportunity of studying abroad cheaply and the free unlimited therapy I could get which would save the financial strain.

No one can make this decision but me. However, I was wondering what should I do to think about this more deeply or what would you guys do? Any help would be nice. Thank you!

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Your cons for USC are VERY compelling. Namely, the financial aspect, and that you believe your credits won’t transfer. I think you might find it impossible to afford USC without a LOT of financial aid. Going into huge debt for an undergrad degree is not feasible without someone consigning for loans, nor is it advisable. And you didn’t get your choice of major. So why spend a ton of money you don’t have to not study what you want to study?

Are you transferring as a soph or junior? If you are transferring in as a junior, you could be talking about substantial money. Even as a sophomore, it could still be a lot of money.

There is a lot of ideation of the “dream school” in your post. Forget dream schools. You’re out of high school now. It’s time to be practical. Can you take a year off from your current college? Or even a semester? I honestly think part of your issue seems to be homesickness. Maybe spend a year at home, get a job, pursue some outside interests. I’m not sure where you are from, but a hot, smoggy LA September in an unairconditioned dorm is nothing to get excited about, believe me. (I am from LA, so I know.) The area right around USC leaves a lot to be desired .

I have a strong hunch that if you went to USC you might be a little disillusioned. I can’t see that USC is going to help you get a better start in life than a top ten LAC where you have all the many advantages you listed in your pros.

Yes, your LAC cons are also compelling, but I get a sense that maybe you could be getting more socially from your experience there. Especially when you say this: “Everyone there treats me like I am incompetent sometimes and have iced me out of their clubs (i.e. formed their own cliques which I don’t relate to).” It’s hard to believe EVERYONE treats you as an incompetent when you are leading a research team and have good relationships with your professors. And you not relating to cliques makes me think you haven’t found your people yet. The LAC admitted you because they felt you belonged. Think about the options for meeting people you haven’t explored yet.

Are you volunteering, or active in a campus religious group, or what about LGBTQ groups on campus? What about a campus job? Have you put yourself out there? Maybe form your own club. The school undoubtedly has a very high retention rate, which generally means people are happy. Figure out other ways to find happiness at your school.

I normally tell students to go where they think they will be happy. In your case, I simply feel the option of USC is not tenable. I suggest you take it off the table, unless they give you an amazing FA package. Maybe if you take a year or semester off, you can apply to a college that might give better FA. I doubt that’s USC though.


I agree with @Lindagaf. Your cons of the LAC are big, but the cons for USC are showstoppers because while at the LAC, the worst is that you just have to gut through being miserable for 1-2 years but USC could make you miserable for decades with a huge debt load.

Studying abroad and getting a new perspective, making new friends, and getting out of that fishbowl will help.

BTW, for grad school/academia, that top 10 LAC almost certainly holds more prestige than USC (outside of a few specific fields).


Your least worst choice is the LAC IMO. Just take a semester or two abroad.

And excuse me for being blunt, but screw the Neanderthals who don’t make you feel welcome as a POC LGBTQ+ person. That’s their 1950’s problem. Keep your head held high and ignore them as best as possible.


I am a rising junior. I was a part of the LGBTQ+ club there but some of the members there made it feel like my presence wasn’t welcomed so I left. I made some friends from my IT job and they told me to get out and go overseas while I still can. I tried joining clubs that peaked my interest (fashion club, newspaper, low-income support group, etc) but never felt like I belonged there. I went home early and took a remote semester Fall 2020 after being socially isolated and bullied by a few clubs. Thank you for your input though. It gives me a little more to think about and I might stay at the LAC and just suck it up and go overseas.

Also, for many of the more popular USC clubs, you have to apply == and they may not say “yes”.

Not true for all the clubs, but the fact that this existed at all was a real surprise to me.


You seem to be over-representing the less desirable aspects of your experiences. For example, even the top-10 LAC with the fewest sunny days, Middlebury, receives 159 of them annually (which doesn’t deviate too far from the national average of 205). Nonetheless, 95% of Middlebury’s students return for their sophomore year, which places as one of the highest retention rates in the nation.

USC has come a long way academically, but I wouldn’t regard it as being as prestigious as a top-10 LAC.

I’ll dissent from the majority by suggesting you transfer if it might appear financially feasible. Your expectations for your current environment simply do not match what it has to offer.


I second @merc81. You’ve given your current school 2 years and it hasn’t improved for you. Assuming you can make the finances work, mental health and personal perspective are foundational in setting the tone for experiences. You’ve clearly made an effort to immerse yourself at your current school and your feelings of being ostracized and displaced persist. Just bc the school felt they’d be a good fit for you doesn’t mean you’re a good fit for them. People often dismiss the effects of weather but if you’re from California adjusting to New England weather can be difficult. Those of us who’ve lived in the Northeast are used to it but I have a few friends affected by SADD. It is real.

Study abroad is great but most countries are still struggling with Covid so your experience may be less than optimal. Not saying don’t investigate but keep the pros and cons in perspective.

Starting fresh at a school you have positive feelings about and which is closer to your family and support structure may make all the difference in your experience. And even if the overall experience doesn’t improve as expected just being in an environment that’s more comfortable for you and more accessible to family may help balance it out in way that being 3000 miles away can not.

Prestige is fine but fit in your case seems much more important. Good luck in whichever path you choose!


“Being able to make the finances work” is the key point.

I would be shocked if USC offered fin aid comparable to the LAC.


This seems to be the case at at least some clubs at virtually all unis that are mid-sized or above. LACs don’t tend to have this issue for obviously reasons.


Get out now.

The psychological damage incurred at the claustrophobic LAC environment will cost you a lot more than paying some additional tuition dollars.

I have degrees from both an LAC & from a National University. The environments are as different as night & day. Save yourself & transfer. College years are highly sensitive growth years for many. You do not need to be in such a cliquey small minded environment. Stop debating as you know what the right course of action is for you. Your emotional well-being is at stake.

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As I believe in putting your money where your mouth is, I presume that you’re volunteering to pay for the cost difference even if it may be 6 figures since you’re so insistent.

Honestly, we need numbers from USC before we can give good advice.


OP’s mental & emotional well being are at stake.

OP wrote (after spending two (2) years at this LAC):

“Literally I only get severe depression and anxiety when I am back at this school.”

“Socially, I feel so miserable.”

“I feel unwelcomed by the community there as a POC, LGBTQ+ person, and low-income student.”

“I spend most of my days alone…”

“…gossip at the LAC spreads like wildfire, it drives me insane.”

USC is “closer to family and support systems.”

Some things are more important than money.


Should you be at all inclined to stay at your school, you might want to note that there’s a better-than-even chance that Forbes included it in a 2017 article on colleges that may be worth a price premium: 10 Expensive Colleges Worth Every Penny 2017.

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There are many highly ranked LACs at which you would most likely have a better experience based on your concerns & self identification. Some of those schools are:

Occidental College
Skidmore College
Amherst College
Grinnell College
Vassar College
Wesleyan University
Oberlin College
Sarah Lawrence
Macalester College
Haverford College
and many others.

Do not focus on prestige as the above listed schools are equally prestigious, yet offer much different campus culture / campus environment / campus experience.

P.S. Another option. Many LACs allow their students to be a visiting student at another LAC for a semester or for a year while still enjoying the home school’s financial aid package. Check to see if your school has such an agreement with other LACs.


Seems like you need to know the USC FA in order to make a decision. Trying to decide now means deciding with incomplete information that is very important. The best you can do is come to a conditional decision if there is a range of USC net prices where you will choose USC.

In terms of major, is doing psychology acceptable to you?

In terms of USC requirements, have you looked up what they are and tried to make a course plan for your remaining semesters there if you transfer, so that you can find out whether you will actually need extra semesters there?


However, some things can be out of reach if there is not enough money (a concept that the high income forum demographic sometimes fails to understand). A lot is contingent on the USC FA offer that the OP has not gotten yet. From a low income family, the OP can only borrow $7,500 per year, and is unlikely to be able to get cosigned or parent loans (which are generally not a good idea anyway).


Sure, we all realize that.

In the event that USC’s financial aid offer is inadequate, OP can appeal. If any needed appeal is unsuccessful, then OP can take a year abroad under his current LACs extensive offerings. But, this will leave OP without his/her therapist at the LAC & without his/her family & support group near USC.

Nevertheless, OP’s mental & emotional health is more important than money.

The OP needs a change of environment. This is critical.

What would you recommend if USC ends up being unaffordable to the OP?

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I am okay with doing psychology. At my LAC, I am double majoring in psych and film. It’s just the opportunity cost of choosing USC would be dropping my film major. If the price of USC is about the same as what I am paying for at the LAC, I’ll be content. I pay about 4k a semester at my current school. I am waiting to hear back from USC about the psych courses I’ve taken and what will transfer over and what other things I need to do.