For parents of kids who transferred freshman year

<p>Now that the applications are all in (well, almost all in--still struggling to get a few honors college/scholarship apps in), I am turning my worry-wart energy towards the decision. D applied to a range of schools (range in terms of size, selectivity, and geography) and I am really not feeling confident in her ability to choose, or my ability to help her choose.</p>

<p>So for those of you whose kids decided that the choice they made initially was not the right one, what do you think went wrong? What if anything would you do differently?</p>

<p>One thing I can point to is not having done an overnight at the college he originally chose. I think that would have been a deal breaker right then. It turned out that the internet speed in the dorms was WAY too slow. You couldn't even watch a YouTube video. S was a computer science major and could not upload his CS homework from the dorm. Had he done an overnight, this problem would have become obvious.</p>

<p>The other problem we should have recognized was that the department for his major was really far too small, regardless of the assurances we were given. We should have seen that and realized it wouldn't work.</p>

<p>A problem we probably wouldn't have noticed until he actually lived there - most students were involved in a sports team of some sort. S didn't want to do a formal "team" after doing his sport for many years, but he did want to play it recreationally. But because there was only one gymnasium, and all the sports teams seemed to need it throughout the day and evening, he had very little opportunity to play. Plus kids were never available to just "hang out" - they were involved with practices, games or team events. </p>

<p>So he transferred for spring semester freshman year to another school to which he had been accepted and every one of those problems was solved and he is very happy.</p>

<p>Three of my daughters friends are transferring, one thought she also would, met a boyfriend, not a great reason to stay, but none the less. My daughter seems to be the only one of 5 friends truly content. The difference the ones who are transferring and my daughter, they restricted their choices to a 50 mile radius of home. They left cliquey high schools and their college choices are falling into the same category. None of them are in the same schools.
So VISIT, VISIT look at the other kids, how they interact with each other, do an overnight if possible.
DIVERSITY is a huge plus, the schools the others chose almost zero diversity.
D did an overnight visiting one of above girls, she said when she and another friend went into the dinning hall the looks they got were worse than 8th grade girls. And my d and her friends are not any different then the kids attending. No weird hair/clothing to make them different/stand out.</p>

<p>D had to choose between an academic scholarship (tuition, R&B) at a top public and some of the most selective colleges in the country. It was a very difficult decision. </p>

what do you think went wrong?


<p>Nothing. While she's happier in her new college, she sees that there are pros and cons in both of her situations, and better appreciates each for what they have to offer.</p>

<p>My freshmen S just hit us with a bombshell this week that he wants to transfer. Until that phone call, he seemed happy with his college. I think he is regretting his choice of major, and at his college it is extremely hard to change majors. Not sure what we could have done differently. Last year, when he was choosing colleges, we warned him that 18-year olds often change their mind about what they want to study, and that this school was quite restrictive on making changes, but he was insistent that this was the school for him. Live and learn! Sometimes kids have to make these mistakes for themselves. </p>

<p>All you can do is help your D get as much information as possible about the schools to make an informed decision, give your advice, and then hope for the best. Visiting the schools she has been accepted to a second time may be helpful. Have her do an overnight visit, and if that is not feasible, encourage her to talk to some of the current students (not the tour guides) about what they think of their school. Good luck!</p>

<p>Sometimes there's no way to predict how things will work out and nothing you could have done to avoid the mismatch. S loved his choice from the first minute of the tour all the way through the summer orientation stay. But weeks into the school year, he started to regret things, realizing he wasn't much of a city mouse and should have gone a small liberal arts college as his parents and guidance counselor had strongly recommended (grrr). </p>

<p>What's most important, I think, is to do as well as possible academically during freshman year, so if there's a poor match, the maximum number of transfer opportunities are available. Our S lost heart, became depressed, got mediocre grades, and had a very limited number of transfer options, though he ultimately found a more suitable school.</p>

<p>It seems transferring is a much more acceptable and common occurrence than it used to be, so every parent should be prepared for the possibility. I wonder if this generation is harder to please and less willing to work things out when circumstances aren't perfect. I still think S could have found his niche at his original school if he hadn't just given up at such an early point. Transferring was never in the cards for anyone when I was in college--we just made the most of our lives and never gave a second thought to other schools.</p>

<p>For my D, it was culture shock. She transferred from a rural LAC to a mid-sized urban university, mostly because the LAC, although a fine fit academically, was a poor fit socially/culturally. Based on her experience, I strongly advise kids looking at LACs or small universities to figure out what the dominant social culture on campus is. The most effective way to do this is by scheduling an overnight visit during an ordinary time -- not during an admitted student event that's carefully designed to court admitted students. If your D is considering smaller schools, she should make sure she understands the prevailing culture on each campus and believes she will be comfortable in it, if not as part of the mainstream, then as part of one of the smaller subcultures that exist on most campuses. My D likes to be right in the middle of things -- not a "subcultural" kid. She was outside the mainstream at her LAC, so for her, transfer was the answer. I wish we had understood earlier that every small school has its own "flavor," but transferring worked out very well for her.</p>

<p>wjb, have you read any of the informal college guides that accurately described the prevailing culture on your kid's former campus? Just curious.</p>

<p>A lot of first-year dissatisfaction is based on local circumstances, such as roommates, dorm life, food, locale, etc. rather than the innate educational quality of the college itself. These kinds of variables occur at all colleges and transferring because of them can result in going from the frying pan into the fire. I strongly recommend visiting prospective schools when the students are there and then asking about the non-academic issues, just to see if there are any red flags.</p>

<p>My son transferred from a 4th tier state school to a CC top university beginning his sophomore year. He hadn't worked very hard his 4 years in high school and thought because it was a well known private school that he would get in anywhere. Surprise! He finally kicked into gear his freshman year of college and was able to get into some good schools as a transfer. My point is, if your child is really unhappy and knows in her gut that this school isn't right than send out those transfer applications. As acceptances come in she can mull over each school and make an informed decision. My son is very happy that he did.</p>

<p>Treetop -- I think guides are useful, but they can only go only so far in realistically depicting some of the negative elements of campus life. As an experiment, I just read the Fiske Guide's description of my daughter's LAC. (And I think Fiske is the best of the general guides.) Not a word about the elements that made her unhappy.</p>

<p>I will say this (and I’ve said it so many times before): When you combine rural isolation, a strong Greek system, and Division I athletics, alcohol consumption is going to play a starring role on campus, and its influence will infiltrate all of campus life, both inside and outside the classroom. I note that my D is NOT a non-drinker.</p>

<p>EDIT: I see you mentioned informal guides in your question to me. Yes, they do describe some of the warts -- in exaggerated terms. The problem with the comments in those guides (and often some negative depictions of colleges on CC, too) is that they're so over the top as to strain credulity. But if you read with a critical eye, there’s typically an element of truth.</p>

<p>Mine did not articulate to herself well what she wanted, and also ignored warning signs about the prevailing social make-up of her campus. She (and I)bought into the idea that you can always find your clique, even if it's at odds with the rest of the campus. D found that, like wjb's D, she did not want to feel like an outsider or go against the grain all the time. She was at a midsized OOS public on a good scholarship. She chose it because it had a program she thought she wanted to major in. Plus, she'd been at a non-competitive public HS, and assumed that that's what she should want in a college.</p>

<p>the reality was a massive drinking culture, and very little intellectual engagement in her classes. The education was great, but she didn't feel she was sharing it with most of her classmates. Sometimes it seemed she was the only one speaking in class, and that's not what she wanted at all. She was a non-drinker at the time, and ended up alone or hanging with the nice born-again Christian kids on weekend nights--the only others who weren't into the party scene.</p>

<p>She transfered to an LAC which much more fit into her style. The students were engaged and shared many of her interests. as wjb says, LACs have different profiles--my D would have been just as unhappy at the one wjb's D left, but the one she transfered to was the polar opposite. D had to struggle to keep up at her new one because of her less-thorough HS background, but that was fine with her. She made the adjustment and graduated toward the top of her class. Her only regret was only having three years there instead of four. We allowed her to give up the merit scholarship; it was worth the added expense to see her thrive.</p>

<p>I want to second the importance of keeping up stellar grades and being engaged with the school the student starts at. Transfering is hard and should only be done when the student really cant conceive of staying. Good grades mean more opportunities; D transfered with a 4.0; I don't think she'd have gotten into the second school with much less.</p>

<p>Best wishes to your D as she makes her decisions.</p>

<p>Like garland's D, first time around my D was unable to articulate what she wanted from her college experience, and we mistakenly believed that because she's a pretty self-confident kid, she'd be happy wherever she landed. Wrong. </p>

<p>I also echo what garland says about the importance of keeping grades up. If you allow yourself to tank academically because you're miserable at Misfit U, you effectively eliminate the opportunity to transfer.</p>