Transfer back to old university?

I am a current sophomore who recently transferred from University A to University B.

University A is in a city and better for my major. University B is isolated and more prestigious overall. I transferred to University B for personal reasons and for a more diverse college experience (and a wider network), but now that I’ve arrived, I dislike a lot of things about the school (size, my major’s curriculum, surrounding city or lack thereof). I now understand I was a much better fit for University A rather than B.

I felt like I had a vastly more fulfilling college experience—academically, socially, and mentally—last year compared to this year, and I am thinking about transferring back for junior year. However, I know there are a lot of cons to this: namely, the judgement of other peers/future employers, the lack of support from my family for this decision, and the possibility that transferring back might still make me dissatisfied. I would be able to complete my major in time, but I would have to reapply for admission. I also understand that it would only be two years of my life in the grand scheme of things—I could try to graduate earlier or travel a semester abroad in order to minimize my time in University B. Or I can focus on getting a master’s or a MBA down the line. At the same time, if I currently had the opportunity to transfer back, I would do so in a heartbeat.

I had a few questions:

  1. Are there any examples of people transferring back to their old university? Please reach out esp if you have done this personally!
  2. Would employers look down on an applicant transferring back and forth in between schools (if given a transcript)?
  3. Is it worth transferring back for a better experience the next two years (and possibly better career outcomes for my major specifically)? Definitely up to personal opinion, but I want to know other people’s thoughts.
  4. Have other transfers felt this way about their new school? What motivated you to ultimately stay?

Wherever you go- there you are.

Presumably you had solid reasons for choosing College A. And presumably you were unhappy enough at College A to transfer to College B. And now you are both unhappy at College B, AND thinking you were better off at College A.

Have you done some introspection to identify how much you may be contributing to your lack of satisfaction? That could give you some insights into what you should do now.

Of course it’s worth transferring if it’s going to give you a markedly better experience. But you don’t know that. You tried it and didn’t like it. How is the next go-round going to be different? There are no guarantees-- and by the time you go back, your social and academic networks will be gone and you’ll need to rebuilt (aka becoming a freshman all over again).

How are the career outcomes for your major better- is that your perception or is that reality? How are you going to feel if you go back and all the things you disliked the first time still bug you? And most important- what are you not doing RIGHT NOW to improve your experience where you are???


Thank you for the response, I do feel like it’s possible that I’m the common denominator here. I have tried doing some self-reflection on my own internal causes for dissatisfaction, although I’m less certain how that can give me insights for my next steps. I mainly transferred to College B for the prestige of an Ivy League but College A was #1 for my major (hence the better career outcomes.) The thing is, I tried College A and did enjoy my time there, a lot more than my time right now. I honestly feel like I made a mistake going from A to B, but given the circumstances don’t know if it’s worth going back to A to fix my mistake or wait out the next two years.

I definitely have tried to reach out to others to make my College B experience better—joining clubs, going to activities, talking to advisors. Regardless the isolation and choice of classes are fundamental aspects that really make me dislike my current situation. Since I still keep in touch with my old friends I don’t think my social networks would be completely gone, but I understand your point.

You are comparing the end of your time at college A to the beginning of your time at college b, all through the filter of actual vs remembered. This happens quite a lot with transfer students- the grass often does look greener on the other side, until you get there.

Your “rational” argument for transferring back (college A is “#1” for your major) is actually more like rationalization: at the UG level what will matter more is what you do: your grades & work/internships. You obviously felt you traded “up” in overall “prestige” (though I’ll bet that you could write a nice piece on the lure of the Ivy label now!).

It’s not hard to guess where you are, and it is known for being a gregarious campus, Luckily apps for transfer don’t go in until spring, so for now mentally commit to staying, and make the effort to become part of the community. I recommend activity based groups (incl study groups). If by Feb you are still pining for your old school go visit it & see what the reality is by then.

It might help if you shared your major and career goals.

Would also be helpful to know the schools involved (since both are universities, your identity would not be obvious–especially knowing the Ivy League school as it is large & has a lot of transfer students).

The distinctions “number one for my major” rarely are relevant in the real world. If it is a tiny, esoteric major- Brown for Egyptology-- then there are a dozen people in the world who know or care. And if it’s a large, well-understood major (CS) then the differences ONLY matter for grad school, and are not relevant for an undergrad.

As long as there are enough courses where you are so you can graduate in four years- that’s an argument for blooming where you are planted.

Are you working hard and feeling challenged in your classes?

I would love to share my major and career goals and schools involved if you PM me. Since it’s a public forum I’m on erring on the side of caution.

You definitely bring up a valid point — in the beginning, I consistently told myself my feelings arose out of comparing a happy ending with a rough beginning, so it’s very hard to base it off of pure emotion. I think in more tangible aspects, however, when I compare my time at the old university by Thanksgiving vs now, it’s very clear to see that I had more friends, spent more time with other people, enjoyed my classes, enjoyed the offerings the surrounding city had, got a lot more closer support from my advisor and professors.

Thank you for the advice. I really will try my best to sit still and commit to staying. I have joined a lot of groups, but maybe the ones I joined aren’t working out. I have reached out to former alumni who have advised to wait some more, as the first semester is always rough. But I do plan to revisit my feelings come February (and visiting is a good suggestion, perhaps even shadowing a friend so I know how it actually is like).

I definitely see where you’re coming from—I had the same mindset, which is why I gave up the “#1 school for my major” anyways, since I plan to go to industry and not grad school. I will say this is a larger major where my original school set the precedent for. Furthermore for my intended double major, it only exists at school A and not school B. It’s hard to see the differences from the outside but now that I’ve experienced the two, there’s a lot more attention given per undergrad at the old school, closer guidance from the advisor (this is a big point for me), plentiful opportunities for research, and a lot more relevant classes I am interested in. Realistically I could end up with a similar job post-grad, but I will say the impact of the status of my first university does make it a lot easier to get the top jobs for my industry for the first job. I also know one’s career is long, so I should also put things into perspective.

There are enough courses for me to graduate in four years, but realistically I could graduate in three, which I am considering. I do not currently feel challenged in my classes, but I am working hard (and overcompensating in my clubs to make up for it), and plan to take harder classes next semester.

You are pretty new at college B and it may take a while to find your group and fit. I would say join clubs and activities and give it a chance. I would stay at the Ivy. You left college A for a reason, so why go back?

OP- hugs to you, and congrats on joining things, throwing yourself into campus life where you are.

Without knowing the particulars about which colleges, which majors, etc. it is hard to offer specific advice. But in general- Look forward, not back. If that means that after winter break you are still pining for College A, it’s something to consider, But for now- why not pretend that you don’t have ANY option beside staying put and seeing if you can make a few close friends, participate in some super absorbing extra-curricular activity (even in a rural area there are homeless people who need warm coats, kids who need tutoring to make up for a year of Zoom school, families who rely on a food pantry) which helps others AND helps you feel connected to the community and other people. My guess is that if you had those kinds of connections, the idea of transferring back would seem unnecessarily complicated to you…


Of course, the reasons for leaving often look different once a person has actually left. In particular, Ivy goggles can blind students to what they have and what they want. We have all seen posters on CC who were aiming for Ivies, didn’t get there, so “settled” for the best of the rest, with the goal of transferring in the next year. IF that is the OP’s situation, then it is not surprising to find once the Ivy goggles come off other realities of the lived experience start to weigh differently.

And- there are so many tiny variables that a person can’t account for. For example, is the advising really better overall at college A - or did the OP’s particular advisor at A just suit her better than her one at B? When extrapolating from just a few data points it’s easy to get the weighting wrong.

On the other hand, this:

reads like rationalization. There is no way that any Ivy doesn’t have “plentiful opportunities for research” and plenty of attention for undergrads who want it. Class options are easily available online- something you could/should have checked when deciding where you wanted to apply to transfer.

OP, have you re-visited the reasons you applied to transfer in the first place?

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Did you receive my PM ?

Yes I have, thank you! PM’ed back.

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