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Transferring from Princeton to Yale/Stanford/Columbia?

PhysBuzz23PhysBuzz23 0 replies2 threads New Member
edited January 17 in Transfer Students
I'm a freshman at Princeton and have been extremely unhappy here. While the academics seem satisfactory, the culture of the place is something I find myself unable to adjust to and is something which has greatly impacted my happiness and more importantly, ability to excel and take advantage of the opportunities the university has to offer this previous semester.

I had gotten through Yale, Columbia, as well as UPenn during high-school, and ended up choosing Princeton due to the undergrad focus, and certain other factors. However, I am now considering applying for a transfer. As a consequence of my trouble adjusting however as well as Princeton's grade deflationary policies, my GPA this semester may be as low as 3.6 and will not be higher than 3.8.

I wanted to evaluate the possibility of being able to transfer this semester to the universities which I chose not to attend but do ultimately believe can be more successful at now. Will the fact that I was accepted before deter or help my case? Also, is it even realistic to apply with my current GPA? How much is it likely to hurt my case? Do I really have any chance at all?

I sincerely believe Princeton was the wrong choice for me, and am keen on transferring. I would most sincerely appreciate any advice on the front of my chances of being able to do so.
edited January 17
11 replies
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Replies to: Transferring from Princeton to Yale/Stanford/Columbia?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80225 replies720 threads Senior Member
    PhysBuzz23 wrote: »
    As a consequence of my trouble adjusting however as well as Princeton's grade deflationary policies, my GPA this semester may be as low as 3.6 and will not be higher than 3.8.

    Most 4.0 high school students earn GPAs lower than 4.0 in college, because college grading standards are generally higher. Your 3.6-3.8 GPA is still above average for Princeton (and other similarly selective college) students. Princeton (and other similarly selective colleges) spread the 4.0 high school students they take in across the ~3.0-4.0 range in college, so do not be disappointed that your college GPA is a little less than 4.0.

    What cultural issues do you dislike at Princeton, and how do you know that Yale, Stanford, and Columbia are different in this respect?

    Note that Stanford takes very few transfer students and appears to emphasize non-traditional students in its transfer intake.
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  • tdy123tdy123 1039 replies18 threads Senior Member
    edited January 18
    I'm a bit surprised that you're unhappy at Princeton. They have a rep as a place that treats physics/math/cs undergrads very, very well.

    Lots of kids at lots of schools are very unhappy after their first semester. It's almost to be expected. The dislocation is even more pronounced for an international student. I'd suggest you reach out to the various counselors available: departmental, first year, dean's office academic advisors, etc for advice and help.

    Last year 1,361 students applied for transfer to Yale and only 24 were accepted.

    First year applicants have about 4x the chance of acceptance that a transfer student has. Even if Yale accepted you the first time around - and leaving out any consideration of whether they will be flattered that you regret your choice, or offended that you decided against them - your odds of acceptance are much worse than when you were accepted the first time.

    edited January 18
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6310 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Go ahead and start your transfer applications. If you really want to leave, though, you may want to expand your list. Just because they accepted you once does not mean they'll take you as a transfer. In fact, the odds are against you.
    This may make you feel more in control of your situation.

    With that said, I think you need to work on figuring out how to be happy at Princeton. It may not have been the best choice in terms of fit but that doesn't mean you can't find as way to fit in. Go talk to counseling. Figure out what you hoped to do outside of class and how to get involved. This takes time. Perhaps different housing next year will help. Can you do a semester abroad next year? That might help tease out what part of the issue is school related.

    But it will also take work at your end to figure out what you want to change and how. And that may not be something that leaving will change.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7243 replies70 threads Senior Member
    edited January 18
    When you're faced with challenges and difficulties at one place, it's very easy to convince yourself that the other side of the fence HAS TO BE greener. In other words, there's no guarantee that Stanford/Yale/Columbia would simply eradicate the sources of your unhappiness at Princeton just by transferring.
    But it will also take work at your end to figure out what you want to change and how. And that may not be something that leaving will change.


    The key thing is separating out the strands of what isn't working for you, where *specifically* (if anywhere) those things would be different, and what you would give up to change it (because there are costs, always, to a move).


    What exactly is making you 'extremely unhappy'? being far from home*? adapting to US culture? some specific aspect of campus culture at Princeton? the academics being only 'satisfactory'? something you expected to be true that isn't? getting less than perfect grades for the first time**? Which of those things will change if you move schools?

    Where would those things be different? Have you gone to visit any of the places you are considering yet*? If not, get your skates on and do the information tours at each of the places you are seriously considering (you might skip Stanford, as it will be hard to fit in on a weekend, but the others can all be done by train as a day trip from Princeton). For reference, do the standard information tour at Princeton as well, because you can compare the difference between how it is presented and your experience of the reality- all info tours are at heart sales and marketing tools.

    And finally: what are the costs of change (on both ends- what you leave, and what you move to)? What relationships (with peers, profs) have you started to form? Columbia has a big set of 'core' requirements, which has several layers of implications- have you thought those through? You will be the new student, again, only this time most people really do have something of a friend group (even though there is still fluidity).

    By all means, go ahead and do your homework, and file some transfer applications. If you only want to move if you can stay at the same level, leave it there, but if you *definitely* *absolutely* *have* to move, include a few places where the acceptance rate is likely to be higher.

    *I know you did a summer program at Yale, but be careful about that memory: comparing a summer program for secondary school students to everyday life for university students is apples and oranges- still fruit, but with significant, meaningful, differences.

    **As others have posted, your GPA is actually fine for a first term at uni, esp if it ends up at the higher end. Remember that GPA has no intrinsic value beyond applying to grad school, and for STEM grad school GPA is not the critical factor. A 3.6 - 3.8 GPA from Princeton will leave you qualified fo any grad school program in the world. What will matter in applications are 1) your practical experience; 2) LoRs and 3) for some subjects in the US, GRE scores. If you don't have a summer research job lined up yet, that is urgent- deadlines are upon you. Start in your own department- they will have lots of info on options (both on campus and at other institutions). Fwiw, on-campus internships are often the best bet for 1st years (even if you transfer in Sept you can get a summer of experience!).
    edited January 18
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  • thestandardthestandard 130 replies7 threads Junior Member
    FWIW was friends with a transfer at Stanford who came from Princeton. It has been done before, but transfer rates tend to sit at 1%.

    They hated the culture at Princeton (3.9 gpa fwiw) and absolutely loved their time at Stanford (4.0). You do you OP. I hail from the NE and went west for UG, back to New Haven for grad school - there really are big cultural differences across this huge nation of ours.

    Apply broadly, transfer admit rates tend to be markedly lower across the top 20 vs frosh acceptance rates.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80225 replies720 threads Senior Member
    edited January 25
    edited January 25
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  • CupCakeMuffinsCupCakeMuffins 1055 replies100 threads Senior Member
    edited January 25
    If you really think it’s Princeton not you then what do you have to loose? Do apply for transfer and find out. Stanford is a good choice, Yale and Columbia may not be the right alternative, look at warmer, urban, collaborative culture, non GPA deflating schools on 1-30 ranking list.
    edited January 25
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  • PublisherPublisher 9628 replies121 threads Senior Member
    An important aspect of a successful transfer application to any ultra-selective school is the ability to clearly articulate why you are unhappy at your current school and how that issue or issues will be rectified by transferring to the target school.

    Why, specifically, are you unhappy at Princeton ?

    The good news is that it should be easy to distinguish your target schools from your current school.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1585 replies35 threads Senior Member
    I agree with the above. If you can't thoroughly convince the college you want to transfer to that the issues you faced at Princeton aren't going to be issues there, you have zero chance for a successful transfer.
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