Transfer Students: How to Thrive on Your New Campus

Three students with their arms around each other's shoulders become friends and adjust after transferring. /

Transferring schools can be quite the endeavor. First, there’s the tough decision. You have to decide if you need to leave one school for physical, mental, academic, social, financial, or environmental reasons. Once you figure that out, you have to search for the school that offers you a viable alternative, apply, and be accepted. It can be quite the emotional roller coaster, and that all happens before you’ve even switched schools.

So, once you’ve decided where you’ll be attending school after this semester, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure that you thrive in your new environment. The best way to do this is to make on-campus housing a priority (if it’s offered), meet people, and join extracurricular teams and clubs. Of course, don’t discount the importance of thriving in the classroom as well. You’ll want to find ways to succeed in your courses, whether that’s by getting to know your professor during office hours, finding a tutor for any challenging subjects, or finding the perfect table in the library to spend your study hours. Listed below are some things you can do to succeed on your new campus.

  • A student tries to adjust after transferring by introducing himself to two other students.

    Joana Lopes /

    Attend transfer orientation. If you’re attending a large, transfer-friendly institution, it will probably offer a transfer orientation (not all schools do, however). It’s going to be like freshman orientation, but it’s for transfer students! You’ll meet people who have gone through the same process as you and ended up in the same place, and you’ll learn your way around campus. This is your first opportunity to make new friends, so go for it!
  • Join a sorority or fraternity. If you were previously in a fraternity or sorority and the same chapter is offered at your new school, you may be able to switch into the new chapter. If you weren’t, consider Greek life. It can offer a tight-knit community of people with similar interests and plenty of readymade activities in which you can participate with your new brothers or sisters.
  • Participate in activities on campus. If Greek life isn’t your thing, that’s fine! There are plenty of other extracurricular activities offered on college campuses. Maybe you’d be interested in participating in student theater, joining an intramural sports team, or DJ-ing for the student-run radio station. Participating in new activities is the best way to meet new people who share the same interests as you.
  • Meet with your academic advisor. Thriving academically is just as important as thriving socially. Meet with your advisor to talk about your degree plan and the classes you will be required to take in the future. Your advisor can also help you work out any kinks with credit transfer, or at least direct you to someone in admissions who knows the transfer process intimately. Even if you can’t bring all of your previous credits with you, you may be able to take placement exams and test into upper-level classes.
  • Make new friends, but stay in touch with old ones. Just because you’ve switched institutions doesn’t mean that your old friends have forgotten you or that you’ve forgotten them. Keep in touch! Email, become old-fashioned pen pals, or meet up on the weekends if you live in the same city. Making new friends is also important, though, so get involved!
  • A girl writes a letter to friends at her old school /

    Find your study spot. This can be in a corner of the library or at a table by the window in a local coffee shop, but explore your options and find a place where you can be productive. Doing work in your room gets old, and it is hard to stay motivated when the television and fridge are just a few steps away. Not only should you find a study spot, but consider finding a few study buddies too! Studying with a friend can make the time go by faster, and if you’re in some of the same classes, you can study together instead of just in each other’s company.

Most importantly, give yourself time to adjust. Transferring isn’t easy. You may immediately miss your friends or want to go home to visit your family, but tough it out for the first couple of months. If you go away all the time, making new friends is going to be next to impossible. These things take time, but everyone has been the new kid before. Be bold, join clubs, and ask the person who sits behind you in class out to coffee.

About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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