Changing schools can improve college experience

Maggie Gates | Staff Photographer
Maggie Gates | Staff Photographer
Maggie Gates | Staff Photographer

By Jamie Crow | Student Columnist

Let’s go back in time for a second. It’s your senior year of high school and you’re drowning in college applications. You’re about to make one of the biggest decisions of your life, and you want to be confident about it. After months of applying and contemplating, you finally pick a school and become so excited for the new journey that you’re about to experience.

No matter how confident a person is about his or her college decision, the choice may not always be the right one. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about one third of college students transfer at least once in their college career. Here at Duquesne, 586 of the 6,099 undergraduates on campus are students who transferred between 2012 and 2016,  according to Kelley Maloney, the director of marketing and communications of Duquesne’s enrollment management group. Maloney also said that transfer students make up about 9.6 percent of undergraduates on campus.

Beyond facts and figures, it’s important to understand why students decide to transfer. Everyone’s needs change over their time in college, and while a person’s first choice of where to attend school may have seemed perfect at the time, that feeling can shift. Transferring schools is a big decision that takes a lot of thought, and from personal experience I can say that it is one of the most difficult choices to make.

If someone doesn’t like their school they can just leave, right? While this idea is not wrong, it’s also not that simple. Making the decision to essentially start over at a brand new place is daunting, and oftentimes there is a stereotype that people who transfer have made a mistake. In my personal experience, I felt that stereotype placing a pressure on me. I don’t feel that I made a mistake in choosing my first college, but in transferring I was simply following the changing concept of what was best for me.

Transferring meant leaving behind the familiarity that I had spent a year building, which was one of the scariest aspects of changing schools. Getting acquainted with a new campus is overwhelming, especially when it seems that everyone already knows where they’re going. It’s hard to get over these qualms, but once they’re overcome, the choice to transfer is often one of the most rewarding decisions, and it certainly was for me.

Many different factors apply when a person decides to transfer, but one of the most popular reasons is changing majors and choosing a school that offers a good program for the new major. Beyond that, the decision to transfer is also based on how comfortable a person feels at a school and whether or not he or she feels that they can do well there. For Sophomore Mary Kate Opferman, both of these factors influenced her decision to transfer to Duquesne.

“I decided to transfer because the only reason I was at my old school was because of their nursing program, and I’ve switched majors to psychology,” Opferman said. “I also just wasn’t happy at my old school. When I toured Duquesne I had that feeling of it ‘clicking’ which I never got at my old school.”

The distance from a person’s hometown can also influence the decision to transfer. When the concept of independence in college is offered many students decide to take it by going far away to school. Distance is good for some people, but after a while some decide that they would rather be closer to home. Sophomore Emily Beiersdorf said that her experience in going far away to school did not work well for her.

“I did not go to Duquesne originally because I thought I wanted to go far away for college,” Beiersdorf said. “But once I moved away I realized how much I loved Pittsburgh and I wanted to move back.”

For me, a change in majors led my decision to transfer. I came to Duquesne for their journalism program, but the fact that it’s in Pittsburgh really sealed the deal for me. Duquesne offers me a feeling of comfort while simultaneously encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. It’s a unique place and I’m happy to be here.

Both Opferman and Beiersdorf agreed that Duquesne was very helpful in the transfer process. Transferring to Duquesne is unique in that transfers are offered an orientation experience that is specifically designed for them. The events planned for transfer students are not the typical orientation experience, but rather they focus on getting to know Pittsburgh. Trips to the Milkshake Factory and Milano’s allow transfer students the chance to get acquainted with Pittsburgh’s food scene, while adventures on Ducky Tours and at Point State Park allow students to get to know some of the interesting places Pittsburgh has to offer.

Transferring schools is one of the most difficult decisions to make, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. It can be difficult to constantly know if a college is the right choice, but most transfer students feel confident in their choice to transfer. While college in general is one of the most complicated points in life, it is important to feel the opportunity for growth both academically and personally. Transferring to Duquesne has allowed me that opportunity for growth, and I’m really thankful for that.