Note: This article is the first part of a two-part series of transfer advice from Mary Sims, a professor at Arcadia University and Manor College.
As a professor and advisor at a two-year college for more than two decades, my favorite part of my job is that I am always asked for help and advice about transferring to another college or university.
While each transfer situation has its own set of particular circumstances, there are many commonalities to the transfer experience; I’d like to share some thoughts and tips on the process that should relate to everyone contemplating changing or transferring in their academic careers.
First, keep in mind and recognize that this is a big step and taking the easy road is not necessarily the smart road. This decision needs to be made with the near-term, long-term and future in mind.
I can’t stress this enough: you need to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing—not only in terms of what the new school has to offer, but where this is all leading you in life. In other words, this is the perfect time to evaluate how your studies compliment your career plans. Picking a major in college and a career and a life… This is the real thing; take it seriously. So don’t just be swept along with the crowd. Be proactive, trust your instincts, but put them to the test and do your homework!
For example, I personally thought I would love criminal law and wanted to do that, and while in law school I did an internship at the Strike Force with the Department of Justice. For a number of reasons, I realized that it really wasn’t for me and switched to civil litigation and transactional work. I still do that work today! It was the right choice for me and I don’t regret any of it.
Making these decisions with the potential lifelong ramifications, no matter what your age, is not always easy. So get out there and get moving:
- Talk to your advisor and professors.
- Discuss your thoughts with your parents and family friends (These are actually matters your elders know about that you don’t!)
- If possible, talk to your friends and possibly students at the schools you’re applying to.
- Also, while taking a gap year isn’t for everyone, the logic behind it is relevant to everyone – that is, book learning needs to be tested out in the rough-and-tumble of the real world.
- And read, read, read about options with an eye to the future.
Even though this is about transferring, I like to tell students to really investigate what they will be doing when they get out of school. If you are a recent high school graduate, it’s hard to pick and commit to a major at the age of 18, so read a lot on the subject. Besides the internet, there are tremendous resources at the public library, especially the main one in Philadelphia. I also really like and suggest career books because they really describe a typical day in a career in the chosen path. There is also a wonderful resource from the Department of Labor which outlines information that is useful about careers as well, including job forecasts and things like that. It gives you useful information about planning your career.
After getting that together, and although it seems obvious, it really is important to thoroughly check out the school you are planning to transfer to and also other options in the area and elsewhere. There are so many resources that it can get really confusing, but it is important. To begin with, there are schools that will take all of your credits and those that may not. This may cost you some time and money if you lose the credits you already received at the initial school.
In addition, if you really see what the school is like and talk to students that go there, you may get a sense if this one is the right fit for you. Sometimes you still may have to take a leap of faith after checking it out, but it is good to investigate what the school really has to offer you before you make your decision.
Also, the school that you intend to transfer to should have your major or one that you really want to take instead. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or put a square peg in a round hole! As a side note, it is important to stay focused with regards to majors. If you keep changing majors, you will lose credits and time and may not really get to where you want to be. You have to weigh it—what are you really trying to accomplish? Do you plan on going back to school for a master’s degree or other graduate degree? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In addition, there are schools that recruit transfers and are willing to give them scholarship money and other benefits for transferring to their school. The key is to find a school that will fit your goals and not to settle for a school that someone else tells you to go to or where your friends are going. Take a chance and check out some in other areas, they often recruit people out of state because they want to expand their alumni pool! They may offer more money or other incentives that may make your college experience closer to debt free and more of an adventure.
And there are transfer scholarships out there! For example, if you are transferring from a two-year college you can apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship, which offers $40,000 to 85 deserving students! This would go a long way in helping with a smooth transfer and keeping your finances in order.
Also, many schools may have an articulation agreement with your original school. These agreements will help you get in with the credits you have already earned so that transferring will be a breeze and you won’t lose courses that you took. It really is important to stay focused on what you want to do in life and to make that decision for yourself. If you build on your past experiences and learning, you will be better prepared for your future.
Mary L. Sims, Esquire, is an attorney practicing in Estates, Business and related areas in NJ and PA for the past twenty-nine years, and has been teaching at Arcadia University and Manor College for twenty-three years. Her J.D. degree is from Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, CA, and she has a Masters Degree in Moral Theology from Saint Charles Seminary in Philadelphia. She dedicates her time to not only teaching, but also to serving the community in local endeavors. These include, but are not limited to: the Career Wardrobe (helping women return to the workforce) and Wills for Heroes (providing estate documents for first responders). She works with Rotary International and other NGO’s at the University level to help students make a connection between a professional life and serving others. She writes and speaks on the subjects of law, global business ethics, and social responsibility.