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What Happens When it Doesn't Work Out

Late October, for many students, is the time when everything about college becomes real. The November 1st Early Action/Early Decision deadlines loom, and suddenly, a process that was entirely theoretical becomes concrete. Students realize that in a few weeks, their applications will be submitted, and it won’t be long before they will have to answer the most difficult question of all: Where will I go to school?

During this time of year, I look back on how some of our previous students have answered this question. In the vast majority of cases, they felt like they made the right decision, and stayed at their original college until graduation, but of course, for a variety of reasons, a few students have decided to transfer elsewhere. As another class of our students prepares to answer this question, I felt like it would be useful to hear from one of our recent students who decided to transfer and see if there was any advice he could offer to our next generation. Jared Chin was one of our students in the Portland area. After graduating high school with a high GPA, full-IB diploma, and an SAT score in the 90th percentile, he chose to attend the University of California - Santa Barbara (UCSB). After his freshman year, he decided to transfer to the University of Oregon (U of O). Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

Lucas: When you were initially deciding upon where to go to college, what made you choose UCSB? Did you consider other schools at the time?Jared: I was deciding between several schools (Purdue, UC Davis, Cal Poly) very similar to UCSB in ranking and school type but fairly different in other aspects. Because these schools were pretty similar academically, I made my decision based on the location and culture of these schools; Indiana was too far and was covered in snow during my visit in late April, and I couldn’t see myself living amongst farms, so I chose UCSB.

Jared Chin, left, at an Oregon football game

L: During your time at UCSB, what were the factors that made you consider transferring?

J: I had applied to UCSB as an electrical engineering major. By the time I entered my freshman year, I had decided I wanted to work in finance upon graduating and switched my major to Financial Mathematics and Statistics. At some point, I realized that I needed to earn a B.B.A. in order to maximize my career prospects. UCSB did not have an undergraduate business school, and I wasn’t happy enough with my situation in Isla Vista to stick around and face the consequences of not getting a B.B.A..

L: How did you settle on U of O as the right transfer destination?

J: Though lower-ranking than UCSB, its undergrad business school made it a better option academically for me than UCSB.

L: Was the transfer process difficult and/or disruptive? Logistically, socially, emotionally?

J: It was rough in some aspects, but ultimately it was a relief; it came with its fair share of difficulties but never did I question whether it was worth doing. Academically, it was quite easy as U of O gave me many more credits from my IB Diploma than UCSB did. As a result, I was actually able to leave UCSB a quarter early to travel in Europe and still have sophomore standing at Oregon.

L: Are you happier now? Why is U of O a better fit?

J: I am much happier at Oregon. I appreciate the campus culture (traditional college town, athletics) much more, and I like being able to go home whenever I need to. Most of my friends are either in Portland or Eugene so the transition socially came fairly easy.

L: Now that you've successfully transferred, is there advice you'd give other students who are considering transferring schools?

J: I would say just consider if a different school will be a better fit academically and if you will be happier overall at a different school. In my opinion, you should only transfer if the answer to both questions is “yes.”

L: Is there anything you wish you'd done differently during your college search, application, and decision process to avoid the need to transfer?

J: Not really. At most, I wish I would have just kept a more open mind about the schools I was considering and had more foresight regarding my major and career ambitions.

L: Any other advice you'd like to give younger students?

J: There’s a good chance that most people reading this are, as I was in high school, very ambitious and serious about college applications. At the time, getting into an Ivy seemed like the most important thing in the world. Obviously, I’ve gained a bit more perspective on this since then. Now, I would encourage younger students to exit out of the US News college rankings page for a second and consider where the best fit is for you as an individual, academically and otherwise; rarely can you be unhappy at a school and succeed academically or vise versa.

I think that Jared’s advice — for students to focus on their own happiness and development, rather than rankings or other external factors — is incredibly valuable for students to reflect upon. It’s never easy to ignore outside perspectives when making such a big decision, but ultimately, nobody is better suited to make this decision than the student. Though Jared’s process turned out well and he doesn’t regret anything, I hope that hearing his story will help the class of 2018 make a careful decision and find their perfect fit the first time around!