Transferring colleges? Here’s what you need to know, from the students who did it.

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When I look at the beginning of my collegiate journey, I never thought I would be where I am today. I thought I would live on campus, become best friends with my floor in my dorm, and do whatever I wanted. Today, I am a commuter and a transfer student, which can be a lot to handle. 

The most-asked questions I get are, “How do you find time to do your work?” “How far do you live from campus?” and “You don’t feel like you’re missing out?” 

What international students, transfer students, and commuters have in common is that we want to get our degrees—by any means necessary. This might mean taking a detour or switching a lane or two, but in the end, we get to our destination. 

These experiences are why I wanted to connect with other students in the Campus Philly community who had a story to share on commuting, transferring, or being an international student. I hope hearing from these students lets you know that you are not alone. 

First, let me tell you a little bit about my journey. I am currently at Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University) studying Graphic Design and Marketing. I am graduating in 2024. Making the decision to transfer was not easy because I had to think of the variables that could be affected: graduating on time, financial aid, credits transferring over, etc. After many discussions with family, friends, and mentors, I reflected on my experience asking, “Am I happy here?” “What can I do to either improve my studies or enjoy my college experience?” Transferring felt like it would be a fresh start, especially in the middle of a pandemic where you have time to really sit with your thoughts. Commuting was an easy decision to make too because I didn’t feel comfortable rooming with someone in the wake of Covid-19. East Falls, where campus is located, is also a 30-minute drive on a good day.

I wish I knew that it is normal to transfer schools. At my high school, the conversation of transferring was never spoken about. It should be known that it is okay to change your mind. It’s like going to a diner and trying something new. If you dislike it, you can always change your order; it could end up being your go-to meal. Although transferring and commuting make up a decent audience in enrollment, they often get overlooked in necessities such as the cost of parking permits, limited parking spaces, and exclusivity in on-campus events. 

Some of my favorite things about being a transfer student is not taking certain classes due to having those courses covered already, and bringing what I learned at a previous school to my current school. My favorite things about being a commuter is the separation of work and rest and having control in where I want to go on my schedule. I love going to Mi N Tea for lunch and Taqueria for dinner after classes. The Barnes is only a Kelly Drive away from me (see what I did there?) I really like the SEPTA Perks program which is special to Philly in having discounts for me whenever I’m commuting.

Photo Credit: Mi N Tea

I know it seems like the journey takes forever, but the reward is so worth it. You were brave enough to make a change to your surroundings by knowing yourself so well. Stay on top of your Degreeworks and always stay in touch with your academic advisors.

To my commuters: Always have your go-to commute and your backup commute. Some ways are better than others depending on road closures, morning traffic, and evening traffic. Always get to campus early for the best parking spots and if you take the bus, get the monthly pass. And one more thing, for all of your classes, tell your professor that you’re a commuter. Honesty is the best policy.

To get acclimated on campus, I got involved on campus through my work-study at the library and being a Commuter Assistant on campus. I meet many students daily at the library; some people recognize me there. The resources I leverage as a transfer student are mostly off-campus in reading blog posts and TikToks on students talking about their experiences. As for my favorite place to get work done, it would have to be the library. It’s the best feeling to finish all my work there and drive home in a good headspace.

I spoke with three awesome students in the Campus Philly community who also had a story to share. Check out my interviews with them below!

Ben Ace (LaSalle, 2023)

  1. First off, tell us about yourself! Where do you go to school, what do you study, and when are you graduating?

I am a Spanish major with a digital arts minor at La Salle University, and I’m set to graduate in spring 2023.

About • Undergraduate AdmissionsUndergraduate Admissions • La Salle University

Photo Credit: La Salle University

  1. How did you know you wanted to transfer?

I spent three years at my first college knowing I didn’t click with it but thought it wasn’t worth it to transfer, that a degree is a degree and it doesn’t matter where you get it from. And that’s not to dunk on my first college because it simply wasn’t the right school for me, but the college experience should be fun, not something you try to get done with ASAP. Once I realized how checked out of my classes I was my junior year, I realized that going to college in my hometown in rural PA wasn’t going to work out for me, so I started looking at places to transfer to. The big thing was I wanted a real college experience—moving away, exploring new places, gaining independence, and just being able to start over with the security of that structured college life, and I knew I wasn’t getting that where I was.

  1. What is something you wish you knew about being a transfer student?

I wish I’d known that everything doesn’t have to go exactly to plan for it to work out; it would’ve saved me a lot of anxiety in the transfer process. Coincidentally, I left my first college to start a gap year right before the pandemic shut everything down, so it gave me a ton of time to reevaluate but also to worry about everything from “What if it doesn’t work out at this school either?” to “What if the rest of my degree is done online? Was there a point to transferring?” But eventually, classes returned to in-person instruction, and every time a new doubt popped up, simply bringing up the issue to someone at La Salle got it ironed out quickly. So while my life doesn’t look exactly like what I’d imagined when I started the transfer process in 2020, it finally feels like it’s all falling into place.

  1. What is your favorite thing about being a transfer student in the Philly region?

I honestly fell in love with this city as soon as I got here. There’s always something to check out from sports to art to food to music, which is so different from the quiet town I grew up in where everyone knows everyone. I’m definitely an extrovert, so living in a busy city like Philly means I’m finding even more of my style. Also, as a transgender person, everything feels so much more accessible here. Especially with everything going on in the news about us recently, it’s nice to have the community here in the city.

  1. What is your advice to someone who is considering transferring schools?

For potential transfer students: don’t be afraid to try something different! You need to consider what you do like about your current college, but also see if you can find colleges that have what you’re missing, even if it seems like a long shot. I started at a state school in a small town, so everyone expected me to just transfer to one of the other PASSHE schools because it’d be easier, but I mostly only applied to colleges in and around Philadelphia because I knew I needed a change of scenery—even if moving to a major city means a culture shock at first. And there are so many colleges in this area, so I really had to consider the pros and cons of each, but it worked out because La Salle is a much better fit for me.

  1. In what ways did you get acclimated on campus? What resources did you leverage?

As soon as I got all my transfer paperwork in, I made sure to get in contact with my advisor, professors, and even places like the career center to talk about my plans for the rest of my studies and for my career. One of the fun parts of starting over at a new college is getting to make new connections and talk to people about their experiences in the field. I also made it a point to go to events and check out clubs just to meet other students and get involved on campus. Heck, my first night here, my RA encouraged everyone on our floor to go to bingo night and a lot of us did, so that’s how I made my first friends at La Salle.

Starlynne Johnson (Widener, 2024)

  1. First off, tell us about yourself! Where do you go to school, what do you study, and when are you graduating?

I’m attending Widener University and working towards a Public Relations degree. I will be graduating in 2024.

  1. How did you know you wanted to transfer, commute, or start a new academic path?

I knew I wanted to transfer once my high school guidance counselor told me I could get the same education as others, but save some money! One of the reasons why I transferred to Widener was because of the ratio of students and teachers. The advisors/counselors seem involved in their student success and I felt like they offered a diverse curriculum. They are involved in Philly and Chester county so it felt like I could be getting double the opportunities.

  1. What is something you wish you knew about being a transfer student? 

I wish I knew more about scholarships that are offered for transferring students. Widener themself offered me a transfer student scholarship. They also said if I agree to enroll by a certain date, they would offer me a 500-dollar book store credit. But I believe if you are a transfer student, most schools will give you money.

About Widener | Widener University

Photo Credit: Widener University

  1. What is your favorite thing about being a transfer student?

Along with saving money, one of my favorite things about being a transfer student is that I got to experience two schools that are totally different from each other. I got to see what I didn’t like and what I did like and now I use that to my advantage.  My favorite events were the job fairs. Even if the focus wasn’t my major, you still get information about different companies and that could help you determine what you want to do or where you would want to work. I also liked the destress events before finals; they definitely help you relax for a little bit!

  1. What is your advice to someone who is considering transferring schools?

That a degree is a degree! One from a community college can hold the same weight as any other four year school. One major thing you should check is to see if your credits transfer. Also, don’t be afraid to move; there is always something better out there. You deserve to be in a school that works for you.

  1. In what ways did you get acclimated on campus? What resources did you leverage?

I tried joining clubs and going to events my college provided. Some of the resources I used were during the pandemic. I rented out a laptop when my computer wasn’t working. One of the clubs I joined was the social work club where my role was doing PR which actually help inspired me to switch majors. I join the social media club as well. I helped take pictures and videos of some of the events at our school for their Instagram/Twitter page.

Sarmad Khan (Drexel, 2025)

  1. First off, tell us about yourself! Where do you go to school, what do you study, and when are you graduating?

I am an international student from Islamabad, Pakistan. I am a very passionate individual, always willing to learn and experience new things and meet new people. I constantly try to challenge myself and explore new avenues to explore my interests and surroundings. I have grown up watching and playing soccer, so it really does dominate a huge part of my life. I go to Drexel University and am currently a sophomore on co-op with EMD Group (Merck KGaA). I am studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Operations and Supply Chain Management. My anticipated graduation is June 2025.

  1. How did you know you wanted to study outside the country?

Coming from a country that is not much technologically advanced and still developing, I saw this opportunity to grow academically, professionally, and professionally. Moreover, my father’s wish for me to study abroad was a huge factor, as he himself did not have that privilege or opportunity at that time. Exploring early on, I realized I had that inquisitive personality where I was always keen to know more about how things developed and how they worked. Foreseeing the opportunities to fulfill my dreams, I saw this as the place to progress my career.

  1. What is something you wish you knew about being an international student? 

You know when you move out of your house for the first time, you are a little anxious and nervous for what has to come. If I could go back, I would tell myself to not be afraid to try out new things and embrace everything that comes with a positive attitude, and know that friendships evolve, you cannot have a certain group forever, so go out, be brave and explore yourself.

  1. What is your favorite thing about being an international student in the Philly region?

Coming from a bi-cultural family, I was already living between two different cultures, languages, traditions, and norms, which had given me a little knowledge of how diverse a community could be. However, traveling across the world and coming to a place destined to be my stay for the next five years taught me a lot throughout the journey. From the airport lounges to cafes, to using public transport, my dorm, classes, and every place I went I came across different personalities. Philly really reflects the phrase “City of Brotherly Love”. The diversity here is immense and you get to learn about different cultures, people, and traditions, every day you go out. As you explore you realize people are the best resources to learn and grow everywhere throughout this amazing city.

  1. What is your advice to someone who is considering pursuing an education in Philadelphia?

I would tell them to do it, to do what they are thinking, to step on that path. I personally believe change in life is very important. Change for me is always a good thing regardless of the consequence because either way you are learning and exploring yourself. You learn what helps you grow, get that inner peace, and also about what is not meant for you. It is always better to take advantage of the opportunity you have rather than regret letting it go. Do what you want to do, study and work where you feel you will excel rather than where the statistics or the few people may tell you. I’d tell you to be brave and be excited, take that decision, and make it right.

  1. How did you go about forging your own path in your academic journey? Tell us your story.

I felt that engineer’s mindset of challenging myself with different problems and then finding solutions; that inquisitive personality trait to know how a certain phenomenon worked, what goes into the manufacturing of a machine or object and how could we improve it to make it more efficient, sustainable, and how it could affect to make lives and communities around me better. With time, I explored my interests and saw where I could be. I realized how I enjoyed the responsibility and loved to manage projects, make decisions, and manage people. In light of this, I joined Drexel’s College of Engineering to study mechanical engineering but also took operations and supply chain management as my minor. My academic choices provided me with insight into the technical and business aspect of the modern industry. Now I am in a co-op with Merck KGaA company EMD group, a vibrant science, and technology company giving me the exposure and opportunity to learn and grow professionally and personally.

Commuters, transfers, and international students continue to thrive and make a path for themselves. Robert Frost once said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” When we take the road to college, some of us may take the road less traveled, leading to something better on the other side.  With the tips and advice shared, I hope the next class of students know that they are not alone in any trajectory of learning they choose. As long as you’re learning, you’re growing as a person. And at the end of the day, it makes all the difference.

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