Transferring to a new university

Did you know that about one-third of all students will transfer to a different university at least once before earning their degree? So if you are transferring universities, you are not alone! After transferring from MIT to Harvard, I’ve had requests to answer some questions. Hopefully these can help you too.

How do you make friends before going to your new university?

(1) Ask your current friends to introduce you to their friends at the new university

One of the most helpful parts of my transition was other people introducing me to their friends at Harvard. When the topic came up, I would tell people I was transferring to a new university and then people would introduce me to their friends at Harvard. A lot of the people that I was introduced to are my good friends now. I highly recommend telling people about your transition and asking them if they can introduce you to their friends at your new university.

(2) Cold email people and tell them you are transferring to their university

I also reached out to people randomly! I was working at a finance company last summer and they had a handy tool where you could look up the interns by university – so I looked up the interns that went to my new university and reached out to them over email. I mentioned in the email that I was transferring to their university and would love to grab coffee with them. Some of them are my good friends now!

How to get integrated into the new university?

(1) Join some clubs / extra-curricular activities

One of the best ways to find a good group of friends is to join some club at the university. I joined a book club at Harvard and met some of my closest friends through that.

(2) Be proactive

You’ll have to be proactive in finding friends. When you start college, everyone is new and is looking for friends so you may have found a group of people without much effort; however, because you are transferring and everyone has already got some friends, you’ll have to be more proactive. That might mean sitting next to a group of random people at dinner, or striking up a conversation with the classmate sitting next to you in class, or asking to grab coffee with people.

How do you tell people about the transition?

(1) Tell your close friends before making it public

I had a couple of close friends at MIT who knew that I was applying to transfer so I told them when it happened. Tip: tell all of your close friends that you are transferring before you post it on social media.

(2) To post or not to post?

I actually think it is a good idea (depending on your situation) to post it on social media, because it makes a lot of the conversations easier – people will not be surprised that you’ve been ‘missing’ from your old campus. So now, when I go back to MIT and see people I know, they know that I transferred and they ask me about the transfer; otherwise, I would be having conversations such as ‘Oh I’m actually not at MIT anymore’ if I hadn’t posted it on social media.

(3) Tell your story effectively

One of the most important things to prepare is your story on why you transferred. You will be asked this many many times in different situations (people at your new university, people at internships, people in interviews, people at your old university) so you should essentially have a ‘pitch’ prepared. Especially because this might be your first conversation with people, and first impressions are important, you want to make sure you have a good story. I know this may sound unimportant, but people judge quickly so you want to make sure you leave a good impression. For example, let’s say you are in an interview, and the interviewer asks you why you transferred to a different university and you say something along the lines of: “I hated my old school. It was the worst. I needed to get out of there”. You can imagine that the interviewer would be thinking “Oh, maybe they might say that about this job. They might not like it here”. Or something like that.

To construct your story, I will give you the best piece of advice I got for writing the transfer application: Focus on the good qualities of the new university rather than the bad qualities of the old university. Be honest and be positive. For example, instead of “My old university was too big”, you can say “My new university is smaller which allows me to get to know the professors more”. It may be a subtle difference but it leaves a vastly different impression!

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