When it’s Time to Transfer

May 6, 2010  

By Amanda Oldham

The stress of enrolling in classes for the upcoming semester sends many students crazy.  Laptops pop up all over campus as students camp out in waiting for their enrollment appointment to arrive.

But while the rest of us run around like chickens with their heads cut off, a select few kick back and put their feet up on the tables outside of Hughes-Trigg.

These relaxed students have something else to worry about – repeating the first day of college at a new school.

Students transfer for a variety of reasons: homesickness draws people back closer to their hometown, some seek a more advanced program for their area of study, face an inability to finance their current tuition or are generally unhappy in their current location.

While no school can get away with a perfect retention rate, SMU seems to have an interesting retention situation.

Though the rate of freshmen that enroll in classes for their sophomore year is sitting at 89 percent, according to Federal Student Aid, SMU’s graduation rate for that same group of freshmen is only 75 percent.

Students seem to enjoy going to SMU after their first year, however the luster apparently dissipates for some as time goes on.

“By this time, I was just fed up,” sophomore Jordan Ragnell said in regards to his decision to transfer to University of Texas at Dallas next year.

After a difficult year of problems with his academic advisor, Ragnell decided to look beyond SMU for his education.  Though he tried to stay under the 12 hours mark for classes in order to save money, he took his advisor’s advice, ended up passing that mark and having to pay the school thousands of dollars for the extra classes.

“It’s a combination of too much money and I can get what I need somewhere else,” he said.

Another comment made focused on the different priorities of public and private universities.

“They are really focused on money.  It makes for a bad university.  I shouldn’t have to go through the catalog by myself.  I should have an advisor to help me or have references more than a checklist,” Ragnell said.

While he is leaving with regrets of attending, others choose to transfer with a positive image of the school in mind.

“SMU has many pluses and I do not regret coming here for my first two years,” sophomore Katie Hillyer said.

“I feel that this small atmosphere was good for my first year away from home and for getting used to college life”

Hillyer will attend University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign this fall in order to be closer to her friends and her family.

“Not only have I missed my sister’s high school events, but I have missed many birthdays and deaths, and other various events in my friends’ and family members’ lives,” she said. “All of my friends and family are still back in Illinois and that is where I want to be, with them.”

Former SMU student Katie Cromwell also said that distance from home was a major factor in deciding to transfer to Louisiana State University.

“I was overall unhappy for the price it was costing me to attend SMU,” Cromwell said.

“I was not ready at the time to be 6 hours from home/friends etc and I thought I wanted to study nutrition along with being pre-med [which was not offered at SMU]. I now feel like I definitely did make the right decision.”

The size of the school also seems to be a factor in the decision.  SMU carries a nice teacher to student ration of 12:1, according to CollegeProwler.com, a site that offers statistics to help prospective students weigh in all the factors.

But this comes with a trade off: closer professor relations instead of a larger college atmosphere.

“I feel like I would have liked the big public school better in the first place,” Hillyer said. “SMU is kind of like a bigger version of high school where everyone seems to know everyone, which is a great atmosphere for many people, but not really for me.”

When told about the Federal Student Aid’s statistics, Ragnell thought it made sense that it might take time for some students to realize that they would be happier somewhere else, even if it took a full year of being enrolled in classes and on campus for him to come to that realization.

“You get a different experience than the tour,” he said.  “Once you’ve lived it, you sort of see what you’re looking for and what’s important to you.”

Hillyer believes that the choice for some to transfer is not that uncommon, given the amount of time prospective students generally have before making the big decision.

“Your college choice is possibly the biggest decision you will make in your life because it is the beginning of your future, and you are forced to make this choice before you are even allowed to by a $2 lottery ticket,” she said.

“The person who I was and the things I wanted out of life when I was 17 and first falling in love with SMU are much different than things that I want now and the person that I want to be.”

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One Response to “When it’s Time to Transfer”

  1. Aida on May 6th, 2010 7:10 am

    Good story. Interesting to find out why people transfer.