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What Is Transfer Shock? Understanding and Overcoming Academic Transition

You made the big decision to transfer colleges. You’ve been accepted and are excited about your classes. You feel motivated and excited about what the future holds. Then grades come back…and they’re not exactly what you thought they would be. You transferred to improve your academic performance, not continue to struggle to reach your potential. What gives? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Transfer shock is a very real experience for a lot of transfer students. So what is it exactly and how can you get back on track?

What Is Transfer Shock?

Transfer shock is a phenomenon transfer students encounter during an interim period where their grades slip, typically within the first or second semester following the transition. Students who experience transfer shock usually recover from it once this period has passed. Some studies have shown that as many as 60% of transfer students have felt these effects.

It can be overwhelming to suddenly see your grades fall without much explanation. During this time, students may feel confused or even anxious. Those feelings are warranted, especially since so many students decide to switch schools because they sought positive change at a new school.

Why Does Transfer Shock Happen?

There’s no singular reason transfer shock happens to students, and the factors that do tend to contribute don’t apply to every student. However, there are a couple of core components that seem to elicit these effects. The act of actually transferring schools is a lot to handle for a student. There’s a new campus to explore, teachers to work with, coursework to complete, and other students to meet, all of which can be difficult to juggle. Many transfer students assume that these changes won’t affect them because they’ve already lived through the experience of being new to college before. There’s also an underestimation by transfers that the lectures, homework, and exams won’t be drastically more difficult than what they’re used to.

Advice for Transfer Students

While transfer shock statistics may indicate high odds, there’s no guarantee that you will experience it yourself. However, if you do or want to prepare for the possibility, these tips can be helpful.

Anticipate Academic Challenges

Off the bat, one of the best ways to avoid transfer shock is to manage your expectations. If you are committed to transferring schools, get into the mindset early on that your new school will be more difficult academically and that you’ll need to be a disciplined student. Set aside ample time to hit the books in the library or form study groups.

Speak With an Advisor

One of the first connections you should make on campus is with your academic advisor. Their job is to support you along the way, and they have insights and resources to help you succeed. But you can’t take advantage of those benefits if you don’t speak with them. Once you’re settled in, make an appointment with your academic advisor to review your course load, learn about your professors, and discuss any concerns you have.

Get Help With Your Classwork

Most campuses offer academic support services to help students get back on track. If you are struggling with coursework, visit the Student Success Center and ask for tutoring assistance. They can help you understand core concepts, work on assignments, and develop study, test, and time-management strategies.

Get Involved on Campus

Building community plays a huge part in having a great college experience, especially as a transfer student. It always helps to have a group of people you can rely on. Joining clubs and attending events is a simple way to meet new people and make lasting friendships. Getting involved is also a good way to take a break from college coursework.

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s so important to remember that transfer shock is very normal. You’re not any less of a student for experiencing it. If you are struggling with transfer shock, give yourself time to adjust and stay optimistic. Good things are ahead, and transfer shock is just one setback that you can and will surpass.