It is a thought that runs through almost every freshman’s head during their first few months at school. “Did I make the right decision, or would I be happier somewhere else?”
Most students, 93 percent at Fairfield and 88 percent around the country, stick with the school they originally attended; however, there is a minority of brave souls who pack up their first dorm room and start all over somewhere else.
Dean of Freshmen Dr. Debbie Chappell estimates that of all the freshman she talks to every year, less than five percent of them talk about transferring.
“I think there are a number of reasons,” she said. “Students who come here are very well prepared and we try to do our best to ensure that they do well academically.”
Mary Morris attended Fairfield as a freshman and is now a senior at University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass).
“I knew I wanted to transfer sometime during the second semester of freshman year. I just thought Fairfield was too small and like high school all over again,” said Morris.
“When I originally applied to colleges, I only applied to small schools because I thought that’s what I wanted, but after visiting my friends at large schools, I really liked the big atmosphere.”
Morris also said that UMass, being a big state school, had many more options as far as majors went and that the reduced price tag of UMass helped a lot as well.
It only took Chaya Lee ‘10 one semester at Pennsylvania State University to see that the big college scene was not for her. By Thanksgiving of her freshman year, she had already sent out applications to transfer. She went home to Chicago and attended community college for a semester while she explored her options for sophomore year. Ultimately, she decided on Fairfield.
According to Lee, adjusting to her new school was a breeze compared to the actual transfer process.
“First you feel discouraged because you are so excited to go to school and then you end up hating it.”
“Plus, you have to get your high school and current college transcripts, new letters of recommendations from professors and old ACT/SAT scores,” said Lee.
“I think it was just harder because I wasn’t planning on ever doing the college application process ever again, so all the stuff I just mentioned was everywhere.”
When students do say they are thinking about transferring, Chappell makes sure they register for classes and join the housing lottery for their sophomore year because most students don’t hear whether they’ve been accepted to another school until the summer.
Chappel also urges students to attend a class in the other school before they commit to transferring out of Fairfield. Chappell said decisions to transfer usually aren’t involving academic issues.
“It’s rarely because they aren’t happy with their classes; it’s almost always an out-of-class issue.”
The difference in class size was something Morris noticed right away. UMass has 20,873 undergraduate students while Fairfield only has 3,886.
“My classes at Fairfield had about 20-25 kids in them. With smaller classes, it was easier to meet people and to talk to the professor if I was having trouble,” said Morris.
“My first year at UMass I had classes with 400 people. Having classes that big, it is easy to skip, so you really have to be a disciplined student. Also, you have to be willing to go and talk with professors regularly so that they get to know you,” continued Morris.
In the end, both transfer students were happy.
“I don’t think there is anything that I would do differently. I have had a great experience at both schools, UMass was just a much better fit for me,” said Morris.
“Would I have done anything differently? Yeah, I would’ve come here first,” said Lee.