So You Think You Want to Transfer?

March 19, 2017

College can be a huge adjustment, and halfway through your first year, you may be feeling unsure: Am I making the right decision? Am I really fitting in? Is this the right school for me? While those anxieties may lessen or go away completely after a semester—or after a particularly great class—switching schools is an option. Here are some of the elements to consider before transferring.

Don’t Worry About Sharing Your Fears

If you’re having doubts, let a teacher, student affairs advisor or department head know. “It’s our obligation as mentors to support our students,” says Rhonda Miller, director of Pace University’s BFA Commercial Dance program. “Sometimes they’re afraid when they come talk to me, but it’s important to ask questions and get the guidance you need.” Talking to your current advisors can help you figure out what exactly you’re missing—be it mentorship or specific classes.

Do Your Research Before Committing to Something New

Take time to pinpoint what it is, exactly, that’s not working for you and thoroughly research other dance departments. For example, did you enroll at a conservatory, only to realize you want more academic classes? Look into liberal arts schools or universities with strong dance programs. It’s also important to pay attention to each program’s requirements. A great location, or star faculty members, isn’t necessarily going to improve your college experience. “At UCLA, our main components are choreography, history, theory and arts activism,” says Hayley Safonov, the student affairs officer of the World Arts and Cultures/Dance program at University of California, Los Angeles. “Some students think, ‘OK, I’m going to dance in L.A. and get experience in the industry’—but that’s not what we offer.” Don’t jump too fast, or you might find yourself at another school that’s a bad fit.

Assess the Financial Ramifications

At many conservatories, dance students follow a specific progression of courses over the four years. “Pace freshmen take acting, ballet, lighting and sound, theater dance, tap and jazz—so even though a transfer student might academically be a sophomore, she’ll likely still need to play catch-up,” Miller says. “It’s one of the reasons I don’t accept any transfers past their sophomore year.” Many general education credits might transfer, and a few classes may be reciprocal among colleges, but completing extra required courses can be a financial burden. “It’s something that dancers and their families have to think about,” Miller notes. Some dancers might be discouraged by taking an extra year or semester to graduate. But for those seeking an entirely new college experience, taking the full course load could help build confidence and familiarity with the department.

I’ve Transferred—Now What?

In addition to working closely with advisors, admissions and financial aid officers and faculty members, check out transfer student groups on campus. “I transferred as a sophomore from Santa Monica College to UC Santa Cruz,” says Hayley Safonov, the student affairs officer of the World Arts and Cultures/Dance program at University of California, Los Angeles. “I was new to the campus but I wasn’t experiencing college for

the first time. Finding a transfer group helped me make friends.”