Fish in and out of water: the transfer student experience


Grace Brooks ’23 is from Fairfax, Virginia, majoring in history and minoring in Film and Media Studies. Grace is a member of the Spotswood Society, a peer reviewer for the James Blair Historical Review, and is involved with InterVarsity.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

First off, welcome to the College of William and Mary, and congratulations on the hard work and persistence that got you here! Being a transfer student means your start at the College is a little different than that of the freshman, and it can be tempting to feel yours is a forgotten introduction. Transferring is a radically different experience for everyone, and it heavily depends on your prior encounters, your personality, and from where you transfer. Coming from another four-year university or online is a different feeling than coming from a community college, abroad or wherever else. I chose to write this article because, as a student who transferred to the College myself, I know that it can be easy for transfers to feel overlooked, though the College makes a valiant effort and ultimately does an excellent job of ensuring they are seen.

 The best way to explain this transition is by comparing transfers to a fish halfway in the water. You are not a fish out of water because you most likely, by this point, have some miles of the college experience behind you. College life’s joys, stresses, excitements and frustrations are not alien ideas. You have probably had your fair share of writing a college-level thesis, taking a class that has nothing to do with your major and having a passionate love affair with caffeine. Transferring is also being a fish out of the water because there are new experiences of getting lost trying to find the library and new interactions with people. In addition, the College has a particular culture of its own, one that includes the desperate longing to abbreviate everything and reference obscure facts. In this sense transferring is being a fish out of water. Within the experience of transferring, there is a lot of ambiguity, which makes it a complex encounter. Sometimes you will understand the plight of a freshman trying to find DoG street, but you will also understand the references of the upper-level students as they discuss the time crunch they have to complete all their credit requirements. Transferring is occupying two worlds at once.

By now, you probably have experienced the positives and negatives of being in the strange straddling world of a transfer. You have had speakers in orientation express the sentiments that you have four years to do everything here at the College and thinking in the back of your mind about the different time table you are on. You might have been able to bond with other transfers because of a shared understanding, allowing for a sense of specialized comradery. The duality of your experience does not make it any less valid or significant. It is ok if this is tougher than you thought it would be. Having previous college experience does not mean all this has to come easily. The one note I want to leave you with is that you will always be a transfer, that’s part of the story of how you got here, but you will not always be a fish out of water. A day will come when you will not get lost anymore (well, hopefully; if that never comes, that’s on you). You, too, at some point, will find yourself offhandedly referring to Colonial Williamsburg as CW, it becomes a reflex, and one day you will not get called a freshman eight out of ten times.

You are not forgotten or overlooked and with that, welcome to the College of William and Mary!


Let us know whether you agree with this article here


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here