A Transfer Student’s Tale: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Back in the fall, the Hopkins Insider blog had a few guest authors that shared their own personal entries. We had my Mom providing advice to parents as well as Tabitha, an international freshmen student, writing about the transition to Hopkins as an international student. I find guest authors to be a great part of the Hopkins Insider blog, because I can call on others connected to the whole admissions process who can provide their own words and expertise in areas that I am less familiar.

So today I turn to my next guest author, Tanya Lukasik, who has become in many ways my transfer admissions guru. I first connected with Tanya more than a year and a half ago through this blog, where she infamously pressured me to write more information for transfer applicants. Since that is not one of the areas I directly work with it was not one of my natural inclinations to write Transfer topics. Well, Tanya has continued to push me, and since she has become an expert in a lot of these areas I turn the Hopkins Insider blog over to her today. Enjoy!


Following in a rather time-honored Hopkins Interactive tradition, I have listed a song title to highlight the general theme of my blog entry, the decision to embark on the transfer admissions journey, as well as to pay homage to a musical gem with significant contextual and symbolic meaning — a classic song brought to us by no other than the ‘ultimate’ eighties band, The Clash. (Cue strum of the imaginary electric air guitar)

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Taking a moment to briefly introduce myself, my name is Tanya M. Lukasik, and I am a junior student enrolled at Johns Hopkins, double majoring in Psychological and Brain Sciences as well as Public Health, with a Pre-Medical concentration. I am interested in pursuing a career in psychiatric medicine, specifically child and adolescent psychiatry, and am originally from Long Island, New York.  I am a member of the Student Admissions Advisory Board and undeniably bring a rather unique perspective to our student admissions team, as I am a TRANSFER student — one of the few brave souls who made the courageous decision to “go,” rather than “stay” at their previous institutions and happily ended up at Hopkins. I can state with pride and relief that I successfully survived the battle of transfer admissions, a mysterious, rather unknown undergraduate realm plagued by lengthy applications and incredibly frightening acceptance statistics; remarkably, I came out standing, unscathed, and am here to report on my transfer tales.

In an effort to reach out to the on-edge applicants who have recently submitted their transfer application(s), (the Hopkins deadline was March 15!), as well as to address the concerns of the upcoming waves of prospective transfer students, Admissions_Daniel has graciously given me the opportunity (and honor) to utilize this blog entry to offer my advice regarding the monumental decision many students, (and maybe several readers) will ponder and possibly encounter during their academic collegiate journey: the decision to transfer.“Should You Stay, or Should You Go?”

Please explain in detail why you wish to transfer to Johns Hopkins University?

Just 13 measly words! Reviewing this Johns Hopkins Application Supplement essay prompt during the summer of 2006, these thirteen words simplistically invoked such a complex, introspective personal inquiry and required an in-depth explanation highlighting why I wanted to specifically leave the ‘comfort’ of my home institution, and venture into the collegiate unknown.

What were my reasons, my motivations, my plans and my goals, and what was potentially lacking at my current university that could be offered and solved at Johns Hopkins? What was precipitating my desire to leave New York and travel to a new environment within the city of Baltimore, a campus full of new faces, new professors, and new challenges? Maybe I could sum it up with the words of the Clash front man, “If I go there will be trouble…And if I stay it will be double.” Nah, I don’t think the Admissions Committee would like that response….

“Once upon a time….” I was a sophomore at a local state university, unhappy with my overall academic experience which left me searching for a new and improved college environment, a greater scholastic challenge, and a more well-rounded undergraduate education. The limited course selections, a restrictive core curriculum, academic advising frustrations, an intellectually uninspiring campus, (rumor has it the academic buildings were designed by a prison architect), and my daily, exhausting commute, served as the perfect combination of ingredients leading to an undergraduate transfer.  Furthermore, I was interested in obtaining a top-notch pre-medical education, complete with individualized attention from professors, accessible teaching assistants, small class sizes, an abundance of science laboratories, and access to ample research and clinical opportunities, something that my current institution unfortunately could not offer.

Other valid reasons that may lead to the consideration of transferring to a new institution include:

  1. Institution Size (Too small, too big? Not just right…)
  2. Class Size and Types (Availability of discussions, seminars, and tutorials? Student-Teacher Ratio?)
  3. Major Selection (Want to major in Neuroscience, Political Science, Public Health, Education, Classics, Basket-weaving?)
  4. Course Selection and Level of Difficulty (Flexibility of Curriculum? Is it too easy, too difficult?)
  5. Campus (Close to a city? Lack of pretty scenery? Safety?)
  6. Student Life (Lack of a social scene, or too much partying? Campus organizations, Extracurriculars.)
  7. Quality of Faculty (Is there interaction? Too involved in research? Bueller, Bueller?)
  8. Off Campus Opportunities? (Research, hospitals, courts, proximity to metropolitan areas?)
  9. Housing Issues (Want a chance to live on campus, or alternatively, off campus?)
  10. Special Programs Offered (Want to study abroad, shadow a physician, or enroll in a class at the School of Public Health?)

Assuming the role of Sherlock Holmes, transfer student style, I went into my exploratory search looking for an institution that would meet my specific, personalized criteria. I visited numerous undergraduate admissions web Mcfeelsites, reviewed transfer requirements and application deadlines, and requested admissions material from universities I was interested in potentially attending during the upcoming fall.  My mailman became pretty agitated during this period, as bulky, rather heavy view books and packages from numerous colleges were sent to my home address. (Sorry Mr. McFeely!)

Procon1300After narrowing down my institutional search to about ten contenders, (warning: applying to five or more schools will increase your risk for a future clinically insane diagnosis), I contacted admissions representatives with specific questions, visited admissions-based message board forums to discuss student life, (Shameless Plug: apply.jhu.edu/forums), made plans to visit five universities, took notes and snapped pictures during my campus tours, and finally, the organizational nerd that I am, I ranked my transfer university selections utilizing a “Pro-Con” List.

Important Areas to Also Consider

During the Application Phase: Meeting eligibility requirements, the time of year, your class status, your academic and professional resume, your readiness to research and visit schools, collect recommendation letters, handle transfer credits and acceptance anxiety.

During the Acceptance Phase: Are you willing to potentially move to a new campus; are you ready to meet new people coming in as a glorified freshman; are you okay with the prospect that you might graduate later than anticipated; affordability and feasibility; housing; improving your study habits; bottom line, are you ready for a totally new educational experience?Banner

The Final Decision – Should You Stay or Should You Go?

After I received all of my acceptances during the Summer of 2007, final things that ultimately swayed my decision regarding where to transfer were:

1) My initial “PRO/CON” List analysis
2) Transfer credit processing and the acceptance of credit
3) Tuition and off campus housing costs
4) Meetings with Academic Advisors = The time they reserved to meet with me, as well as their tone, warmth, and professionalism
5) And finally, which school had imaginary trumpets blaring when I arrived…  (Please read my first guest blog, to understand)

Gilman In conclusion, the decision to transfer to a new institution is something that should not be taken lightly.  It is a process that requires the applicant to make an important personal, reflective inquiry regarding their past and their future, as well as a process that involves a tremendous amount of research, time, effort, and commitment, all boiling down to the original question, “should you stay or should you go?” I hope my transfer-related advice has served to provide some helpful assistance and to close, I’m happy to report: I’m incredibly pleased and grateful that I decided “to go…”

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