Every fall brings hundreds of new faces to Lehigh’s campus, but for a subset of these new faces, a college campus is nothing new. Each academic year brings transfer students, who are familiar with college, but are fresh to Lehigh’s campus.
Director of Admissions Bruce Bunnick said Lehigh receives about 400-500 transfer applications each year for 35 enrollment spaces.
There are various reasons and circumstances that cause students to transfer, and no two stories are alike.
Some students, for example, choose to transfer from city schools to Lehigh for a smaller campus environment, as was the case for Dede Passione, ’21, and Ethan Smith, ‘22.
Although Passione felt disconnected at American University, she decided to stick it out through her first year of her undergraduate studies. She said she joined a sorority and really enjoyed it. She said she still felt out of place and unlike herself, feeling it wasn’t worth it to stay at American solely for Greek life.
She said she decided to transfer when she came to Lehigh to visit friends and fell in love with the community.
Smith grew up in a small town and said he always dreamed of attending college in a city.
Yet during his college search, he said he preferred Lehigh to other colleges and universities. He decided to apply early decision and was accepted.
He said although he enjoyed his first semester, his attraction to cities led him to transfer to Boston University the second semester of his first year.
He said halfway through the semester, however, was not going how he originally imagined.
“School in the city is not all it’s cracked up to be,” he said.
Boston University was bigger than he liked, and he missed the feel of campus and the people he met at Lehigh.
Smith considered returning to Lehigh, and, after emailing the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, discovered it would not be difficult to return. He decided to come back to Lehigh.
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” Smith said.
He said leaving and returning are both adjustments that brought on bigger changes than he expected, both socially and academically, making new friends and navigating a new campus and curriculum.
Yet the familiar faces at Lehigh helped him readjust. He is in the College of Business and Economics and is waiting for his credits to transfer.
Smith said he wanted the “quintessential college experience,” and he found that at Lehigh.
The appeal of a smaller school and classroom environment was also the motivation for Meghan Ducey, ’22, to transfer from the University of Delaware to Lehigh.
She said the smaller student body pushes her to get involved and participate in classes.
“I wanted more of a challenge, and that’s why I’m here,” she said.
She said the transition to Lehigh was easy because she completed orientation with other transfer students, and the orientation leaders had been transfer students, as well.
She said she was able to set up classes and sort out her transferring credits without hassle by speaking with her adviser over the summer.
Unfortunately, the academic transition had not been as easy for Passione. She was met with difficulty when she tried to get her credits from American to transfer to Lehigh, a long process that she said she had to fight through.
She said she was also steered by an adviser to take a light course load her first semester at Lehigh to ease into Lehigh’s workload. She said she believes this has now left her with a heavy course load for the rest of her undergraduate semesters and makes it unlikely that she’ll have the option to study abroad.
Passione, who is studying financial marketing, said she is still trying to plan her schedule to make it possible for her to graduate in four years and study abroad.
“It’s hard to figure out what you want to sacrifice, how you want to delegate your classes and what you can handle, because you don’t know until you’re in it,” Passione said.
Despite this, she said there are many positives to transferring. She said she feels much more comfortable at Lehigh and loves the business school, her professors and living in Farrington Square.
She said she is still trying to navigate Lehigh’s social scene, where she said Greek life is more prevalent than she had imagined. Due to her previous involvement with Greek life at American, Passione was unable to rush a sorority at Lehigh as she would have liked to.
Ducey and Sam Ghorashi, ’20, were also concerned with the social transition.
Ducey said despite her confidence in the decision to transfer, she was worried it would be difficult to meet people her age. She said she felt more at ease when she met her orientation group and took classes with mostly sophomores.
Ghorashi said he felt “extremely lucky” with his transfer situation, yet he also said he felt as a transfer student, he had a “major disadvantage” socially, as everyone already had their definitive friend groups.
Ghorashi transferred to Lehigh as a junior after he quit the squash team at his previous school, Connecticut College. He said playing the sport was his main reason for choosing that school, so he set his sights on looking elsewhere.
He wanted a school with a strong career network, which he found at Lehigh.
Ghorashi said the business school aided the transfer students with assimilating and meeting other students.
Ghorashi also joined the club squash team, through which he has met friends. He said joining clubs and different organizations on campus is the best way to meet new people and find friends.
“You gotta make sure that you’re willing to have different experiences and be with different people,” Ghorashi said. “You have to be open-minded.”
Coming from a liberal arts school, Ghorashi has had to catch up on prerequisites for his classes. He will have to wait to take some of his major classes in the business school, which he said is something incoming transfers should know about.
Ducey’s advice for students considering transferring is to try to stay for the entire first year to have time to figure out what he/she truly wants.
Passione would advise future students thinking about transferring to heavily consider the classes and majors, in addition to social aspects.
“Do it, but also don’t close the door and burn bridges on your way out,” Smith said.
Previously, transfer applications were only accepted for the fall semester. Sarah Bombard, senior associate director of the Office of Admissions, said Lehigh will offer transfer applications for the spring semester beginning in 2020.