SparkNotes Blog

Real Talk: Why Being A Transfer Student Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

Most of the other 419 members of my senior class were really feeling Vitamin C’s “Graduation”-induced mush when we suited up in our caps and gowns to receive those hard-earned diplomas, but something about the lyrics just never rang true to me.

See, I was a certified newb around the giant halls of my third (yes, third) high school senior year and never quite formed those everlasting bonds that seemed built in with some of the other students as they sobbed into each others’ hair after the ceremony. At first, I felt a bit jeal and alienated from my class, but looking back I realize that while I didn’t make the yearbook superlative list and probably won’t go out of my way to hit all the reunions, there were actually a lot of unique experiences I gained from all that high school-hopping.

A variety of pals

Even though I moved a lot and had my hands filled to the brim with homework, college apps, and a part-time job, I was never quite stuck in some no-friends-allowed loner funk.

In fact, I met a lot of people who had super different attitudes and experiences along the way—from the girl at the magnet school who wrote her SAT score on her forehead in permanent marker as a not-so-humble brag (which I now realize was an actual badge of insecurity), to the dude who successfully argued that anarchy should be included as a legitimate type of government for our civics presentations, to the popular guy who dyed his sideburns blue and liked to jump into the plough mud next to his parents’ dock during parties.

I went horseback riding for the first time with a gal who lived smack dab in the middle of the woods. I went on the senior trip to Florida even though there was exactly one familiar face in the travel group. I played volleyball, performed in a play, joined the mock trial team for a year… I never settled into one crowd for the restie, but that also meant I made acquaintances with a lot of ridiculously interesting people instead.

Seeing the spectrum

Getting to live in entirely new worlds from one grade to the next was also a gobsmacking wake-up call about the variety of education options from program to program. See, in my first HS—a magnet program—I was taking high-brow (read: tough) stuff like AP European History and Honors Chemistry. If I finished there, I would’ve had at least five college credits and an elaborate thesis project under my belt before it was done.

But then the ‘rents moved to this super rural area with this teeeensy K-12 private school with 29 in our entire class. Not only were there no advanced classes at all, but my English teacher there devoted an entire semester to the Lord Of The Rings and making sure everyone knew how to write in perfect cursive. This is an eleventh grade class, so I was full of WHAT about that situation (but also happily tacking that easy “A” onto my transcript).

At the third, the local public school where my parents relocated for the second time (sigh), they offered a school-to-work program as a means of encouraging vocational education, which I thought was smart and useful. Not only could I could get class credit while I made money (cha-ching) and kicked off my resume, but I also got to roll outta the parking lot in my squealy Volvo at lunchtime every day, feeling like a little boss.

The broad scope here is actually a pretty accurate reflection of what the different majors entail, from the uber-competitive, to the occasionally lackadaisical, to the straight-up work track-oriented options.

Feeling the fresh start

Being a transfer student also totally taught me how to deal with a new start—and another, and another—which was actually pretty crucial to hitting the college level, where every class presented a whirlwind of new faces. There’s no such thing as a set schedule—at least not for my major/minor—so not being super attached to a specific crew or study buddy system beforehand meant it wasn’t some huge, life-altering adjustment to be friend-flexible at this level. Bursting out of that familiar bubble gave a lot of people trouble, but for me it was a cinch.

I used to be shaded envy-green over all those people who grew up and graduated together as a friend-family unit, but in reality, transferring back and forth like I did gave me a perspective all my own that I wouldn’t trade for the biggest homecoming court bouquet on the planet.

What are your thoughts on switching schools during high school? Big deal, or NBD?