No college is one-size-fits-all, and not every student finds the right fit the first time around. Dominica was one of those students.
Looking for a Switch
When she stepped onto campus a month before the start of classes, Dominica knew her school wasn’t right for her. On paper, it seemed like everything she wanted: a small school where she could make close friends, enjoy a more personalized experience in her classes, and get to know her professors.
Dominica was also enticed by the research opportunities on campus. When she arrived, though, she found it difficult to actually access any research teams or clubs. “Even research led by students was difficult to get into,” she says.
But Dominica wanted to give it a chance. It takes time to get used to college, where students leave behind the lives they’ve lived for 18 years. She felt like maybe it was just part of the process of adjusting.
“I was part of the softball program there, rushed a sorority, got on the executive board of Colleges Against Cancer, and tried to begin researching,” she says. “I thought that getting involved and meeting new people would help make my old school feel like home, but in the end it didn’t help as I felt even more lost.”
A few months in, Dominica opened up to one of her professors about her doubts. “She told me that I sounded like I knew what I wanted to do, so I should just transfer.”
That advice, coupled with her feeling out of place on campus, drove Dominica’s thoughts from “Do I want to transfer?” to “Where do I want to transfer?”
After visiting her friends and seeing the Main Quad, she landed on Illinois. “It sounds kind of cheesy, but it felt like home,” she says.
She loved the Quad, the openness, the people. Sure, Illinois was a big school—which can be frightening—but it felt full of possibilities. So she decided to apply, and well, we all know how that went.
Jumping Right In
Once Dominica came to Illinois for her first semester in the spring, both she and her parents could tell the difference: “When [my parents] dropped me off that first semester, they said I just looked completely miserable … when they dropped me off at Illinois, they were really confident because I looked really confident,” she says.
Although big changes are never easy, it wasn’t long before Dominica found her rhythm. “Nothing prepares you for that first day walking through the crowds, trying to race to class and figure out where your classes are … [but] once I started making more friends and finding where I fit in and everything, things got a lot easier and it was just smooth sailing from there.”
Of course, she had some help with the transition, namely from her advisor, Gary. “He was and still is awesome,” she says, “He made sure I registered for my classes. He made sure I was not failing anything, and if I was nervous I could ask him.”
That support, along with attending events like Winter Quad Day at the Union, helped Dominica get involved and allowed her to dive into her passions: everything from researching mice and fish in a behavioral lab to fulfilling her dream of studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. “[Study abroad] was the best five months … of my college career,” she notes.
Now graduated, working, and full of memories of Illinois, Dominica only has this advice for other transfers: “Don’t be scared to take that jump … you’ll find your place.”