Should I transfer and how do I tell my parents? Watch

dreamqueen
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I'm currently studying at oxford (just finished my first year) but I have a general feeling of dissatisfaction - I don't feel particularly close to anyone there, and whilst I have enjoyed most of the course, I have experienced several problems with the system, e.g. a middle english tutor who's old and out of it and a lack of coherent marking criteria. I wasn't particularly happy with my exam results, so it's not like I'm totally academically thriving. I don't want to regret my choice of university and the three years I spent there, so I'm considering transferring to UCL. They have a few places, although I would have to apply through UCAS. The main reasons to stay in Oxford are the reputation of the uni, the fact that I have a house there that I have to pay rent for, and the lack of certainty that I will have a better time at UCL. Do you think it's worth the risk of transferring and if so how should I tell my parents? I'm so worried about disappointing them because they were so proud I got into Oxford and think it's a great opportunity. Opinions?
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Minerva
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(Original post by dreamqueen)
I'm currently studying at oxford (just finished my first year) but I have a general feeling of dissatisfaction - I don't feel particularly close to anyone there, and whilst I have enjoyed most of the course, I have experienced several problems with the system, e.g. a middle english tutor who's old and out of it and a lack of coherent marking criteria. I wasn't particularly happy with my exam results, so it's not like I'm totally academically thriving. I don't want to regret my choice of university and the three years I spent there, so I'm considering transferring to UCL. They have a few places, although I would have to apply through UCAS. The main reasons to stay in Oxford are the reputation of the uni, the fact that I have a house there that I have to pay rent for, and the lack of certainty that I will have a better time at UCL. Do you think it's worth the risk of transferring and if so how should I tell my parents? I'm so worried about disappointing them because they were so proud I got into Oxford and think it's a great opportunity. Opinions?
Only you know whether it's worth the risk of transferring. Is there anyone you could discuss this with, who isn't emotionally involved, so that you can look at the pros and cons carefully and systematically? Sometimes people find the first year at uni doesn't quite live up to expectations, for all sorts of reasons, and find that it gets better as they progress through the course and have more choices about what they study. Maybe Middle English will be either off the list or you can pick a course in it that doesn't involve moribund dons. Also, consider talking to your parents (perhaps not just yet while you are still thinking it through, but before you make a final decision). You may be surprised (pleasantly) by how they respond. What most parents want, more than anything else, is for their children to be happy and fulfil their potential. If you can explain why UCL offers you more opportunities for achieving these things, they are more likely to support rather than criticise a decision to transfer. After all, UCL is not exactly a rubbish outfit!

But do be sure that you would not just be taking the issues with you. Be honest with yourself about how much of your dissatisfaction is truly Oxford related, and how much of it might be linked to your personal response to being at uni at all, and whether the expectations that you had when you got there were realistic or not. Every uni course has its down side; it may be that more of this than you expected materialised in your first year.

Hope that helps - good luck!
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L i b
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Personally I wouldn't. Change course, make new friends, whatever - I'm quite sure the opportunities are very wide at Oxford.
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goali2
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Well UCL isn't exactly a lower tier university. Its definitely up with the big players and if this what you want then you should go for it. As if your dissatisfied your much more likely to under achieve. But if you do go to UCL and like the course and environment then your definitely going to score higher and improve your job oppurnities. And I would rate UCL just a bit below than Oxford. But defently in my big 5 unis in the UK perception does vary though. But if your worried about the academic side I know UCL wont let you down. So if u want to change go for it. Though I would consider thinking it through once more.

Good luck with whatever decision you make.
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Phoenix Wright
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I think, before you make any decision, you should learn a bit more about UCL (or any university that you would be considering). Part of your feelings (though I am by no means certain) is, perhaps, your hinted at social alienation. You may want to think about becoming more involved in the university's lifestyle. You must realize that you might not get along with people at UCL or be really close to them either (being in an urban university can be a more distant social experience than a campus university). I think, before you make any decisions, you at least think of those two things.
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kellywood_5
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Not feeling close to anyone is unlikely to change at UCL really. Maybe you just need to make more of an effort? Talk more to the people on your course or the people you live with, join clubs and societies to meet like minded people and arrange to go out and do things with them more. I'm assuming the Middle English module has finished now? Even if you have that tutor again next year, I'm sure there's some sort of complaints procedure you could use, and that would help with the marking criteria as well. You'll have more choice over options next year, so you should find the course more interesting. As for your exam results, do you know what the problem was? Maybe you were less motivated because you were unhappy? Or maybe you just need time to adjust to university exams? Academically the standard won't really be any lower at UCL, and the fact that it's also generally seen as a top 5 uni means you shouldn't worry about reputation because your career prospects will still be excellent with a degree from there. Your parents want you to be happy, and if that means transferring to UCL, I'm sure they'll support you. But think about whether your problems will really be solved by transferring or whether there are things you can do to make yourself enjoy Oxford more.
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dreamqueen
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Next year I don't have any choice of papers and I am likely to have the same awful tutor again (I am in discussion with the master over whether I can change tutor but it's very complicated).

The issue of exam results is mainly a lack of any explanation regarding what they are looking for, rather than a lack of interest on my part. For example I did badly on what I thought was my best paper, one I worked very hard for, and I was predicted a 1st - I don't see the point of working like that if it's not going to pay off.

In terms of meeting people, it's difficult to meet people on the course because we're mainly taught in college. I will make more of an effort with clubs and societies if I stay but most of the things I'm interested in, for example volunteer work, aren't the most sociable of activities. I don't really enjoy clubbing and getting blind drunk - the typical 'studenty' things

My main fear with transferring is that, as people have suggested, I won't have any better a time at UCL - indeed I might feel alienated from people after a close college setup. But then again if I still feel like this during my second year at Oxford it will be too late to transfer. Argh!
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Minerva
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Hmm. Pity about the awful tutor. If this is a critical part of your course, I would say it was definitely worth pursuing the discussion with the Master about changing, however complicated it might be. The intimacy of the college teaching arrangements is put forward as a great strength at Oxford but your experience highlights the other side of it.

Now that you have found out the hard way about the marking criteria you will be in a much better position for next year. The work you did will not have been wasted; it never is, and will surely come in handy another day.

I can't believe that there aren't a few kindred spirits for you out there - probably feeling much the same as you do - but none of you will find the others by staying in college. You do have to get out there and join something - anything - to get going. Starting all over again at UCL, from a social point of view, could be really distracting and if anything more disheartening - because one of the things that draws people to London is the night life - and you may find it even more isolating.

Only you can decide on this one - but if you can sort out the tutor problem I reckon you would be moving a long way towards having a more positive experience next year.
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Angelil
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(Original post by dreamqueen)
The issue of exam results is mainly a lack of any explanation regarding what they are looking for, rather than a lack of interest on my part. For example I did badly on what I thought was my best paper, one I worked very hard for, and I was predicted a 1st - I don't see the point of working like that if it's not going to pay off.
Sadly, this won't change unless you're planning on changing course - I fear it's the nature of English courses and I found myself nodding in agreement at this bit, as I can completely understand your frustration (I've just finished an English-based degree at Exeter). So transferring to UCL won't help you there. I've found that how well you do on a particular exam seems to have little to do with how much you understand, how much you enjoy the module and how hard you revise - it has more to do with who's marking your essay and what sort of mood they're in! Equally, by the nature of an English degree, the marking criteria are always going to be vague.

I also completely understand when you say about clubbing and drinking - I joined the Classics Society at Exeter because they promised several non-drinking based activities, such as putting on a play (which never happened...), only to find that most of their activities were more bacchanal than I had expected. Shame really, and I know all too well how out of the loop it makes you feel (I hate clubbing too).
However, there really are loads of societies out there who aren't into that kind of thing, even if it doesn't feel like it. I was part of a gardening project with GreenSoc at Exeter for a bit (had to quit because of insane workload) and they were all vegetarian or vegan and most of them were teetotal as well, meaning socialising with them was a totally different experience. Made me feel like the sinful one Plus there are choirs, university newspapers, and various other societies whose social experiences aren't based around drinking. At Exeter we have a chocolate society, so as you can imagine, only chocolate-based beverages are allowed

Hang in there and it will probably get better, as long as you make the effort socially and persevere this issue with your tutor - it's always worth raising things you're unhappy with. "Work and struggle and never accept an evil that you can change." (Doesn't sound very cheerful but it's true! Ah, André Gide, how we love you )
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kellywood_5
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(Original post by dreamqueen)
Next year I don't have any choice of papers and I am likely to have the same awful tutor again (I am in discussion with the master over whether I can change tutor but it's very complicated).

The issue of exam results is mainly a lack of any explanation regarding what they are looking for, rather than a lack of interest on my part. For example I did badly on what I thought was my best paper, one I worked very hard for, and I was predicted a 1st - I don't see the point of working like that if it's not going to pay off.

In terms of meeting people, it's difficult to meet people on the course because we're mainly taught in college. I will make more of an effort with clubs and societies if I stay but most of the things I'm interested in, for example volunteer work, aren't the most sociable of activities. I don't really enjoy clubbing and getting blind drunk - the typical 'studenty' things

My main fear with transferring is that, as people have suggested, I won't have any better a time at UCL - indeed I might feel alienated from people after a close college setup. But then again if I still feel like this during my second year at Oxford it will be too late to transfer. Argh!
Is it only the tutor and the vague marking criteria you don't like? Do you like the course itself, as in the things you're studying? If so, it looks like changing your tutor would make things better and you'd have no reason to transfer from a course point of view because Angelil pointed out that the vagueness is likely to be the same everywhere.

I understand your situation in terms of the social life because I also hate clubbing and don't drink and it is quite hard to find people who feel the same. If you do volunteer work, even if your specific project is one you do on your own, surely you'd meet other volunteers through the society that organises it? If you're interested in sport, you could join a club or team. I know the sporty types are usually the worst for getting hammered, but even if you didn't go out with them in the evenings, that would still give you someone to socialise with during the day and at weekends. Other than that, look for clubs and societies that suggest they're about more than just drinking. For example, if you're religious, that could be another option.
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jointhedots
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(Original post by dreamqueen)
My main fear with transferring is that, as people have suggested, I won't have any better a time at UCL - indeed I might feel alienated from people after a close college setup. But then again if I still feel like this during my second year at Oxford it will be too late to transfer. Argh!
Assuming you're a UK student you'll be funded for the original length of your course plus one year; which means you do have the option of transferring back into year 2 at UCL if you're still unhappy during your 2nd year at Oxford. It does mean retaking a year but it's entirely possible. I'm doing it at the moment.

I don't think there's much to say about what you should think about before you transfer, but with regards telling your parents;

No matter how supportive they've been and how much they want the best for you, your parents are probably going to be worried at the least - that you won't finish your degree, that you're making the wrong decision for the wrong reasons...Etc.

The most you can do is show them that you've thought it through and done all your background research. Make sure you know that UCL will take you, that you know your reasons for transferring and that you can justify your decision - it's important to do this for yourself as much as for them, and it'll help convince them that you're serious.
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