While The Daily Beast reports that Bowdoin is the 10th happiest college in the country, a recent Orient survey shows that nearly half of students polled have considered transferring during their time at Bowdoin.

Thirty percent of Bowdoin students, or 537 people, responded to a survey conducted by the Orient about transferring from the College. The survey was advertised through e-mails and the student digest. It did not require username authentication to complete.

Of the respondents, 47.3 percent, or 254 students, said they had considered transferring during their time at Bowdoin.

The percentage of students who considered transferring varied significantly from class to class.

Fifty-two members of the senior class, only 32.7 percent of seniors who responded, considered transferring.

The percentages were highest in the results of the junior and sophomore classes; 44.3 percent of juniors who responded, 61 students, and 43.6 percent of sophomores, 62 students, considered transferring.

This number dropped for the current first-year class, with only 35.4 percent of respondents, or 79 students, contemplating changing schools.

False alarms

Despite the high number of students who did consider transferring, very few acted upon their dislike of certain aspects of the College.

Only 29 students, or 5.4 percent of all students who completed the survey, and 11.4 percent of those who considered transferring, actually applied to other institutions.

The Class of 2012 had the highest percentage of student respondents submit transfer applications. Of the 29 students who did apply to transfer, ten—or 34.4 percent—were members of the current sophomore class. Five students, or 17.2 percent of all respondents who submitted transfer applications, were juniors.

Associate Assistant Dean of Students Margaret Hazlett said that "ten to fifteen students" approach her about transferring each year.

According to Assistant Dean of Students MaryBeth Mathews, this only equates to "about one or two students transferring each year."

Bowdoin boasts one of the nation's highest first-year retention rates, ranking second on a list compiled by U.S. News and World Report. According to the College's Office of Institutional Research, an average of 95.7 percent of first-year students have returned to Bowdoin in the last five years.

Is bigger better?

Hazlett said that the students who transfer are "really looking at a whole different type of school."

"We tend to see students apply to Brown, Wesleyan, Stanford or Yale," said Hazlett.

"Rarely [do students transfer] from Bowdoin to Middlebury or Amherst," she said. "It's usually to a larger university."

The survey results are in agreement with Hazlett's statement.

Twenty-one percent of those who considered transferring were looking for a larger institution.

Thirty-seven students, or 14.5 percent of students who wanted to transfer, wished to remain at a private institution, and 13.7 percent wanted to change to a more urban setting.

Only 5.2 percent of students who considered leaving were looking to transfer to public schools.

One reason students may consider a bigger school is for a larger course selection. 23.6 percent of students cited a lack of specific courses, departments, and majors as reasons for considering transferring.

The survey allowed for students to list the specific institutions to which they considered applying and the profiles of the most commonly listed schools align closely with the above results: New York University, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University and Columbia University.

Social slump

Discontent with the social life of the College was the top reason for students to consider transferring.

Of the students who thought about leaving Bowdoin, 44.9 percent said that they disliked the College's entertainment offerings or the party scene.

This percentage was high for the Class of 2012; 53.2 percent of students cited this as a reason for their unhappiness at Bowdoin.

In general, males seemed to dislike the entertainment offerings of the College more so than females. Fifty-three percent of Bowdoin men who considered leaving cited a dislike of the party scene as a source of discontent versus only 39.4 percent of women.

A first year male, who requested that his name not be printed, said he considered transferring because he "didn't like the social environment at Bowdoin."

"Too much of the social life is about drinking," he said.

"There is just not a lot of diversity," he said. "There is one mainstream crowd of people that dominates [the social scene], and if you don't affiliate yourself with it, there is just not much to do."

The inability to make friends and connect with the student body was the second-most common reason for Bowdoin students to consider transferring.

Ninety-seven respondents, or 38.2 percent of students who thought about transferring, struggled with this part of social life at Bowdoin.

A senior female, who asked not to be named, said she considered transferring because she had trouble "finding a niche."

"Freshman relationships work based primarily on your floor, but my floor was not at all compatible...I didn't feel comfortable...We didn't have the cohesive bond that most first year floors have," she said.

Not having a support system "was really hard," she said.

The third-most common reason for considering transferring was the desire for a greater variety of offerings in student life. Just over 35 percent of student respondents cited this as a factor in their wish to transfer.

One of these students was sophomore Mikel McCavana, who said the student life at Bowdoin factored into his decision to apply to transfer.

"I wanted something else," he said. In particular, he wanted more "musical opportunities."

"I came from a high school where there was a ton of music and a lot of theater," so coming to Bowdoin, he said, was "a step down."

"There were musical things by students but they were infrequent and under-attended," he said.

This past fall, into his second year and still unhappy, McCavana applied to Oberlin, Vassar and Bard this past fall, schools that he believes have greater artistic offerings. McCavana has decided to remain at Bowdoin, and his reasons for staying will be discussed further.

First year fears

Not surprisingly, most students who think about transferring consider doing so during their first year, as they are still adjusting to the changes that come along with college life.

Of the students who considered transferring, 34.2 percent thought about leaving Bowdoin in the first semester of their first year.

A comparable number of students, 32.38 percent, considered transferring during the second semester of their first year.

The Class of 2011 seemed to break the mold in some respects, however. Of those current juniors who considered transferring, only 16.4 percent considered doing so after their first semester. This is significantly smaller than the 50.6 percent of current first years, 27.4 percent of current sophomores, and 38.6 percent of current seniors who considered transferring during their first semester.

The percentage of current juniors who considered transferring during the second semester of their first year doubled to 32.8 percent, however.

This fits seamlessly with Hazlett's analysis of the transfer process.

Hazlett said her office talks with most students "after January break."

"We always see a jump in e-mail traffic [during this time]," she said.

Hazlett said "twice the number of students," communicate with her office after returning from winter break.

Support for students

"The transition to college is not easy," said Dean Mathews, and it appears that students most often turned to family when they needed support during the transition process.

Of the 254 respondents who considered transferring, 61.8 percent of students talked with family.

Females who considered transferring were more likely to discuss it with their families than males. Sixty-five percent of females talked to their families about transferring, but only 55.6 percent of males did.

Males who thought about leaving the College, however, were more likely than females to talk with friends at Bowdoin about transferring.

Forty-eight percent of males who considered transferring responded that they received support from friends at Bowdoin versus the 40 percent of females.

Only 10.2 percent of students who considered transferring talked with deans of the College.

Mathews says that if a student does approach her directly about transferring, she "listen[s] to what they're saying and to what they are not saying."

She says she lets them know that she is "perfectly OK with the fact that they might want to leave Bowdoin College."

"It is incredibly helpful to be non-judgmental...[and] to help forward the process of self-exploration," she said.

Dealing with drama

It is clear from the survey results and Bowdoin's high retention rate that the vast majority of students choose to stay at the College despite any doubts they may have.

Of the students who considered transferring, 18.9 percent responded that they coped with the problems that troubled them and decided to stay.

Hazlett said she believes much of this is because after "getting through the second semester, [students] get excited about roommates and classes [for the next year]."

By the second semester, students "have gotten involved in the fabric of the place...A lot can come together for students in March, April and May," she said.

Both Hazlett and Mathews said they never discourage students from applying to transfer.

Hazlett says she tells students they "have nothing to lose."

"Oftentimes they start to feel more comfortable here at Bowdoin because they did give themselves a chance to look elsewhere," said Mathews.

"I think in the course of applying to transfer...they have had a chance to look at their lives differently," she said.

Cal Pershan '12, who considered transferring during the second semester of his first year, agreed with Mathews.

"If you don't ever consider transferring...you might never critically evaluate your college experience or your own power to shape it," he wrote in response to the Orient survey.

"I'm very grateful [that] I gave serious thought to what I wanted to learn from a school and its community because it's helped me to appreciate Bowdoin for the wonderful place it is and for all it has to offer...It's helped me to seize these offerings and to make Bowdoin my own," Pershan wrote.

This was certainly the case for McCavana, as well. Though he was accepted to all three colleges to which he applied to transfer, McCavana decided to stay at Bowdoin.

McCavana says this was largely because he took "personal action rather than trying to find a school that fit" his needs.

This action came in his founding of the Bowdoin Musical Collective (BMC) along with fellow sophomore Nyle Usmani.

"I started this group that has been making a big difference...it was much more satisfying than going to a school where the musical activities already exist," he said.

"Trying to find a specific place that fits you is hard and it is much more fulfilling to make change [for yourself]," said McCavana. "Sometimes transferring solves [the problem] but other times it doesn't."

For Daniel Osiason, however, transferring from Bowdoin did solve the problem.

After his fall semester in 2008, he transferred from Bowdoin to the University of Miami.

"There is nothing really bad I can say about Bowdoin," said Osiason.

"I loved my classes. I had great roommates. I loved the faculty," he said. "I just wasn't happy."

Part of his unhappiness stemmed from what Osiason called "a lack of motivation."

"I was very studious in high school," said Osiason. "When I started college, I changed a little bit...I wanted to spend less time studying and spend more time experiencing the world."

He said that he realized "purely academic stuff was not going to make me happy."

Osiason does not know if he would have been able to adjust to life at Bowdoin if he had stayed, but he is glad he decided to transfer.

"I am very happy now," said. Osiason. "There was just so much... I hadn't explored yet," he said.

Distressing diversity data

Though the College has improved in the area in recent years, 27.2 percent of students who considered transferring cited a desire for greater diversity.

Hazlett said that things have changed in the last eight years or so. "We used to see more students who wanted to leave for greater diversity. We see less of that now."

The survey defined diversity in terms of race, politics or sexual orientation.

One first year female survey respondent said she considered transferring because of the lack of socio-economic diversity.

"There were times when I felt like I really didn't belong due to economic differences, but I realized that the education at Bowdoin was better than I would get elsewhere, so I chose to stick around because hopefully the education would help me be more effective in helping the people who don't have the chance for an education like Bowdoin," she said.

Survey issues

There were also responses suggesting ways in which the survey could be better constructed and conducted.

One student wrote that the survey should have "let people choose more than one semester that they thought about transferring. Some people think about it more than once."

Another wrote: "My guess is that this survey is going to be very biased, as it is much more likely for those that have considered transferring to fill out this survey than those who have not. I can only hope that the Orient is responsible enough to not present this in any way that may suggest that it is a representative sample."