Sometimes university experiences don’t live up to expectations, but many people think that once you've started your course, there’s no room for change. Meet three dBs transfer students who discovered a better way.
You’re constantly told university will be the best time of your life, so it can be a massive disappointment when reality doesn’t live up to this expectation. Whether you’re dissatisfied with your course, not enjoying the culture on campus or simply longing to live somewhere else, it can be scary to confront the possibility of change, but it’s important to know that the option is there and you’re not alone in considering the switch. At dBs, we welcome a number of transfer students every year. We sat down with three of them to find out exactly what their experiences of switching were like.
Dealing with disappointment
There are several reasons why students decide to transfer to dBs from other universities. For Music Production and Sound Engineering student Tom, the decision came down to a lack of relevant course content and practical learning opportunities at his previous institution.
“I didn’t feel like my previous uni was very hands-on. I remember when I did the tour of dBs, a lot of the focus was on the equipment they had and what they would teach you rather than, at my previous uni, who had studied there in the past.
“After a year, I didn’t really feel as if my course had really covered that much of what I came to university for. I was looking at my modules for my second year and it was more of the same. Not much practical stuff. We were going to be studying modules like ‘the history of music production part II’ which is very interesting and all but didn’t feel like the most useful thing to be spending my time on. I had come to uni to learn the practical skills I needed to get a job in the industry, rather than just ‘get a degree’. The way the course was structured meant that all the hands-on learning was scheduled for the end of the year, so I completely missed that due to lockdown.”
Electronic Music Production student Dom was disappointed by the access to facilities and equipment provided by his previous university. “At my last institution, you would be inducted into what studios you could use depending on your course. So the main production studio at the uni was a music recording studio, and I wasn’t allowed to use that at all as an electronic music production student. At dBs you just have to get inducted and then you can use any and all of the studios, which in my opinion is a better way of doing it. When you’re paying £9000 a year I feel like you should be able to use whatever facilities you want.
“During my first year, something happened to me which took a lot of time out of my life to deal with, so I needed an extension on one of my assignments. I was only given one day over the Christmas holidays to use the studios to complete the work, and they were threatening to cap my marks for that module at 40% otherwise.
“Unlike dBs, they didn’t give out extended license keys for Ableton so I wasn’t able to work on my project from home either. The fact dBs does this is so great because most students probably can't afford £500 software. Over the lockdown, we’ve been able to book out hardware and take it home as well, which is really useful and so much fun.
Electronic Music Production student Oli’s decision to switch was linked to location. “I wasn’t happy with where I was living. There was very little happening and I didn’t feel like the education I was receiving - the way they were providing the course - was up to scratch. I wanted to move to Bristol, where there’s more of a music scene, which is kind of important if you’re studying music.”
Poor access to equipment and facilities at his previous university led Dom to consider studying elsewhere
“My family and friends are also in Bristol. Whilst I was at my last uni I was finding myself back here every two weeks, and then I got to a point where I realised this isn’t normal. After about four or five months of giving it a decent go, I realised I should commit to the fact I wanted to leave.”
Dom says he’s also enjoying studying in a ‘music city’ since switching to our Bristol centre. “Studying in Bristol is great too because I’m really into Drum and Bass and Bristol is basically the home of that. There are lots of people on my course who are into it as well, which wasn’t the case at my previous uni. It’s nice being surrounded by people with the same interests as you.”
“Being from Exeter, I’m also really enjoying studying closer to home – and closer to my partner as well. It means we can live together and my accommodation is much cheaper.”
Bristol's vibrant music scene has inspired a number of students to make the switch
Making the switch
The process of transferring universities is different for every student and depends on a number of factors, such as university transfer policies, how far into your degree you are and how much overlap there is between your new and old course. For Dom, the process was relatively trouble-free: “It was really smooth overall. The only minor problem was trying to find my English GCSE which was required for my transfer application to be approved. So I had to get in touch with the examining body to get this sent over because I couldn’t find it. Apart from that, it wasn’t too stressful at all. Everything was checked incredibly quickly and dBs were able to tell me very fast that my chances of being accepted were incredibly high.
“dBs asked me to send a copy of my results for first-year and my module handbook so that they could check how much overlap there was. Luckily there was a lot. My first year at my last uni had been mainly about learning to use the software and hardware, which is similar to dBs.”
Although the admissions team at dBs work incredibly hard to make the transfer process as pain-free as possible, some students reported difficulties when approaching their old universities about the change. “I perhaps would have been more forceful in dealing with people,” Oli tells me, “especially with my old uni who were trying really hard to stop me from leaving. They tried to set up calls and interviews with me to try and convince me otherwise.
When I told them I was definitely going to leave they put up every single roadblock they could to stop me. For example, when I was trying to sort transcripts to send over to dBs, they made things really difficult.”
This experience was echoed by Tom: “When I spoke to my original uni about the potentiality of switching to another one of their courses, they didn’t like the idea. It was more like ‘well you’re here now so just get on with it.’ I spoke to student support about not being particularly happy with my course and I got a follow-up email six months later, asking me how I got on with the issue. I was like ‘sorry, I’ve already left!’
A more specialist and supportive learning environment
Despite these difficulties, Dom, Tom and Oli are unanimous in the opinion that going ahead with the change has been worth it.“I think it was the right thing to do to switch,” Tom says. I think I was unlucky that this has all played out during COVID which makes everything harder, but I think I should have just come to dBs in the first place.”
Oli added “dBs has been really good at integrating me into my second year and I feel like I’ve fit into my course really well. I didn’t find it hard to integrate with the course, even though the equipment was a bit different from my last uni. dBs has definitely been a lot more supportive and interested in my education than my previous uni.
Making friends as a transfer student is easier than you might think
“I would say to people who want to do music production to go to a music production focused uni, like dBs. My last uni was a generalist music university and I found the production course was like a tick box for them to be able to say they teach music production. At dBs everything is about music technology so if you’re interested in production choose somewhere where that is the emphasis.”
Dom realised he has made the right choice after meeting his tutors as dBs. “There was one great tutor at my last institution, but the rest of the tutors weren’t very electronic music-focused, they were more experienced in traditional studio-based recording.
“At dBs it’s completely different. For example the other day I had a lecture with Ben Glass who is one half of Dubkasm. It took me a couple of weeks to realise I actually have a poster on my wall from an event they played at. The tutors are actually in the scene I am interested in and have experience in the kind of music I want to get into. Anyone can learn music production from an academic point of view, but to be taught by people who actually have the experience, connections and can give you these production tips they have learnt from being electronic artists themselves is so much better.”
Ben Glass, like many dBs tutors, is an experienced electronic artist
It's your decision
So what should someone do if they find themselves in a similar position to Dom, Oli and Tom? “Most people go to uni and just love it so if you’re not feeling like that and you have the time in the year, I’d say just do it,” Oli says. “There are a lot of people who will tell you to give it a good go. I had to do some convincing of my parents and now they say ‘that was the best thing you ever did.’ Sometimes you know better than anyone else what you want and you need, so just follow through with that.
Dom added, “You have to work out whether you’re unhappy with your course because you’re not getting what you want out of it or because you just don’t like what you chose. I knew 100% that I wasn’t happy because of the way it was being taught to me. There was nothing else I wanted to study at university but electronic music production, so I knew I needed to seek that out elsewhere. I think if you’re thinking about doing the same you should just go for it.”
Above all, this is your decision to make, emphasises Tom: “If you’re not happy where you are, your current uni is going to say everything they can to make you stay. I think it’s important to stick to your guns and know what you’re looking to get out of your course, and if your uni isn’t providing that then you have every right to switch. Remember, at the end of the day you’re the one paying for this.
“I’ve adapted to things really quickly and I think maybe even switching unis gives you a bit of an advantage in that you’ve got a bit more experience. You’ve seen how one place does it and how another place does it and maybe, you know, that makes you a little bit more well-rounded.”
Thinking about transferring to dBs? Our admissions team will be happy to talk you through the process. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.