More than a third of all college students transfer to a different institution of higher education at least once within 6 years.
But it’s not all the time. Around 45% who transferred switch schools 2 or more times.
So, in other words, transferring schools before earning an undergraduate degree is quite normal.
Planning on being a part of the statistics?
Whether you are unhappy with the academics at your current school or feel that it’s time that you apply to a selective institution that rejected you before, keep reading.
In this post, I will talk about important matters such as the common reasons why undergraduates transfer and the various factors to consider before you apply to a school as a transfer student.
I will also wrap things up with a quiz which you may give a go in case you arrive at the very end still on the fence as to whether or not you should head to another college.
4 Common Reasons Why Students Transfer Colleges
Different college students transfer schools for different reasons. In some instances, it’s to save money by doing an upward transfer.
Most of the time, however, it’s because of dissatisfaction with the current institution in terms of things such as academic quality, campus culture, location and cost of attendance.
Knowing what it is exactly that is making you consider switching schools is a must before you actually submit an application form to your target college.
Otherwise, you could end up facing the same problem at the new institution, thus leaving you thinking about moving to another school all over again.
Here are some of the top reasons why some students transfer to a different college:
Switching from community college
It’s not uncommon for some students, especially those from low-income backgrounds to first take general education courses or earn an associate degree at a community college before transferring to a 4-year institution to lower the cost of a bachelor’s degree, which can cost anywhere from $102,828 to $218,004, depending on the school.
Prohibitive cost of attendance
Speaking of which, another common reason why many undergraduates hop from one college to the next is to keep their educational expenses from wreaking havoc on their family’s income or savings.
In some instances, it’s the disappointment with the financial aid package that can urge undergraduates to work on a bachelor’s degree somewhere else.
Dissatisfaction with current college
Applying to the right college after high school is important.
Failure to attend the best-fit school could lead to anything from dropping out to transferring to a different institution.
Going to a college whose academic challenges, professors, social life, services and location do not go with a student’s expectations or preferences can negatively impact college experience.
Poor academic performance
Some college students transfer schools to give applying to their initial target colleges, which rejected them in the past, another go. It’s not that they are unhappy with their current institutions — it’s just that they still long for their dream schools.
However, this will only work if they have an outstanding application, especially if the transfer acceptance rate is low.
Things to Consider Before Transferring Colleges
Unlike entering college as a first-time, first-year student with zero postsecondary experience, transferring colleges means having earned credits under your belt, which you could lose in the process of transitioning from institution to institution.
And then there’s the fact that you will also have to consider a variety of factors that you took into account during your initial college-list-building endeavor — moving to a different college, at its core, is still all about finding the best-fit school.
It goes without saying that you should give your decision to switch colleges a lot of consideration.
Here are some of the most important matters for you to ponder upon:
Know transfer admissions requirements
Most colleges and universities process transfer applications and freshmen applications differently. It’s exactly because of this why the admissions offices of institutions of higher education have a transfer department.
Besides having different admissions requirements from first-time, first-year applicants, transfer applicants applying to different schools need to get their hands on varying materials or documents.
And in order for their applications to be processed, it’s a must for them to submit their applications complete with the rest of the requirements, which usually include:
- Academic letters of recommendations
- Both high school and college transcripts
- Transfer/college report
Of course, it’s also important to look into the deadline of application for transfer students. In most instances, transferees can enter only for the fall semester, whose transfer application deadline is commonly on March 1.
It’s therefore a must to not miss the deadline at your target school to avoid having to wait for the next admissions cycle or settling with your second choice.
Learn about transfer credits
Because you have previous postsecondary experience, albeit from another institution, there’s no need to start from scratch at your new school — otherwise, you would be entering it as a freshman instead of a sophomore or, in some instances, even a junior.
It’s due to this why the importance of checking out a college’s transfer credit policy cannot be stressed enough.
More often than not, courses completed at regionally accredited colleges will transfer. But, as expected, there are certain conditions to meet, which can vary from one institution to the next.
For instance, to earn credits from completed courses, you must have a grade of C or better in them.
It’s not unlikely for some colleges and universities to give you credits only if courses you have taken at another school are comparable to those being taught at your target institution in terms of description and/or level of rigor.
And for the office of the registrar at the new college to be able to evaluate completed courses, you should submit your transcript.
Many colleges can give only as many transfer credits. But, in most instances, up to 60 credits can be awarded, such as if you have already earned an associate degree, which brings you halfway toward a bachelor’s degree.
Currently attending a community college? Consider moving to a school with an articulation agreement with it.
Research academic program requirements
Other than the requirements for transferring to your target college, it’s also of utmost importance to determine the program requirements of the said institution.
Needless to say, different programs at the same school may have different requirements for transferees.
An academic program, for instance, may require you to take certain classes or complete a specific number of courses at your new institution of higher education.
At times, transfer students may be required to partake in an internship program prior to getting admitted to the program of their liking and being able to declare the major of their choosing.
Compare college costs
Especially if your reason for transferring to a different college is that you find your current one’s asking price too high for your family income, it’s a definite must that you look into the cost of attending your target institution.
Unless you apply for a waiver, the cost of switching schools starts with the transfer application fee.
Besides the application fee, which sometimes can be cheaper or higher or just the same as the application fee for freshmen applicants, it’s of course critical that you examine how much it would cost you to complete the remaining requirements toward a bachelor’s degree at your target school.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to ask about financial aid for transferees, especially because it’s not all the time that scholarships follow transferees to their new colleges or universities.
Requesting your FAFSA to be sent to your new school for renewal is a crucial step to take as a transferee.
Find out about campus life
Entering a new college with a sophomore or, at times, a junior standing can be more daunting than stepping foot in it as a first-time, first-year student.
That’s because everyone already knows everybody. But if the campus culture aligns with your social interests and values, then there may be very little to no need for some acclimatization.
Just like applying to colleges for the very first time, it’s a good idea to take a campus tour prior to applying as a transfer student to obtain firsthand experience of what it’s like to be the school’s attendee.
And while you’re at it, remember to look into the available extracurriculars and clubs and organizations.
Transitioning from your current to your new institution of higher education can go as smoothly as possible if you get to meet like-minded people right away, thus keeping you from feeling like you don’t belong.
As a matter of fact, many schools have transfer services that help transferees participate in transfer-related groups and activities.
Find the best location
Believe it or not, the location of your college could be to blame for some of the reasons why you are considering moving to a different school in the first place.
For instance, according to a college life report by North Central University, Christian university located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where your school is found can impact your finances.
A school located downtown, as an example, lets you get from place to place cheaply.
Location can also actually impact one’s academic performance.
For instance, research published by the US Department of Education (USDE) said that most mathematically deficient learners were found in major urban areas rather than other locations.
If you can trace the reasons for wanting to transfer colleges back to the location of your current school, determine what about it seems to be causing the problem so that you can choose a target school with a much more favorable setting.
Quiz: Should You Transfer Colleges?
Transferring college is as big a decision as entering college for the first time. As such, it can leave you feeling stressed, fatigued, anxious and confused in the decision-making process.
Still undecided if you should stay where you are or move to another school after everything you have read thus far?
Take the following quiz — answer each of the 15 questions below and, based on which letter you picked the most, I will tell you if it would be a wonderful idea for you to attend a different institution or if you’re better off staying put until such time that you have earned your bachelor’s degree or if you should give the matter much more thought.
1. Does your current college offer the major you are thinking about declaring?
2. Are you happy with your professors at your current college?
3. Generally speaking, are you proud of your current academic performance?
4. Does your current college have clubs and organizations you are interested in?
5. Do you like where your current college is located?
- I have no idea
6. Are there interesting things to do outside of the campus after classes or on weekends?
- I guess
7. Does the social scene at your college make you feel like you belong?
8. Is your current college experience pretty much how you expected it to be?
9. Do you have enough financial resources to stay where you are currently?
- Completely clueless
10. Have you researched how much it would cost to attend your target institution?
- Is it even necessary?
11. Do you have a good chance of getting into your target college?
12. Is your target school that all different from your current school?
- I think so
13. Have you looked into whether or not you might lose credits?
- I might lose credits?
14. Are you transferring on your own accord and not because your friends are transferring?
- I think so
15. Have you given your current college a fair chance?
First things first: there is no such thing as the perfect college. Even the best-fit school for you will still have something that you won’t like or agree with, but it doesn’t mean that you have to look for a different institution.
Considering most of your answers, it seems like there are certain steps you may take to make your stay at the college you are attending currently pleasing. Maybe you should explore other extracurriculars.
Maybe you should check out more hangouts outside of the campus. Maybe you should give yourself more time to get accustomed to your school’s culture and social scene.
It can be stressful to enter college for the first time. In most instances, it can be more stressful to switch colleges.
It’s apparent that you have given moving from College X to College Y plenty of thought.
No matter your reason for wanting to transfer to another institution, there’s no denying that it’s a solid and compelling one that admissions officers at your target school would most likely understand and acknowledge.
Since it’s clear that you have a valid reason for transferring and conducted research, too, then there’s probably no other thing to do but to make the transfer happen by completing the Common App or any other transfer form required.
But keep giving your best shot at your current college as every bit of your performance will matter at your target school.
Do you really want to transfer colleges or have you just simply learned that transferring colleges is a normal thing?
Clearly, you are unsure as to whether or not you are pursuing an undergraduate degree at the right place.
If you have no idea whatsoever of your school’s academics, extracurriculars, social life and others, maybe you should focus more on getting to know your current college more, rather than pack your bags and head to another institution.
And given that it seems like you are uninterested in the college you are attending and, most likely, working on a degree, perhaps it’s a gap year that you are looking for and not a change of campus.
Just Before You Decide to Transfer to a Different College
After making up your mind that taking your dream of earning a bachelor’s degree to another college is the only way to go, it’s time to decide which institution can make it come true. It can be a tedious process — you will have to consider things such as transfer application requirements and deadlines, transfer credits and cost of attendance.
The fact that getting in as a transfer student, more often than not, is harder than getting in as a freshman student is something to keep in mind, too. In most instances, wanting to run away from a bad academic performance won’t cut it.
Spend enough time and thought on switching colleges as your resources and future career are the ones on the line.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.