What to Do If Your Student Wants to Transfer? 8 Action Plan

As a parent myself, I know that hearing that their college-level kids want to transfer colleges can bring pretty much the same level of devastation and disappointment as knowing that they don’t want to go to college.

Here’s the thing: students transferring colleges may not be as common as students switching majors alright, but it tends to happen a lot, too.

And if your own college student leaves you feeling angry, anxious and frustrated upon expressing his or her desire to move to another school, keep in mind that you’re not the only parent in the land to feel these things.

Take a deep breath and read on.

In this post, I will talk about some of the things to do if your teenage child wants to transfer to another school. By the time you reach the end, you will have a much better idea of how to handle the matter the right way.

students transferring college

Note It Is Normal for Students to Want to Transfer

According to a survey conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), around 37.2% of first-time, first-year college students tend to transfer schools at least once within a span of 6 years.

In other words, more than one-third of all freshmen students switch colleges!

The same survey says, too, that up to 45% of those who transfer change schools more than once. So, in a nutshell, transferring colleges is completely normal and many are even doing it multiple times. But it doesn’t mean, however, that it can be any easier for a parent like you to accept the facts.

Nearly half of all transferees in the US are those who have completed a two-year or associate degree. But, in most instances, it’s been the plan all along — after community college, a 4-year institution.

But it’s an entirely different thing if your student plans on transferring from one 4-year school to another.

This time around, it would be better if he or she switched colleges after completing at least a full academic year — two semesters. Doing so will give your teener plenty of time to figure out whether or not the institution is indeed not a good fit. More importantly, it can keep him or her from having to take the same general education courses all over again.

Acceptance rate-wise, many admissions experts agree that the best time to transfer is during the junior year. It’s for the fact that it’s during this time that colleges are processing lots of transfer applications.

Related Article: Is Transferring Colleges Worth It?

Relax and Don’t Panic

Besides transferring to colleges, it’s also perfectly normal for teenagers to be reluctant to share their thoughts and emotions, most especially negative ones.

And nothing can be more negative than the feeling of not fitting well in a college for whatever reason, be it academically or socially.

The problem with this is that research says that teens who don’t share their emotions are likely to get depressed.

Chances are that your student is already feeling down for letting you down by wanting to transfer. And knowing that you’re down can make him or her not want to talk about the matter, which can make the teen feel even more down.

Everything can easily turn into an inescapable vicious circle!

And this is why the sheer importance of staying calm, cool and collected (even though you are fuming mad and/or downright disappointed inside) cannot be stressed enough. The goal should be to encourage your child to discuss the issue at hand and not put off any chance of having open and honest communication.

One of the many aspects of good parenting is being able to control yourself and your reactions and not allowing others or situations to get the best of you. And there’s no other way to achieve this than by controlling your temper.

Here are some quick tips on how to calm down the moment your teener declares a want to transfer:

  • Take deep breaths — breathe deep into your belly
  • Drink a glass of cold water
  • Take a cold shower
  • Visualize that you’re in a quiet place
  • Head to the bedroom and lie in bed for a while
  • Go outside to get some fresh air
  • Count from 1 to 10 — some experts suggest counting from 10 to 1
  • Have a cozy drink

Ask for the Reason for the Want to Transfer

There is something that all college students planning on switching institutions have in common.

And it’s none other than the fact that they will have to answer the “why are you transferring?” question sooner or later.

If colleges ask the said question to transfers, so should you!

Ask why your student wants to transfer
Ask why your student wants to transfer

Primarily, the reason why it’s a must for you to relax and not freak out, as discussed above, is to make it easier for your degree-seeking child to state his reason or reasons for wanting to enroll in a different college the following semester or year. Transferring to another school can be hard for teens, and talking about the matter can even be harder.

Refrain from assuming that switching colleges is always a bad thing. While it can be a complicated and, in some instances, costly step to take, the fact remains that there are cases in which it’s actually a good thing.

The following are just a few of the good reasons for students to attend another college:

  • Feeling like not belonging on the campus
  • Unhappy with the social scene
  • Not being able to afford tuition and living costs
  • Frustration with the quality of the program or education
  • Wanting another major not available
  • Incompatibility with the location or campus type

Is your student reluctant to talk about it? Don’t judge or dismiss his or her wanting to transfer petty. There are times when the reason can be personal, such as being in an abusive relationship or substance abuse. Make sure that you show some support and understanding in order to win your child’s confidence and trust.

Determine What Makes Another College a Good Fit

Congratulations on hearing straight from the mouth of your student why he or she wants to transfer to another school.

It’s not all the time that teenage kids are willing to communicate their thoughts and feelings, which they would much rather share with their friends, to their parents. So give your teener credit for it.

Alas, the discussion does not end and begin with getting to know the reasons for switching colleges.

Identifying which institutions would be a better fit is the next step to take. It’s like the college application season all over again — the two of you will have to choose a school once more based on several different factors.

This time, however, the necessary adjustments have to be made since the school that was supposed to be a great fit turned out to be not suitable for him or her based on how things turned out after close to a semester or a year. Otherwise, you and your student wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.

Look for colleges where the issue or issues that made your child decide to transfer are unlikely to be encountered once more. Which one is just as good but less pricey? Which school has a better program?

But since there is no such thing as a perfect college, keep your child from having too high expectations.

Making sure that the school the two of you are eying is the right one is of utmost importance. And this is why it’s just like applying to a college for the very first time — to be certain that it would be a better fit, you may have to take a campus tour and meet with an admissions representative to discuss matters.

Acknowledge That Transferring is Harder

We briefly mentioned that some students transfer to 4-year institutions after earning an associate degree from a community college.

Such can be a trouble-free process, in particular, if both schools have an articulation agreement with one another, which facilitates the transfer of students from one institution to the other.

Unfortunately, transferring is not as breezy for those who wish to go from one 4-year school to the next.

One of the reasons for such is that, generally speaking, the acceptance rates for transferees are lower than for first-time, first-year students. So, in other words, getting an acceptance letter is the biggest hurdle.

At Harvard University, for instance, the acceptance rate for freshmen students is around 5%. But it’s an entirely different story when it comes to those coming from other colleges and universities — the acceptance rate drops to 1%.

As a matter of fact, in 2022, out of the approximately 1,500 transfer applicants to Harvard, only about 12 got in.

Besides getting admitted into a new college as a transferee, there are other matters to consider.

It’s not unlikely for someone who is transferring after a semester or year of higher education to be asked to submit both high school and college transcripts.

At some institutions, transferees must have completed a particular total number of credits beforehand. Otherwise, they will have to start college from scratch.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, answering the question “why are you transferring?” will have to be done by your student. He or she must have a really valid reason in order to be welcomed with open arms by the new institution.

Is unhappiness with the social aspect at his or her college the reason your teen wants to transfer?

Then it’s important to make your child realize that it’s very much possible to feel the same way all over again at another school, given the fact that everybody there has already known one another for an entire semester or a full academic year at the least — feeling like being an outcast is not unlikely for the first few days or weeks or even months.

And there’s the fact, too, that most financial aid will not transfer from one college to the other automatically. Chances are that filling out the FAFSA and applying to external scholarships will have to be carried out anew.

Ask to Talk With an Academic Counselor

There’s someone on campus that your college student should communicate with, and it’s none other than the academic advisor.

Simply put, he or she is a professionally trained individual who can guide degree-seeking students through college so that they may be able to reach their academic and even career goals.

Have students talk to Academic Counselor
Have students talk to Academic Counselor

As the educational needs of students evolve and student bodies become more and more diverse, academic advisors, now more than ever, play a crucial role in the attainment of success in college and beyond.

One of their primary roles is to help students manage their stress and anxiety as they adjust to college life.

Speaking of which, chances are that your teenage son or daughter is having a difficult time getting accustomed to a world that’s so much bigger and faster-paced than high school, which is what could be the reason behind the desire to switch schools. Well, a trip to the academic advisor’s office can help him or her sort things out.

The sooner that your student meets with the academic advisor, the more likely it is for the outcome of the matter to be favorable — either he or she will stay or be able to transfer as hassle-free as possible.

Regardless of the issue that’s making your child think about enrolling in a different institution, he or she can count on the college’s academic advisor. It doesn’t matter if it’s about a roommate with a bad attitude, a schedule that’s leaving very little to no room for resting and relaxing, or a program that doesn’t seem to meet expectations.

As a matter of fact, your student can discuss things that he or she isn’t comfortable discussing with you!

And if no word of wisdom can make your college-level kid stay at the college, an academic advisor can also provide valuable insight and pieces of advice in making the transfer go with very little to no hitch.

Schedule an Appointment With a Professional

Especially if your teenager isn’t particularly happy with his or her current school, it can be very awkward to talk about it with the college’s very own academic counselor.

Fret not because, besides you and an academic counselor, your child can talk with someone else.

A former high school counselor is someone who can lend a helping hand.

Because a high school counselor is very much familiar with your student, he or she can help your teenage child decide whether going to a different college is the way to go or staying and giving his or her current school another chance is a much better option.

Consulting a therapist, in some instances, is a much better idea. This is especially true if it seems like the problem is stemming from within your child and not necessarily from the college he or she is attending.

There are times when meeting with a professional may help you get a much better picture of the severity of what your college student is actually going through to make him or her want to move to a different school. And if things can be mended, a therapist can help your youngster cope healthier and more effectively with college life.

As of this writing, the average cost of therapy in the US can range anywhere from $100 to $200 per session.

Before you start looking for a therapist near you with the help of Google, head to the college’s website or call its office first to check whether or not an on-campus therapist is available for its students.

Request to Complete a Semester or Two

Attending college for the first time is like moving to a new town or getting a new job — it requires some getting used to.

The University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign’s counseling center says that it’s totally normal for freshmen students to feel scared, anxious, lonely and overwhelmed during the first few weeks or months of college.

While higher education can be exciting, it can also cause a range of unfavorable emotions for newcomers.

If your student is thinking about switching colleges after being on campus for just a couple of weeks, chances are that he or she hasn’t fully acclimatized to being in an entirely new environment and seeing new people everywhere.

This is when encouraging your teenage child to do his or her best to stick around and try to complete a semester or two in order to give the adjustment phase time to be over can be beneficial. And after attending the school for a while, you can discuss transferring all over again to see whether or not your student still feels the same.

Academics, time management, roommate conflict, long-distance relationship, financial concerns — are just some of the things that can delay the adjustment of first-time, first-year students to college life.

In most instances, even on a college campus, things tend to get better with time.

Your student may end up fully adjusted to college life after a semester or year. Or things may remain the same and your teener may still have the urge to attend an entirely different institution. If such is the case, it’s probably much better to help your child look for another school that’s a better fit.

Over a third of all college students transfer to a different school at least once before they get their hands on their diplomas. So, in other words, it’s quite common among degree-seeking individuals.

There are proper ways for a parent like you to deal with this particular matter.

Above, we talked about some of the steps you may take in order to keep this difficult situation for both you and your college student even more difficult. Keep everything you have read in this post in mind and you can keep your relationship with your teener intact while the two of you work on the best possible solution to the issue.

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.

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