Is Transferring Colleges Worth It? Weighing Options

Your college major is not the only thing you can change. If you want, you can also change your college. In some instances, it’s a much better idea to switch colleges and deal with the accompanying challenges than stay in your current school and put up with the problems you are having because of attending it.

Transferring colleges is worth it for students having financial issues or poor academic performance. It’s also ideal for those wishing to earn a four-year degree after completing a two-year degree. However, most financial aid packages will not transfer with transferees to their new school.

Refrain from assuming that moving from one college to the other can make your resume look awful. Especially if you have a good reason for switching colleges, potential employers won’t think of you badly.

If you are thinking about moving to another college anytime soon, don’t stop reading now.

Below, we will look at some of the usual things that drive students to transfer institutions. By the time you get to the very end of this article, you will have a better idea if your reason for leaving your current school and attending a different one is valid and can help you meet both your academic goals and career aspirations.

Common Reasons for Transferring Colleges

Some students transfer colleges because they can no longer bear the cost, culture, or social issues. Others transfer to switch majors or earn a bachelor’s degree instead of a two-year degree. There are also students who transfer colleges to improve their academic performance or have a fresh start.

Different college students have different reasons for switching colleges.

No matter the reason for transferring, it’s a sensible move if the goal is to avoid college debts, financial issues, mental health problems, bad grades and missed career opportunities. See if yours is one of the following:

Financial issues

It cannot be denied that the name of an elite college or university can make your resume look better than the name of a non-prestigious school. It’s for this reason why many apply to the Ivy Leagues and the likes, although not a lot of them get accepted as these institutions are known for having some of the lowest acceptance rates.

Besides having low acceptance rates, competitive schools also tend to have high tuition and fees.

Think again if you believe that attending a public institution is cheap. The average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in the US increased by a whopping 80% from 2000 to 2014.

And this takes us to the fact that, for the academic year 2020 to 2021, the average cost of attending a public school is $10,560 for in-state students and as much as $27,020 for out-of-state students. On the other hand, the average cost of going to a private institution amounts to $37,650.

Because going to certain colleges and universities are cheaper, it doesn’t come as a surprise why many students enrolled elsewhere transfer to them the minute that they and their families feel any financial stress.

Related Article: Should You Stay in College or Drop Out

From a two-year to a four-year degree

Almost 25% of students who started at community colleges transferred to four-year institutions within six years. However, only 3.2% of them received a certificate or associate degree before transferring.

Either way, it’s not uncommon for students to first attend community colleges and then transfer to a school granting four-year degrees. Whether they switch schools before graduating or after graduating, there are all kinds of benefits that come with going to a community college first. Some of them are:

  • Keeping the cost of college to a minimum.
  • Having enough time to improve one’s college application.
  • Getting a sense of what higher education is like.
  • Exploring possibilities before choosing a major or bachelor’s degree.

Whether your funds are not yet enough for your preferred college or university or you have yet to make up your mind which career path you like, applying to a community college first makes a lot of sense.

Once you are ready to face the challenges and reap the fruits of attending a four-year school, you can apply to the one you like.

By the way, many two-year institutions in the US have agreements with four-year colleges that enable qualified students to transfer the credits they have earned toward the completion of a bachelor’s degree.

From one major to the other

It’s not uncommon for college students to change majors before graduation.

As a matter of fact, as much as 80% of students in college switch majors at least once.

So, in other words, there is no need to fret if you feel like your current major is not the right one for you. It’s not just your college or university that won’t mind you completing a new major but also potential employers.

Many students choose a school based on their chosen major. Graduating from an institution with a great program for your desired major can make your resume appear more impressive and desirable.

It’s because of this why you may decide to transfer to another college if you feel that your current school doesn’t have a good program for your new major. If both colleges are accredited, there is no need to go back from square one as it’s very much likely for some or all of the credits you have already earned to transfer to the school you wish to attend.

Social issues

Old friends can certainly make college a less daunting experience. Nothing can be more comforting than seeing faces you have been familiar with for many years on the campus.

However, it’s a terrible idea to pick a college just because your friends like it. Besides, according to experts, it’s a good idea for college students to make new connections.

Unfortunately, being far away from the people you love isn’t easy.

It’s because of this why many students end up transferring to regain their closeness and contact with the ones they have left behind. Feeling isolated in their chosen schools, seeing friends having a blast at other institutions, being many miles away from their families or significant others — these can drive students to seek higher education elsewhere.

Absent family and friends are not the only ones that can make being a college student unbearable.

It can also be due to the existing individuals and campus rules that can cause social issues, such as sharing the room with an unwelcoming roommate or following unreasonable rules on dating, partying and drinking.

Incorrect campus culture

There are many factors to consider when shortlisting colleges and universities. Something that is often overshadowed by reputation, programs offered, sticker price and other deciding factors is the campus culture.

Going to an institution whose culture is right for you provides the support and nurturing you need in your preparation to function well in a society that’s diverse and globally interdependent.

One of the best ways to figure out a campus’ culture is by paying the school a visit.

Whether you do it physically or virtually, it can give you an idea of the culture you will be immersing yourself in for the next four years of your life. Since it is your college experience that matters the most, a misfit in college culture can easily lead to college transfers.

The following are some other ways to learn more about a college without visiting it:

  • Talking with current students.
  • Getting in touch with alumni members.
  • Checking out the official website.
  • Taking a look at promotional materials.
  • Participating in support groups and discussion boards.
  • Attending college fairs and events.

Poor academic performance

Picking the wrong college could make students depressed — up to 27% of those who attended schools that aren’t the perfect fit showed increased symptoms of depression.

But other than attending a school that they don’t like, college students can also suffer from depression due to many other things. Some of them include being away from family and friends, alcohol and drug abuse, budgetary strain, social media, failed relationships, and pressure to get high grades and a high-paying job after graduation.

Feeling down can keep college students from performing very well academically.

As a matter of fact, mental health experts agree that lower grades might be the first sign of depression among teens as well as young adults.

Here are other warning signs of depression in college students, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Negative emotions
  • Irregular sleeping habits
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Lack of interest in extracurriculars
  • Persistent aches and pains

So, if you feel that your grades are dropping not because you are not bright but because you are not happy with where you are earning a degree, moving to a different institution could be a smart move.

However, before you start packing your things, make sure that the college you are about to transfer to is the right fit.

Having a fresh start

Some students who are unhappy with their academic performance switch schools right away to set things straight without delay. On the other hand, there are also those who choose to take a break from college.

This is a step taken by some students to figure out what they want or need to do and start from scratch, too.

When you transfer to another college or university, your course grades from your previous school will still appear on your transcript.

However, they will no longer be included in computing your new GPA. It’s true that your earlier GPA will be used in the admissions process, but it will not count toward your GPA at the other institution.

Fret not that moving from one college to the other will make you look bad in the eyes of potential employers.

That’s because, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), a little more than one-third of students who entered college for the first time switched schools at least once before earning their degrees.

Due to the fact that transferring colleges is quite common, employers aren’t surprised if the people they are interviewing enrolled in one college and graduated in another.

Related Article: Is It Possible to Start Over in College?

Study abroad programs

In 2019, there were a total of 1,095,299 international students enrolled in US colleges and universities. They make up 5.5% of the student body in the nation.

And this brings us to another common reason for transferring colleges: studying abroad.

Some US college students fly and earn their degrees from foreign institutions.

On the other hand, some students from other countries fly to the US to become international students. Either way, pursuing one’s higher education in a foreign country comes with an assortment of perks and rewards.

The following are some of the things you may enjoy for applying to an overseas institution:

  • See the world.
  • Experience a different culture.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Explore new passions in life.
  • Improve self-confidence.
  • Meet friends from different backgrounds.
  • Build an international network.
  • Enjoy more job opportunities.

Keep in mind that while there are benefits to studying abroad, there are many challenges, too. Allowing the roadblocks to bring you down can make being an international student more harmful than advantageous.

Related Article: How to Get Into Cambridge: A Guide for US Students

Graduating from a more prestigious school

According to a 2020 study, graduates of elite colleges and universities are:

  • 20% better when it comes to performance than graduates of other institutions.
  • Paid more at the start of their careers.

Because of these statistical facts, it’s no wonder why a lot of students dream of earning a degree from some of the nation’s most prestigious schools.

Unfortunately for most, these institutions for higher education tend to be the most selective, too. This means that gaining admission into them is not the easiest.

Applicants who fail to receive an offer from top-notch schools usually end up attending less prestigious ones.

But that’s okay because it gives them the opportunity to get high GPAs, the kinds that competitive schools find irresistible.

When they feel that their grades are impressive enough, they can pack their backpacks and transfer. Moving at the right time is crucial since transfer acceptance rates are generally lower than freshman acceptance rates.

Is It Hard to Transfer From One College to the Other?

Transferring to a college is similar to applying to a college as a freshman student. However, the process is slightly different, with the GPA and course load being some of the most important admissions criteria. College transfer acceptance rates are generally lower than freshman acceptance rates.

As much as a third of all college students switch schools before completing their degrees.

Many students move from college to college not only because it is perfectly fine to do so but the process is also relatively simple. The exact steps to take when switching colleges may vary from institution to institution.

However, the general procedure remains the same no matter which school you are attending and which one you will move to.

Like applying to a college as a freshman, transferring schools is also stressful. Keep in mind the following tips in mind to keep your transfer go with very little to no hiccups:

  • Know the deadline for transfer applications. At some colleges and universities, the deadline for transferees to submit their applications is March 1 or 15. On the other hand, the deadline for transfer applications at other schools can be as far as April or even May.
  • Talk with the academic counselor. There are two academic counselors that you should get in touch with: the one at your current school and the one at the institution you wish to transfer to. Spending time with them also allows you to ask some of the most pressing questions about transferring.
  • Pay the financial aid office a visit. Most financial aid packages will not transfer with transferees to their new school. It’s a good idea to consult your new college and your aid provider, too, in order to determine whether or not your current financial aid will transfer with you.
  • Fill out the college transfer application form properly. Make sure that you complete the application correctly to avoid unnecessary delays. Also, see to it that you get your hands on all the supporting documents required by the new school, such as your transcript and letter of recommendation.
  • Write a winning admissions essay. It’s not just freshmen students who need to submit admissions essays. Most of the time, transferees are required to submit theirs, too. Give plenty of time and thought to your admissions essay to increase your chances of gaining admission into the school you wish to attend.

Just Before You Transfer Colleges

It’s nice to stay at the college or university you applied to until the time you complete your program. However, there is no point in staying if you are not happy with your course grades, the culture of the institution or the amount of money you need to shell out every semester.

There are many students who switch colleges. Similarly, there are many reasons why students transfer.

Employers know that transferring colleges is quite common. They are well aware, too, that it’s a wise choice in many instances.

If you firmly believe that replacing your current school with a new one will do your academic experience and planned career path good, get your hands on that transfer application form and complete and submit it.


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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