Originally Posted: Jun 20, 2011
Last Updated: Jul 12, 2016
A major contributor to college success is identifying with the school and wanting to be there. If you’re thinking about making a change, know that you’re not the only one!
Did you know that one-third of college seniors have transferred at some point during their college careers? Predictably, more students at two-year colleges transfer—about 42%—than those at four-year institutions, where only about 23% make a move.
There are three basic questions every transfer student asks: How will my credits transfer? How long will it take to finish my degree? And what is it going to cost me? The answers to these questions are entirely dependent on the institution you intend on joining and the credits you’ve accrued at your current college. If transferring early in your college career, most of the courses you’ve taken will (ideally) assume the prerequisites required in the new program. This will help you graduate on time and with nominal additional fees. If cost is a primary concern, remember that you can still apply for financial aid, and many schools offer specialized scholarships for transfer students.
Transfer students switch schools for many reasons. Most feel that their current institution is the wrong fit—something about their school just doesn’t feel right, and they want a place that gives them a sense of belonging. Or they chose to start at a two-year school and find it is now time to transfer to a four-year college or university. It’s important to find a school that meets your expectations. Start your college search from scratch, or revisit a campus that you loved when you first began. Visit friends on different campuses to see how you’d fit in. It’s a lot of work, but thankfully, there is help.
Students have many choices, and transfer coordinators are responsible for making them feel heard, special, and important. Coordinators recognize that many students lose interest when they are not given the proper amount of time and patience when they inquire about transferring.
The transfer coordinators or counselors at the colleges you are considering can aid in this search. They try to ease the decision-making process by making sure you know everything possible about their schools. These specialized admission counselors are sensitive to the fact that the road to a four-year college differs for transfer students. A community college student may be looking to transfer after obtaining an associate degree. Perhaps the student wants or needs to move closer to home. Sometimes a student who left college several years ago wants to return and complete his or her degree. No one goes into a university with the intention of leaving, and counselors understand how important this is to students. It’s a major life decision.
To start, they will make sure the application process is clear and understood so the transition goes smoothly. Review application procedures at each school and prepare a list of questions. Inquire about scholarships—in addition to conducting your own research—as there are often too many to read about and you don’t want to miss out.
A counselor will evaluate credits during the application process so the student knows ahead of time how many of their credits might transfer, though this information is typically not finalized until the transfer process is complete. Also, ask for a degree audit. This document will break down all required course work for your major and let you know what you still have left to complete. If you are transferring from a school that counts credits differently, your new institution may require you to make up the deficit elsewhere (in extracurricular activities that can be counted for credit or through electives). This knowledge is vital in understanding how much time it will take and how much it will cost to finish a degree.
You should also familiarize yourself with important deadlines.
Is there a due date for your application, or is it rolling admission? Are there separate deadlines for scholarships? You’ll be less stressed out if you stay on top of dates and deadlines. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to your counselor. Many transfer-friendly institutions are flexible with their deadlines and timelines because they understand that your position may be atypical of a freshman applicant.
Immediately after being accepted, transfer students can start getting involved. Look for a welcome e-mail from the school. It might include an invitation to join a dedicated Facebook page or attend a social event. Network with other transfer students—they can give you some perspective as to where you fit in on campus.
Many schools offer open houses where prospective and admitted students can tour the campus, meet academic deans and program coordinators, attend financial aid sessions, and even meet with faculty individually. You will also likely attend an orientation weekend. Here you’ll interact with anyone joining the school for the first time and possibly meet with your new advisor.
Plenty of clubs and organizations will also be on hand, encouraging new students to join. By getting involved, you’ll begin to feel at home and accepted, and you’ll start to make new friends. It’s important to foster your interests on campus, inside and outside the classroom. Begin to immerse yourself in the campus by chatting with teachers, going to sports events and shows, and don’t be shy!
Remember to keep an open mind, focus on meeting interesting new people, welcome new challenges, and enjoy your new campus!
Here are a few resources to help you along in your transfer process:
- State-sponsored Websites: Some states, like California (www.assist.org), Indiana (www.transferin.net), and New Jersey (www.njtransfer.org), offer websites to help you search for a state school and determine how your credits will transfer within state community colleges and universities. New York, Texas, and Illinois also offer similar sites.
- The College Board: Their website (www.collegeboard.com) helps transfer students make the transition, including searching for a school or major, a transfer timeline, and articles about the process, especially for students transferring from a two-year to a four-year school.
- Facebook: Many schools have Facebook pages that allow students to “meet” each other before arriving on campus. This can be a great way for transfer students to learn more about the school and ask questions of current students. Just make sure you are using the school’s official page to get accurate information.