Last Updated: Aug 29, 2016
Transferring to a new college or university is an exciting time in a student’s life and a wonderful opportunity for academic and personal growth. But there are a lot of important factors to consider and a couple of common pitfalls that can easily be avoided when you restart the college search process.
It’s critical that you take a thoughtful and organized approach to your transfer to make sure you’re picking the right college for you. You’ve invested a considerable amount of time, energy, and money into the first part of your college education, so you owe it to yourself to take advantage of what you have already accomplished.
Wondering how to find and choose your transfer college? Here are some tips to help you make the most of your college search, the second time around.
Ask the right questions
Before you enter any college, you should be thinking about your end goals. Then you can figure out the top three to five schools you ultimately would want to earn your degree from.
Your transfer decision should be based largely on the availability of the academic program you are interested in and the quality of this program. Beyond that, ask yourself: Are there opportunities for internships in your field? What are the employment rates for graduates and starting salaries? These are important questions you need to consider to ensure you choose a school with a strong academic program that will lead you to a successful career.
You should also think about whether your potential transfer schools offer the flexibility your life may require. Do you work? Do you have kids? Will you need to be able to complete your studies at night? Or do you want a more traditional campus experience, where you can live on campus, get involved in campus activities, and take classes mostly during the daytime?
What about location; do you want to stay close to home or go out of state? And what about size; do you prefer smaller classes where you’ll have to participate a lot, or do you prefer to be more anonymous in a larger lecture hall?
Just as important is something fundamental but hard to define: how does the school make you feel? A big challenge facing transfer students is that they are entering an environment where relationships have already been established and developed—you are probably going to be playing catch up. So when choosing a new college, it is also important to ask yourself how well this institution will help you assimilate and feel welcomed. Can you easily get involved in campus activities, clubs, sports, leadership positions, and other important aspects of campus life? All of these factors should influence your initial list of transfer schools.
Understand the transfer policies
Once you have a list of potential transfer schools, the real work begins. You’ll need to spend some time getting a better understanding of each college and its transfer policies. I can tell you from years of experience the most common mistake prospective transfer students make: they ask if their credits will transfer to the school they are interested in, but they fail to go deeper.
Credits often transfer, but there’s a big difference between a college simply “accepting” your credits and applying them to your specific area of study. For example, let’s say you are a business major who has earned 60 credits at your current school. Your transfer school may technically accept all 60 of those credits, but some of those credits may not actually apply to your major. So if your new school doesn’t accept your macroeconomics credits from your former college, they essentially function as elective credits. Some schools may also limit how many credits can transfer. Far too many transfer students only come to these realizations when it’s too late. By doing your research at the beginning of the transfer process, you will avoid confusion and potentially some major disappointment.
I strongly recommend taking the time to meet with an admission officer or academic advisor at your intended transfer college at the beginning of the process. Ask them how your credits will fit and whether they align with the curriculum. Ask specific questions about their transfer policies and if there are any online tools they (or you) can use to look up how specific courses will fit into your intended major. In a perfect world, you would have planned your transfer from day one, meeting with the transfer or academic advising center before you even enrolled at your current school; this would help you get advice on the best courses to take to ensure you make the most of the credits you earn there. But if you don’t live in that perfect world and you haven’t been in touch with a transfer counselor yet, make an appointment today! They are there to help you through this whole process.
Think about finances
Your transfer college search wouldn’t be complete without considering financial aid. You’ll also want to ask schools on your list if they provide scholarships to transfer students and ask specifically if there are minimum GPA requirements to qualify. Again, I would encourage students to do this even before they enter their first college, as some colleges might tell you in advance what GPA would entitle you to certain scholarship awards. This will help you know what grades to strive for at your current school.
Related: Find scholarships here!
Of course, in the end you’ll need to balance the financial considerations with the overall value you will get from the school you transfer to. So weigh the finances with the benefits and outcomes this school can offer and how well they will help you prepare for a successful future. Remember, this is really one of the most important investments you will ever make, so make sure you choose one that will have a strong return.
You better shop around
As a transfer student, you need to be an informed consumer. Think of shopping for a transfer school just as if you were back in high school: take tours, attend an open house, talk to faculty, and see if the environment feels comfortable, a place where you can envision yourself thriving, fitting in, and getting the support and education you need to succeed.
You are making a big investment and an important decision. So make sure you have all of the information you need to put you on the best possible road for your future.