If you're considering switching schools, you're not alone. Nearly 30 percent of students transfer colleges. Commonly, students look to transfer schools to:
- Save money
- Be more academically challenged
- Find a better social fit
- Move closer to home due to family obligations
- Find a better academic match (i.e., switching to a specialized school, a school that offers a broader educational experience, moving from a two-year to a four-year college, or switching from a private to a public university)
- Attend a more prestigious university
Consider your reasons for transferring
Transferring schools can be very rewarding but can also be a challenging process, so it's important to carefully think through the decision. For example, some students may be tempted to switch colleges if they can't get along with their roommate or they're having trouble making friends, but often these issues resolve themselves by the second year of school, or can be addressed by speaking with a school counselor.
Do your research
- Transferring may extend the amount of time you spend in school, and end up costing you more. Typically students who attend a four-year university graduate in 51 months. On average, students who transfer once graduate in an average of 59 months. And students who transfer twice graduate in 67 months.
- Don't assume that a college with a higher sticker price will actually cost you more. Some private colleges have large endowments and can help students considerably with financial aid.
- Many states make transitioning to a new school easier, particularly from community colleges to year colleges within the state, through credit transfer arrangements called articulation agreements.
- Before transferring, talk with the financial aid officer at the school you're looking to attend to find out:
- Do they have an articulation agreement with my current school?
- How do they handle transfer credits?
- What is their financial aid policy for transfer students? (Some schools give preference to continuing students seeking financial aid.)
- Will the courses you've taken so far transfer for the degree you're seeking?
- Many students transfer schools to find a more challenging (or less challenging) academic program, or because the degree programs don't turn out to match their chosen career. If this is the case, you'll want to talk with current students, professors, and others who attend the school you're interested to transfer to so you can be sure it offers what you're looking for. If possible, you may also want to sit in on a class at the school before making your final decision.
- Finding a college or university that matches your personality isn't always easy. Here are a few tips for finding the best school for you.
- Check out the Fiske Guide to Colleges, which does a great job capturing the personality of each school, based on direct input from students.
- Visit the campus and ask for a tour.
- If possible, stay overnight to get a real sense of student life.
- Visit when school is in session to get a feel for what's going on.
- Talk with current students during your visit.
- Text chat with current students at the school through CollegeWeekLive and ask them about their experiences.
- Find out what the retention rate is for students at the school (i.e., what percentage of freshman students stay through graduation)
Start preparing for transfer
Once you've done your research, you'll want to find out the logistics of transferring. Ask your target school:
- What do you look for in transfer students?
- When do I need to apply?
- When do you make decisions about transfers?
- Maintain your grades. Although colleges may consider your SAT and/or ACT scores, they will be more interested in your college performance to date. Remain focused in your current classes, and continue extracurricular activities that will reflect well on your application.
- Get your transcripts and course descriptions ready. You'll need to provide course descriptions for the classes you've taken to make sure the credits will transfer. You can usually find these on the school website or in the guidebook you used to register for classes.
- Get letters of recommendation. Maintain positive relationships with your current professors and ask a select few for letters of recommendation.
- Meet the admissions officer. If the college or university offers interviews, it's a good idea to arrange for one. This gives you a chance to make a personal impression and to explain why you feel the target school is a better fit for you.
- Start writing your admissions essay. Your essay should explain why you're looking to transfer, with a strong focus on why you feel the target college is the best fit for you. Having done extensive research on the school you should have a good sense of the best points to highlight and why you feel you will thrive in that environment.