When And How To Make The Move

Choosing the right school for you can be difficult. Not only does the decision come while you’re still fairly young, but it can also be heavily influenced by external factors that end up not aligning with what you want. Take it from someone who’s been there.

In fact, about one-third of college students transfer schools at some point before finishing their degree. And total transfers represented over 13% of all continuing and returning undergraduates last year.

This article walks through the top reasons students choose to transfer, how to identify when the time is right, and what to do to set yourself up for success at a new school.

Reasons Students Transfer Schools

There are a number of reasons that prompt students to consider transferring schools. While many new transfers tend to be students from community colleges, a change in circumstance may have a student already at a four-year university questioning whether they made the right choice. Below is a list of the main reasons students choose to transfer schools.

  • Moving to a four-year university following community college.
  • Encountering ongoing impacts from Covid-19.
  • Lack of social engagement.
  • Misalignment with the school’s environment.
  • Changing majors.
  • Interest in another school’s prestige and recognition.
  • Poor academic performance.
  • Change in financial situation.
  • New opportunities for student athletes.
  • Returning to school to complete a degree after a life change.

Regardless of why you want to transfer schools, it’s important that you make an informed decision. That means taking your time to think through what you’re experiencing. And if you’re on the fence about it, get someone else’s perspective on the matter.

Of course, I can’t advise what’s best for you here, but there is something to be said about listening to your gut and recognizing what will make you happy. If it helps, you can also make a pros and cons list to help clarify your educational goals, values, and interests.

Finding A Better Option For You

Once you know why you want to transfer, you’ll need to identify where you want to be! Most importantly, what school will meet your personal and financial needs while also offering your academic program of interest?

This research will require a bit more than just browsing college websites. You’ll also want to talk to people at your school of interest and, possibly, attend a few events to get a full picture of what the school has to offer. Use these questions as a starting point when doing your research:

  • Is my major offered?
  • Will my existing course credits transfer?
  • Where is the new college located?
  • Are scholarships available for transfer students?
  • As a transfer student, how long will it take to graduate?
  • Are there any academic barriers to transferring that I could encounter?
  • What opportunities are available to meet my social/academic/other needs?

It’ll be much easier to create a strategic approach to your search if you’re able to answer these questions. Doing so will further clarify your educational goals, values, and interests, and it will help give you direction. Now, you can start laying out the details of your plan.

Related: Does What College You Go To Matter?

Identifying Target Schools

Anything you deem important to your college experience is worth considering in your search for a new school. But you’ll especially want to pay attention to your program of interest, admission requirements, and transfer credit policies.

Find Your Program of Interest: Ensure the schools on your list offer the academic programs that align with your major and career interests. Consider factors like faculty expertise, research opportunities, and overall program credibility. Most colleges are known for their strengths in a few niche areas, which could benefit your move.

Check Admission Requirements: Familiarize yourself with the admission requirements of each college on your list, and pay close attention to any prerequisites listed for your intended program.

Know The Transfer Credit Policies: The approval of transfer credits is always at the discretion of the registrar’s office, which means every school has its own policies for approving transfer credits. While some schools limit the number of credits you can transfer in with, others have an articulation agreement with nearby schools, often ones in the same state.

Related: How To Make A College List: Finding Academic And Financial Fit

Visiting Campus

When possible, I always advise students to take an in-person tour of any school they’re considering. Why? Because no virtual experience can match that of standing on a campus and observing, firsthand, the small nuances of everyday life as a student.

Get A First Impression: A campus visit is your prime opportunity for first impressions. Walk around, sit in on a class, explore the dorms, or find the rec center. This is the time to take in all that the school has to offer and reflect on the overall atmosphere of the campus.

Talk With Current Students: Interacting with current students is one of the best ways to gain insight into whether a future at that school is right for you. Current students have first-hand experience on faculty, classwork, internship opportunities, and even campus or community events. They’re also more likely to give you honest input!

Explore Campus Resources: Most schools now have offices dedicated to academic advising, career services, and general student support. It’s worth stopping in to find contact information should you have questions later on. And don’t forget to peruse other options for getting involved in campus life, like student government, Greek life, or recreational sports!

The “Right” Time To Transfer

Timing plays an important role in the transfer process and impacts everything from academic progression to financial aid. While choosing to transfer is an entirely personal decision, there can be differences in outcomes based on when you transfer.

If there were a “right” time to transfer colleges, I’d say it would be any time prior to your senior year and preferably at the close of a full academic year.

Transferring before your senior year may be more efficient due to transfer credit policies. More selective schools often place limits on transfer credits to prevent students from transferring just in time to graduate with a coveted university name on their diploma. So, if you’re closer to graduation, transferring could add significant time to completing your degree.

Also, transferring mid-year can have unexpected consequences on your current financial situation, causing you to miss a tuition payment, break a housing lease, or be left without new opportunities for financial aid, since school-based scholarships typically align with the academic year.

Look into support services available for transfer students at your new school and work with an admissions officer to determine key dates in the process. Working with someone will not only help align your transfer date with class, tuition, and scholarship cycles, but it will also ensure you meet all necessary college application deadlines.

Making A Successful Transition

Transitioning to a new college can be both fun and daunting. Whether you’re moving from a small school to a big school or from a local college to a distant university, there are several ways to ease the transition into life on a new campus.

First off, if you haven’t yet toured your new campus, schedule some time to walk around and spend the day checking things out. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with the campus layout before classes start. You may even want to memorize a few routes between where your classes will be to help ease any anxiety in your first few weeks.

Another option is to attend a transfer orientation. Like freshman orientation, colleges hold a special orientation to introduce new students to one another in addition to the campus. It can be scary putting yourself out there, but every other student in attendance is in your shoes.

Getting involved on campus is another great way to meet like-minded students and bring enriching moments to your college experience. Most importantly, give yourself space to take in your surroundings, and remember that it might take time to adjust to your new campus.

Wrapping Up

Navigating the transfer process can make for a busy few months, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. As you consider your next move, remember the importance of your personal, academic, and financial goals. In doing so, you’ll find the tools to make informed decisions and strategize your transition timeline to set yourself up for success.

As you enter this new chapter, remember that you aren’t alone! Transferring colleges is an opportunity to grow, explore, and further develop yourself. And your college experience is unique only to you – celebrate how far you’ve come and look forward to the experiences ahead.