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Tranferring from a Four-Year to a Four-Year School

Tranferring from a Four-Year to a Four-Year School

Be certain that transferring colleges is the right move for you.

By Bridget Kulla

October 05, 2010

Do you feel like your classes aren’t much of a challenge? Is the social scene on campus not your style? It could be time to transfer.

Transferring can disrupt your academic and social life, so spend time evaluating if it is the right move. Transfer students often have difficulty meeting people and getting involved in campus activities, according to a survey taken at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Ask yourself these questions before you commit to transferring:

  • Is the quality of the academics weaker than you expected?
  • Is the major that you want to pursue offered at your current school?
  • Do you want stronger courses in your major?
  • Are you unhappy with the social scene?

If you’ve considered these questions and decide transferring is the right move, it’s time to pick a new college. You’ll have an advantage this time because you’re already familiar with college life. Before you do anything, evaluate what it is you’re looking for in your new school that you are missing now and research colleges that meet your needs. “Everything from size and location, to educational opportunities, to involvement, career research, internship opportunities, what type of alumni connections you may have, study abroad opportunities—they’re all things they need to look at in the decision to transfer,” John Birney says, associate director of admissions at Johns Hopkins University.

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With 60 percent of students changing schools at least once before earning their bachelor’s degree, schools are offering more resources to facilitate the transfer process. Colleges have a specific resource to help answer your questions—the transfer counselor. “Because transfer admission can be more complicated … we do suggest that transfer students talk to all the offices that they can so that when they come in they know exactly what they’re going to get,” Birney says.

Once you’ve identified a few institutions that interest you, contact the schools to ensure they are a good fit. Some questions you should ask when evaluating schools:

  • Will your credits transfer?

  • Don’t assume your credits at one institution will seamlessly transfer to another. You are more likely to receive credit if you help with the process—bring in syllabuses, coursework, projects and exams. If you are willing to work with the transfer counselors at your new school, you will have better luck transferring your credits.

  • What financial aid is available?

  • Costs and financial aid vary from school to school, so be prepared for a change in your college expenses. Colleges have financial aid resources available specifically for transfer students. Contact the financial aid office at your new school to make sure you fill out all the necessary forms. “We’re very upfront with students—please talk to the financial aid office as you begin this process to make sure that the school would be a realistic choice. Should it come that you are admitted, make sure the money is going to work out as well,” Birney says.

  • What kind of housing is available to transfer students?

You may not want to move back into the freshmen dorms as a transfer student. Transfer students are sometimes placed in off-campus or undesirable housing that makes adjusting to their new school more difficult. Ask about housing options when planning your transfer.

When to Transfer:

Many schools require transfer students to have completed a minimum number of credits before they are eligible to transfer. In general, expect to complete at least two semesters of college work before changing schools. Alternately, some schools do not accept students who have earned too many credits, so don’t wait too long to transfer.

See what other students have to say about transferring.

How to Apply:

Applying as a transfer student is similar to applying as an incoming freshman. Schools will consider your high school and college grades, standardized test scores, recommendations, a personal statement and an interview.

Less emphasis is given to standardized test scores than when you applied as an incoming freshman, but most schools will still require your SAT scores. If you took the SAT more than five years ago, you must retake it.

Use your personal statement to clarify what you hope to gain from your new institution. Explain your reasons for transferring without focusing on the negative.

Schools place more importance on transfer students’ undergraduate grades than their high school grades. If you decide you want to transfer, don’t neglect your current courses.


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