Unhappy at College? 10 Tips for Changing Schools
About one in three students transfer at least one time before graduating from college. While changing postsecondary institutions can help to revive a student's academic career, transferring is not without its challenges. Here are ten tips for making the move to a new college.
By Douglas Fehlen
1. Don't change schools without a good reason.
Transferring to another college requires time, money and effort. It's not a move to be taken lightly or for some minor benefit. Before you take the plunge, give careful thought to why you're considering a transfer. Don't go through with a transfer unless you're truly unhappy at an institution or believe you'll get a significantly better education elsewhere.
2. Identify the best time to transfer.
Once you know you want to change schools, the question becomes when. If you're a freshman at a school you don't like, you might aim for next fall. Keep in mind, though, that students completing two years at a college often have better prospects in transfer admissions. Upperclassmen typically have more difficulty than freshmen or sophomores getting into a new school.
3. Research your options.
Identify institutions that might be right for you. Do your best to gauge whether academics and faculty meet your criteria. Think about location, cost, majors, extracurricular activities and other elements you considered (or maybe didn't) the first time around. Think about how you've felt let down by your current school and whether other schools are better in those areas. Visit campuses to gauge where you feel most at home.
4. Consider your chances of getting in.
Colleges have widely varying qualifications for transfer students. When you've identified schools that interest you, contact the institutions to learn about transfer procedures. Ask to submit your transcript for feedback on whether you're likely to be accepted as a transfer student. Postsecondary GPA is typically the most significant factor in transfer admissions.
5. Find out how your credits will transfer.
You've already put a lot of hard work (and money) into the credits you've earned at your current school. General ed requirements taken in the first two years typically transfer easily, though there are exceptions. On the other hand, getting full credit for classes is often difficult for students with more than two years of college experience. Typically you'll need to have earned at least a C (and maybe a B) for transfer credit.
6. Consider the total cost of attending a new school.
It's important to remember that transferring to a new college can significantly affect the amount of financial aid that you receive. Depending on the difference in tuition between two schools, you may have to pay a lot more when you transfer. Get specifics on how much it will cost to attend a new college. You may want to factor in paying for nontransferable credits you'll have to re-take.
7. Talk with school advisers.
Most students who change schools have at least some credits that don't transfer to a new college. This can mean delaying graduation. It's important to map out your path to graduation with an adviser at a new institution. Confirm that classes you need will be offered so you can graduate in a reasonable timeframe. Also check on transfer application deadlines and other important dates.
8. Stay enrolled at your current school.
As you prepare to transfer, continue taking classes at your current college. The worst thing potential transferees can do is to drop out of school, especially in the middle of a term. Students who quit with the expectation of going to another college lose a lot of time as they wait to reenroll. That's not to mention individuals stand a much better chance of being accepted into another school if they continue to complete coursework. (See #9.)
9. Improve your standing.
As mentioned above, GPA is a significant factor in transfer admissions. Continue getting good grades to show potential institutions your strong academic qualifications. Take classes that could enhance your application for a new school. (Stick with generals because high-level courses, including those in a major, may not transfer.) Get letters of recommendation from professors.
10. Get help.
The transfer process is fraught with intricacies that may leave you feeling uncertain. When you're not sure how to address a situation, reach out to those who can offer you help. You might consult an academic adviser or peers who have transferred during their college careers. The Internet, of course, is another source of information on the transfer process.
Transferring? Learn what you need to know about transferring credits.