College Transfer - Does It Make Sense For Your Young Adult?

college students on campus


Guest columnist Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer and mother of three.  She primarily writes about parenting, family life and teen issues.  Her work has appeared in many online and print publications including Teen Life, Your Teen, Scary Mommy, SheKnows and Grown and Flown.

The process of finding a college that is a good match for student can be a difficult one. Some students  may not be feel they made the right college selection on the first try.

Luckily, students have the option consider and looking into the option of applying to transfer from one college to another.

Reasons Students Decide to Transfer      

There are many reasons students decide they want to transfer from a college they currently attend to a different school. Brittany Maschal, Ed.D, a private college consultant, says, “For some students, transferring after freshman or sophomore year is the right move. Most students in this position are those who have ended up somewhere as a stepping stone to where they initially wanted to be.” This can be especially true for students who attend a community college for two years with hopes of transferring to a four-year school or for students who believe if they improve their grades in college they can get accepted to a more selective institution after freshman or sophomore year.

Another reason students might consider transferring is because their academic interests change once they are in college.

Christine K. VanDeVelde, journalist and coauthor of the book College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step, explains, “A college student may hone in on a specialized major and want to transfer to a school that is better suited to pursing that subject.”

A student may also contemplate transferring if a school is a poor fit.

“A student may wind up feeling they made a mistake and are in a school where they don’t belong,” says VanDeVelde. “This is why it is important to do the work on the front end and really research schools before applying the first time.”

The Transfer Process

 The application process for transferring is the same as the process of applying from high school, but the deadlines may be different. Students should contact the admissions office to find out the specific guidelines for transfer students.

Students who transfer schools may not be able to complete their degree in four years. Maschal explains, “The transfer of credits is not a seamless process, so a student could lose a few by changing schools.” In addition, housing and financial aid options also may be limited for transfer students. Be sure to investigate whether financial aid will be available at the new school before making any decisions.

 Applying to college as a transfer student can be time consuming and stressful. VanDeVelde points out, “In high school students have a guidance counselor to help them through the process, but when they transfer colleges they are on their own with the application process. In general, transfer students will be asked to submit an college application along with transcripts (from both college and high school), standardized test scores, essays and letters of recommendation.

Students should check to see if their standardized test scores from high school are still valid or they need to re-take these tests. The cost of transferring can also be a factor, says VanDeVelde, with multiple application and transcript costs, for example.

Acceptance rates as a transfer student vary greatly from school to school. Maschal says, “It can be harder to get into some schools as a transfer student and easier at others depending on the school. If a student’s grades in college have significantly improve over his high school grades, it may increase his chances of being accepted at a school he may have not gained entry to as a high school senior.”  

Conversely, if a student has not done well academically in their current college, transferring may not be an option. Maschal says, “Some students are surprised to hear that some schools where they got in as freshmen may now not admit them as transfers.

The same standard applies for transfers and freshmen at most schools, so do your research and know what you are up against before getting too excited about the prospect of transferring.”

How Parents Can Help Students Who Want To Transfer

Students should give a lot of thought to whether or not transferring is the right decision for them. Students need to make sure they have given their current situation an adequate amount of time and effort. Parents of young adults considering transferring should suggest that they get involved in some activities on their current campus. Maschal says, “Chances are if you are in your first semester of college, you have not given yourself enough time to adjust. Big life transitions take time to navigate. Give yourself time to think about why you are really unhappy and if transferring is warranted.”

Encourage students to discuss their reasons for wanting to transfer schools. In addition to speaking with parents, students can ask for help from mentors, deans of admission and/or members of the on campus counselor center. VanDeVelde says, “Maybe the student is homesick or having problems with their roommate or romantic issues. While upsetting, these are probably not the best reasons to transfer schools. Instead there may be other ways to help the student resolve these problems.”         

Transferring schools can be tough socially. Most schools do not have the same orientation programs for transfer students that they have for incoming freshmen. It may be harder to find a friend group when you come into school as an upperclassman. Maschal says, “Sometimes changing schools is not the answer because the grass is not always greener on another campus; sometimes it is just you that needs to change and get used to being a college student.”

Parents should urge their college students to take the time to think through the decision to apply to transfer to another college or university. All the student may need is a little time.

If a student has really thought through their decision, transferring colleges can be a good decision.

If a school is not a good academic or social fit, it may be better to make a move to school the student really feels he belongs and can thrive.