how to transfer colleges

How to Transfer Universities: A Guide to Starting the Transfer Process

Students mustn’t settle for just any college or university. Being selective about your education can be a cornerstone for a successful career and fulfilling life. Whether you are a community college transfer student, a four-year-to-four-year university transfer student, an international transfer student, or a military transfer student, sometimes attending one school first can act as a sounding board to finding an institution that best fits your future success.

In fact, success is often found among transfer students. Roughly 75% of college administrators agree that transfer students perform “as well” or “better” at their new school, than do students who began at that same institution.

Read this guide to learn about the common reasons for transferring schools, how to transfer universities or colleges, and how to prepare for the process as an incoming transfer student.

Motives behind the move

If you are considering transferring universities, you are not alone. Today, there are more than 1.2 million transfer students enrolled in postsecondary institutions.

Common reasons students choose to transfer include:
• A mismatch between their current college’s program offerings and their career goals
• A need to change geographic locations
• A desire for more flexible or online curriculum options, that do not exist at their current school
• Wanting a school that is the best fit socially — either a different student population size or a complete change in campus culture.

Transfer-friendly institutions typically have separate supports specifically for the unique needs of transfer students. These schools often have articulation agreements already in place with transfer centers containing specialized advisors, transfer orientation sessions, and accessible information on transfer admission rates and transfer scholarships.

Advancing your transfer application

Applying as a transfer student differs from applying as a first-year. In addition to submitting SAT and ACT scores and high school transcripts, earning strong grades while attending your first school is a significant aspect of admission. Many schools accepting transfer students even feel that transfer applicants are stronger than first-year candidates, because they’ve already proven their success in a college classroom. Be sure to stay competitive by maintaining a high grade point average (GPA) throughout each semester and be mindful of transfer application deadlines.

Many college applications require transfer students to tell their stories in a personal statement. Within this account, it’s important to display your intellectual curiosity, motivations for transferring, and leadership qualities. In addition, your message should inform the admissions officer who you are, what you learned about yourself from your former school, and why you should be accepted as a transfer student.

Some transfer applications also require a supplementary essay. This essay should include academic reasons for transfer and why attending that school would be such a significant, educational experience for you. In the supplemental essay, the diamond is in the details. The more descriptive and optimistic you can be about your transfer decision, the more you will shine and stand out among other applicants.

Additionally, major-specific application components like portfolios, auditions, or interviews may also apply. Students should also be aware that institution and program-specific application deadlines can differ. Be sure to speak with an admissions counselor about your specific needs and requirements, prior to submitting your application.

As an incoming transfer student, you should also speak with admissions about transfer policies and equivalencies. An admissions counselor can look at your previous college coursework and help you understand which credits will transfer over, which prerequisite courses you must fulfill, and how to successfully transfer into your program of interest.

Read frequently asked questions from transfer students here.

How to transfer colleges or universities

1. First things first: Form foundational relationships with your first school’s professors.

Attend their office hours, actively participate, and ask engaging questions in class. Making yourself known to instructors will provide genuine content for future letters of recommendation. Acquiring at least two letters of recommendation from existing professors is pivotal, especially from teachers within your academic area of interest. Additional, non-academic recommendation letters can also come from employers or internship supervisors for a well-rounded look at your character and student competency. Once you submit your letters of recommendation, send thank you notes to anyone who took the time to write on your behalf.

2. Advocate for your academic success.

Research the transfer process, visit prospective campuses, chat with current students, and, if possible, attend classes that interest you. Meeting with admissions, academic, and career advisors can also be advantageous if you openly communicate any questions or concerns.

3. Understand the transfer requirements.

Each school differs in its transfer policy, and applicants should comprehend each step they need to take. Collect transfer conditions as soon as possible and confirm that the requirements have not changed by the time you apply. Consider how many transfer credits your newly elected school allows. You should also be conscious of any transferable credit policies, such as minimum grades needed to transfer credits to a new institution.

4. Figure out financial aid.

Financial aid award letters will fluctuate when transferring schools, and you should update your FAFSA form accordingly. Inquire with prospective schools on pathway programs, transfer and merit-based scholarships, eligibility for grants, federal loans, private loans, and work-study opportunities.

5. Confirm and commit!

Accept your offer of admission and financial aid package, turn in applicable deposits, meal preferences, and other forms required for your new start and an upcoming semester.

Between credit counting, official transcripts, essays, class syllabuses, and more, organization and optimism are critical to transferring universities and making the move from school to school more manageable. Whatever your reason for transferring, you deserve a supportive institution that innovates and inspires, heightens your potential, and has the proper programmatic offerings to prepare you for a profession you’ll love.

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