For some students, transferring was part of the plan from the very beginning. Whether moving from a community college to a four-year school or trying out something closer to home before transferring further away, many college students plan to switch schools at some point in their academic career.
For others, however, the change can come unexpectedly, and COVID-19 has caused a sharp uptick in transfers. When many schools went virtual, students began reevaluating what priorities kept them enrolled in a particular institution. Now that we’re seeing a cultural shift in questions about virtual options, in-person gatherings, and how we live, work, and learn, lots of students are looking at different choices for continuing their education.
If switching schools is on your mind, here are some things you need to know.
Tip 1: Don’t Assume Your Credits are Safe
Many students assume that moving from one school to another is simply a matter of continuing their education in a new location. The truth is much more complicated. Requirements (both for general education and for individual programs) vary from campus to campus, and what counted as a credit in one institution might not make the cut at another.
If you are transferring schools, it’s very important that you check how your credits will transfer and what classes you may have to make up. You don’t want to face extra costs. Students transferring schools lose an average of 40% of their existing credits in the process.
Especially if the motivation for transferring is a cost-saving effort, credit loss can make a huge impact on the choice. Make sure you understand your options before you withdraw from your current institution.
Tip 2: Prepare for the Application Process
The first time you applied to college, you may have had a lot of support and context surrounding the process. Maybe you had the help of a high school guidance counselor or were going through the steps alongside peers. The deadlines were likely clearly communicated to you and your classmates.
Going through the process as a transfer student can be more challenging. Students may assume it will be easy because they’ve done it once before, but every institution can be a little different in their requirements, and it can be easy to miss deadlines when you’re also busy with your current college classes and other responsibilities — especially if you’re doing it alone.
Make sure you take time to research your target school’s deadlines, requirements, and scholarship opportunities so you don’t miss out.
Tip 3: Dream Big
While the pandemic has been a crisis across much of higher education, it has opened up an opportunity for students who would like to use this time to transfer. Many colleges and universities are worried about enrollment and eager to accept new students.
Even very prestigious schools that typically do not accept many (or any) transfer students are more likely to say yes this year. Don’t be afraid to apply to your dream school — even if they rejected your application previously.
Tip 4: Budget Wisely
Transferring schools comes with added costs for most students. When you’re making comparisons, be sure to look at the difference in tuition and housing expenses, but don’t forget the smaller considerations as well.
If you’re moving further away, will your travel costs go up? If you end up having to take an extra semester to make up for credits that did not transfer, do you have that budgeted into your plan?
Make sure to take a full account of your financial position so that you can make the choice to transfer with clarity on the big picture.
The Bottom Line on Transferring
Transferring can be a great choice for many students, and even famous and successful people like Barack Obama and Lucy Liu transferred as part of their educational journeys.
Still, it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking that a big change will mean an erasure of current problems. If you’re struggling with time management, having financial concerns, or feeling disconnected from your long-term college goals, switching campuses may not do much to alleviate the root cause.
Transferring should be a choice you make with a careful eye to the details and with consideration of how this change will (and will not) impact your long-term goals.