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Applying as a College Transfer: Six Helpful Tips

Nearly a quarter of American college students who start at one four-year institution will transfer to a different one to finish their degree. So if you’re thinking of transferring, you’re far from alone. At International College Counselors, we know how important it is for students to like—and be a good fit for—the school they attend. For students considering transferring to a new institution, here are some tips to ensure a smoother process: 1. Know the reasons you’re transferring Prospective transfer students need to carefully consider why they don’t want to stay at their current school. Make a list of what you want that you are not finding where you're currently attending. Only by doing so will you be able to evaluate whether you should persist a little longer or if you’re truly ready for—and in need of—a new college. Furthermore, you’ll clarify what you are looking for in a new school, which will make writing the transfer essay easier. Some top reasons students transfer colleges include wanting to improve social circumstances, switch majors, increase or decrease the level of academic challenge, and/or move closer to family. 2. Put yourself in the best position to transfer Students who transfer in the first year with fewer than 60 college credits (two years of college work) will be evaluated based on their college work and their high school transcripts. This means prospective transfer students need to consider whether their high school record will hurt or help their transfer goals. For transfer applicants with 60 or more credits, the top two factors typically considered in admissions decisions are the overall college GPA and their average grades in transferrable courses. Standardized test scores are weighted less, or in some cases not at all. 3. Do your research Make sure the college you plan to apply to meets your needs. Read college websites, visit the school, see if you can communicate with current students to discuss their experiences, and/or meet with a college advisor who can give you more insight. Keep in mind that colleges don’t all offer the same majors, nor do similar majors always have the same name or requirements. You want to make sure your new university best serves your educational goals. 4. Meet the deadlines Deadlines differ from school to school. Make sure you know—and comply with—the deadlines for your application, essays, letters of recommendation, scholarship applications, and more. While most students enter college in the fall, some schools also accept enrollees in the spring semester. 5. Read the college transfer policy Every school has its own transfer policy which can usually be found on the institution’s website. We also recommend meeting with a transfer admission advisor (by phone, Zoom, or in-person) at your desired institution(s) so you have a clear picture of how to proceed given your specific situation. Be sure you understand the school’s policy on accepting credits. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the intended college’s transfer policies, as you don’t want to enroll at the new institution and be faced with unwelcome surprises later. Consider such things as:

  • How many of your classes at the current institution will transfer into the new one.

  • Whether you can graduate in four years. The answer will depend on what classes you’ve taken and whether you plan to switch majors or need to fulfill certain general education requirements.

  • Each school has its own policy as to whether you can transfer credits accrued in high school, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) and dual enrollment.

  • Some colleges won’t accept certain credits if you are changing majors, but others allow you to transfer these credits towards elective courses.

  • Some schools won’t accept credits from courses in which you earned a grade lower than a C.

  • Some colleges require that students earn a specific number of credits (sometimes up to two years’ worth) at their current university before transferring.

  • The time and money you may need to spend on extra classes and terms to make up for any credits you lost in the transfer.

If you have any questions about a college’s transfer policy and you’re not working with one of our advisors, contact the college’s transfer admission office for answers. 6. Work hard on your transfer applications Do not use old college application material when you apply to transfer, especially if you applied previously to the prospective college. Admission readers expect students who have attended college to demonstrate a new perspective, new experience, and new insights. Make sure you show maturity and growth in your new essay. Colleges also ask you to explain your reasons for wanting to transfer. Do not write negatively about your current school, or submit a laundry list of complaints about your roommate or a professor. Instead, speak about your goals and what you want out of a university experience. For example, you can say your current school doesn’t have a program you want to pursue that is offered at your potential college. Explain how you made the best of your current situation. Also, show the college you did thorough research to ensure you are now making the best decision regarding the future of your education. While no college is perfect, there are a number of best-fit school for students of all backgrounds. You’ve grown older and wiser with your experience at your first college, and now you have a better idea of what your best-fit college will be.

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