How to Prepare for College Transfers

About a third of US college students transfer schools at least once. While some students find a transfer to be a cop-out or show a lack of determination, there are many valid reasons students choose to transfer.

Many students begin their education at a community college to help offset the costs of taking the same classes at a larger university. Obviously, when they are ready to focus on their major, a transfer is the best option.

Sometimes, personal or financial circumstances require students to take some time off and re-enroll later on. Other students find that being so far from home is too emotionally challenging, and they yearn for a familiar environment.

Whatever the reason, switching schools is a common occurrence. Although it may seem like a bit of a hassle, it’s not as hard as you think. Read through our handy tips on how to prepare for college transfers to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Keep Your Grades Up

If you’ve decided to do a transfer but are still attending school, the worst thing you can do is let your grades slide. It might be hard to participate in classes and put the most effort into your studies that you should, but this is one of the best things you can do to ensure your transfer goes smoothly.

When you transfer, the new school is no longer looking at your high school transcripts. Instead, they are more concerned with how you are doing right now. Showing excellent study skills, attendance, and attention to your coursework will make you stand out. It also proves to the new school that you are as motivated as ever in spite of your change in circumstances.

2. Develop a New Academic Trajectory

If you are someone who has a hard time with flexibility, a transfer can be disorienting. Just like a holiday itinerary that gets changed, the schedule has to be adjusted, and new timelines must be arranged. It can be anxiety-provoking for students who find their short and long-range plans altered.

While a transfer may add another semester before finishing your studies and moving on to other goals, it might also relieve some pressure as well. Don’t worry too much when plans change. Try to stay in the moment and take each day as it comes.

3. Some Schools Welcome Transfer Students

While the most competitive schools take very few transfer students, many state college systems offer comprehensive transfer pathways to make the transition easier for students. These are primarily designed to help those who are leaving community college and entering a four-year program, so you can definitely improve your acceptance rate by completing your Associate of Arts or Science before applying for the transfer.

4. Know There Is a Difference Gaining Admission to a Particular School and Being Admitted to a Degree Program

Many students are surprised to learn that in specific demanding STEM majors, admission to the school itself does not guarantee admission to the major. There may be higher GPA requirements and obligations to fulfill. Therefore, students must go into the transfer prepared by setting an appointment with a financial advisor who can help them navigate the particulars.

5. Ask for Some Letters of Recommendation

Your college professors have likely seen how you handle your coursework and what you are capable of by now. Their opinion will hold a lot of weight when it comes to arranging a transfer. This is especially true if your professor is someone who has seen you struggle firsthand to overcome your obstacles and understands your need to change schools. Don’t be afraid to ask them for their help. If they do take the time to write a letter, be sure to let them know how grateful you are by sending a thank you note or card, so they know their extra efforts are appreciated. 

6. Don’t Forget About Scholarships

Many students don’t realize that there are many college scholarships whose sole purpose is to help transfer students. Not only that, but most institutions that are transfer-friendly offer different scholarships as well. It’s certainly worth looking into any new scholarship opportunities that can help defray the cost of your transfer, particularly if your expenses will be increasing.

7. Watch the Deadlines

Stay abreast of all deadlines for transfer applications, which can vary from college to college. You will likely need to send in your application in the early spring if you want to transfer the same fall. Make sure you give yourself extra time to fill out financial aid forms and other paperwork you will need.

Another reason to get a jump start is to ensure you can get into the classes you want. It doesn’t take long for courses to fill up, but early registration can give you a good jump on helping you get into the best classes.

8. Don’t Forget the Details

Because you’ve already gone through the application process once, you have more insight into it the second time around. Nevertheless, you still want to be sure to follow instructions to the letter. Each school is different, and the process you went through during your last experience might diverge quite a bit from what your new school expects. Keep all your paperwork, and if you are unsure about anything, ask questions.

9. Seek out Support as Soon as You Can

Everyone needs a little help once in a while.  If your transfer is due to an unfortunate experience at your last school, it’s more important than ever to get support early on at your new college. Talk to your academic advisors and counselors about your concerns and ask for guidance and suggestions. Most will be happy that you have asked for help.

Now is also the ideal time to get involved in your new school in some way. You don’t necessarily have to commit to a huge undertaking, but an enjoyable extracurricular activity should be a priority on your new schedule. Adding something positive to your college transfer plan is a great way to smooth the transition and start on the right foot.