Are you thinking about transferring to a different college? You are not alone. Over one third of four-year college graduates transfer at least once while pursuing their degree. There is often the misconception that transferring to a new college is a negative thing, but in certain situations it can actually benefit a student in the long run. From the desire to be closer to home to being unsatisfied with a school's academics, there are many reasons motivating students to make a college switch. Because the decision to transfer can be emotionally, financially, and physically draining, it is not a decision to be made hastily. Think about why you want to transfer and speak with your advisor, professors, and family about whether transferring is the best option for you. Here are some of the most compelling reasons students make the move to a new college.
Where you go to school plays a key role in your overall college experience and is one of the reasons you may be thinking about transferring. Have you realized you want to be closer to home? Feeling disconnected from family and friends makes some students anxious or long for the support they feel when surrounded by those they love. Do you feel like the town surrounding your current school has little to offer? For some students, this may not be an issue, especially if the campus has social events and activities to keep them busy. However, if you’d be happier in a setting that has more options both on- and off-campus, transferring might be a consideration. Are you determined to get a job in Boston, New York City, or other specific location? Since participating in an internship often leads to an offer of permanent employment upon graduation, it may be a good strategy to go to school where those internships will place you in your desired location. Keep in mind, though, students from all over the country are able to successfully find jobs in their dream cities. It’s not the only reason you should consider transferring.
College is an investment. However, if your potential debt far outweighs your potential starting salary, it may be time to reconsider your chosen college. With over $1.64 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt, and more than 44 million student borrowers, it is no surprise that college students are finding themselves in substantial student loan debt after graduation. The statistics are staggering, but there are things you can do to limit your own borrowing.
One option is to think about is in-state public schools. They may provide the best deal for the cost of your education and give you the opportunity to commute to campus to save some money. New Hampshire students transferring to a University System of New Hampshire (USNH) school from one of the seven Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) schools who qualify for the Federal Pell Grant may also be eligible for the Granite Guarantee. The Granite Guarantee is a financial aid program that makes college possible for qualified New Hampshire students by covering the cost of tuition for up to four years. Each school has their own transfer eligibility requirements, so be sure to carefully research all qualifications. Contact the admissions office at your chosen school(s) for more information.
Don’t exclude private colleges as you think about transfer because these schools often have substantial school-specific scholarship and grant programs available to students. So although the “sticker price” may be higher than some other schools, it’s possible that financial aid can help bridge the gap. Check individual college websites and contact admissions or financial aid offices for more information regarding grants and scholarships.
Finally, if you’re happy where you are, consider talking to the financial aid office about ways to make your tuition bill more affordable. Also, check out part-time job opportunities on- and off-campus. Coming up with more aid or income might enable you to stay at a school you love.
Have you discovered a field of study you would like to pursue, but your current school does not offer the appropriate major? This is not uncommon. More than half of all college students switch their major at some point. In fact, most make a change two or three times. Sometimes this means transferring to a college that offers your intended major. Just be certain your decision is final before making a costly move. Also, talk to the registrar or your academic advisor about the possibility of creating your own major. It may work in your favor to declare an independent or exploratory major in order to study in the field you love without have to switch schools.
Attending college will take you out of our comfort zone. You might feel uneasy with the school, the people, the environment, and the expectations. That is why 45% of students attending a 4-year program, many away from home, will transfer out or stop all together within their first two years of starting their studies. Social circumstances may impact you more than you think. Social tastes fall along a spectrum just like the social environments of each campus. Some campuses may feel too social, while others do not feel social enough. But before you make a major move, explore social events and opportunities on campus that you may have overlooked. There could be an organization you can join that provides plenty of entertainment and new friends. Don’t leave your school without giving the social scene a chance.
Whether you have struggled financially, academically or socially, or find yourself in an environment that isn’t conducive to who you want to be and represent, sometimes you just need a new place to call home for the next few years. College is not just about discovering who you are. It’s also about following the right path to who you want to be after you graduate. You can’t do that if you’re not happy in your environment.
Whatever your reason for transfer, be sure to take your time and consider your options. Are your reasons things that can easily be fixed with just a few changes? Is your unhappiness preventing you from finding enjoyment in the things your current school has to offer? Or are your reasons for transfer things that can only be made better with a change in environment? Review your goals and desires and start searching for schools that have what you need to make the most of your college experience.
While you have been through the college selection process before, transfer admission is different. It will take preparation and good time management as you balance your academics with your college search, but taking the process one step at a time will help keep you organized along the way. Use this checklist to stay on track:
Once you've decided on one or several school(s) of interest, it's time to put together the college application. Prepare yourself for success with guidance from experts on topics such as admissions essays, letters of recommendation, and alumni interviews. While admissions professionals look for similar qualities in freshman and transfer applicants – such as solid academic performance, strong character, involvement outside of the classroom, and contribution to the community - there are a few key differences between applying as a freshman and as a transfer student.
Many colleges have separate applications for freshman and transfer students. If you are using the Common Application, you have the option to create a “first year” or “transfer” account. If you created a first year account in the past, you can rollover this account to transfer status.
As a transfer applicant, you may be asked to respond to a different personal statement or essay prompt than incoming freshmen. Avoid reusing a personal statement you wrote while in high school because, chances are, it won’t fit the prompt. Even if it does fit, you’re missing out on the opportunity to share lessons learned while in college if you reuse something you wrote while in high school. While essays written by first-time college students may reflect upon anyone or anything that has shaped who they are as people, the transfer essay is generally more narrow in focus. Think of this essay as your statement of purpose explaining why you have chosen to transfer or your opportunity to express who you are to the admissions office.
When evaluating transfer applicants, many colleges place more emphasis on academic performance in college than on standardized test scores. At some colleges, submitting standardized test scores is optional for students who have earned a minimum number of college credits. If you have the option to submit scores, check the admissions statistics on the school website or Big Future for the college(s) you are interested in attending. If your scores are above the average test scores of admitted students, then it is in your best interest to send your scores.
You will need to have transcripts from each college you have attended – even if there was a gap in your education or you didn’t earn a degree at the institution – sent to the school(s) to which you are applying. If you do not feel that the transcripts accurately reflect your abilities as a student, address that in the personal statement, the additional information section of the Common Application, or in an optional essay response. Some colleges may also require high school transcripts, even if you have completed an associate’s degree or the equivalent number of credits. Check with each individual school for their specific requirements.
If you completed an associate’s degree or most of your general education credits at another institution, check your intended college’s policy for applying directly to a major. Some colleges require you to apply to your major in addition to applying for general admission. The deadlines for applying to a specific major or program can vary – even within the same institution – and may be before the general transfer deadline. If you intend to enroll in a specific major, make sure you are aware of both sets of application requirements.
There are many factors which may impact the decision to transfer. Whether for a change in major, a desire to be closer to home, or due to college costs, when responding to questions about your reason for transferring, the main objective is to demonstrate you have made a thoughtful decision and you have a clear sense of why the new institution will be a better fit for you. Check out these tips to help you respond to questions about transferring simply, factually, and creatively. As you reflect on your experiences, avoid making negative comments about your current institution. Focus instead on what you have learned and your goals for the future.
Not every college requests letters of recommendation for admission, so check with your schools for their specific requirements. Some schools will simply require a form to be completed by a current professor or advisor. Other schools will require at least one letter of recommendation. Choose a faculty member who knows you well and is able to speak to your academic abilities and perhaps to your involvement outside of the classroom. Make a formal request of your professor – preferably in person, but email is also acceptable – to ask if he or she would be willing to write a letter or complete a form on your behalf. Explain the purpose of the recommendation and why you have chosen the professor. Make an appointment to discuss the recommendation at least three weeks prior to the deadline and provide your professor with information about yourself (ie. graded papers, a resume, a list of work and extracurricular experience) to help with the writing process. Don’t forget to send a thank you letter to your recommender and let him or her know the outcome of your application(s)!
Naturally, finances play a big role in your ability to transfer and your final college decision, so understanding which elements of your financial aid you may still be eligible to receive is very important. Most financial aid will not automatically transfer with you. Scholarships are generally not transferable, however, some federal grants may be. Speak with a financial aid professional at your chosen school(s) to get a clear picture of your financial aid and what you will need to do to receive aid at your new school. Be sure to complete the necessary paperwork, including the FAFSA, prior to the deadlines.
You may have been through the financial aid process before, but be sure to pay special attention to any requirements specific to your new school(s). All colleges participating in the federal student aid program require students to file a FAFSA. If you filed a FAFSA when you first applied to college, you will need to renew the form for the upcoming school year (check out these FAFSA filing tips as you get started). The FAFSA needs to be filed for every year that you will be in school. Be sure to add the new school(s) to which you would like the FAFSA information to be sent in the school section of the form. Since some colleges also require the CSS Profile form, it is important to check each institution’s website for their specific instructions. The CSS Profile is an online application that collects information used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award non-federal aid. If your school requires the CSS form, your financial aid application will be incomplete until you submit both the CSS and FAFSA forms. Be sure to meet all deadlines for your specific college(s).
Once you receive your financial aid award letters from your schools, you may need to review the key terms and language used by the financial aid office in order to fully understand what you have been offered. Remember that financial aid awards may look different from each individual college. Review the offers you have received using this financial aid worksheet to be sure you are making a detailed comparison before you make your decision.
If you have any questions about the financial aid you were awarded, please contact the Financial Aid Office at the individual college. Here are some questions you may want to ask before making your final college choice:
Financial Aid Officers award the best financial aid package to students based on the information they have available. However, in some situations, an appeal to the college for additional funds may be justified. When completing the FAFSA form, financial information from the previous year is utilized, so things may have changed in your family’s finances in the meantime. You may need to complete a “special circumstances” form to share information that was not available on the FAFSA, but may affect your ability to pay for your education. These forms can generally be found on the school’s financial aid website, but contact the financial aid office for more information. Examples of special circumstances may include change in marital status, death of a parent, loss of employment, high unreimbursed medical expenses, paying for an elderly parent’s care or medical expenses, filing for bankruptcy, etc.
While financial aid can certainly help cover some of the cost of college, there is usually an additional amount unaccounted for, or gap, that the family must cover in another manner. Many families will use a variety of funding options to meet this gap. Families should research and understand their options fully before committing to a payment plan or loan program. Some of the methods to manage college costs include:
Many colleges provide tuition payment plans for a small one-time enrollment fee. This program helps limit the need for borrowing by allowing students and families to pay college costs from current income or savings. The plan offers no interest payments and is divided over 8 to 12 months. Contact the financial aid office at your chosen school for more information.
This is a government loan for parents of undergraduate students. While students can certainly help with payments, ultimately the parent is responsible for repayment until the loan is satisfied. This loan does have a fixed interest rate and a loan origination fee. The PLUS loan has a typical repayment term of 10 years, but options are available to defer payments while the student is enrolled at least half-time. A parent interested in this loan must complete a credit pre-approval process and the annual maximum he or she can borrow is determined by the cost of education less any other aid received. Visit studentaid.gov for more information.
These loans are available through lenders such as banks and financial organizations. These loans are usually in the student’s name with a credit-worthy co-signer. Payments are often deferred while a student is in college. Refer to this list of private loans programs for more information.