By Susan Ott
Many students find themselves looking to transfer colleges at some point in their college careers. While some elect to stay put, others feel that it’s truly best to move on to a school which better fits their needs. But transferring colleges can seem like a confusing process, leaving you with all sorts of questions on how to proceed. From when to transfer to what credits will count, the details can feel overwhelming. However, if you do your research beforehand, transferring colleges can go more smoothly than you may have thought. Below are some common transfer questions and concerns answered to help you make the best choice.
Transferring After Less Than One Year Of College
If you’ve completed less than a year of college (about 30 credit hours), your new school will probably want to look at your high school transcripts and SAT scores in addition to your college work to determine eligibility. This means that if you had a solid academic record in high school, coupled with a good start in college, you should have little trouble being accepted to the college of your choice. If, however, you struggled with a lower-than-average high school record, you may want to consider staying where you are and getting a full year in with good grades before you try to transfer.
Also, make sure that the college to which you’re transferring is where you truly want to be. Hopping around to different schools without solid, legitimate reasons can be a red flag to admissions departments. It’s one thing to change schools because you want to change majors, want to get involved in internship-type opportunities in another city, or want the convenience of going to school online. But if you are simply changing around because the grass always looks greener somewhere else, it may be time to take a hard look at whether or not you have a good reason to move on. It might make more sense to stay put and improve your academic record first.
Transferring Colleges and Changing Your Major At The Same Time
If you are in the process of changing your major, it can make perfect sense to head off to a new school that has a better program in your new academic specialty. It’s not unusual these days for a college student to change majors a few times – and that can necessitate changing schools in the process. But it’s natural to wonder how many credits you’ll be able to transfer as you leave behind both your school and your old major.
If you’ve built up a solid college transcript, passing introductory courses at your first school, you should be well positioned to transfer many of the credits you’ve earned to your new school. Liberal arts majors, in particular, all tend to start with a foundation of basic credits in communication and math skills that are common to many different majors. More advanced courses that are part of the “core” of a particular major can be a different story. From that standpoint, it’s often better to transfer sooner rather than later, before you spend too much time on very specialized courses that are unlikely to transfer toward a new major.
Transferring to an Online College
Online colleges are becoming increasingly popular for many reasons, but flexibility is one of their main draws. Online – both for-profit institutions and private colleges who are trying to make a name for themselves in digital teaching – tend to make a big effort to be as user-friendly as possible. Their admissions processes can also be easier than traditional schools and their credit acceptance policies a bit more generous, because they’re strongly oriented towards adults trying to re-start an education. (More here on colleges that accept lots of transfer credits)
Most online colleges are very upfront about their acceptance and credit transfer policies; if you have a reasonably good academic record and passing grades in your previous college courses, you should have a good chance of getting into the online college of your choice and transferring a good chunk of the credits you need for your new major.
Cutting Down On Stress
Overall, transferring colleges does not have to be a stressful experience if you do your research and submit everything your new school needs for acceptance. Everyone’s situation is different, but if you wait to transfer until you have a solid academic record, you should have a fairly smooth experience getting into a new school which best fits your needs as a student.
John O’Brien has been a writer, editor and consultant in higher education for over 14 years. His background includes writing for insidehighered.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As editor of College Degree Complete, he has advised hundreds of adult students on how to transfer colleges without wasting the credits they’ve already accumulated, to finish their degree programs in the fastest and most affordable way.