Transferring Is A Messy Process And Different For Every College

Applying to college is an exciting but also lengthy and challenging process. As difficult as the freshman-year application process is, it is infinitely easier than the transfer process which is convoluted, unclear and unique to each college or program.

Nationally, 38% of students choose to transfer colleges at least once before earning their degree, according to stats from the 2018 National Student Clearinghouse Transfer & Mobility report. The fact that half of those who transfer do it by the end of their sophomore year indicates that these students realize pretty quickly that there may be schools that are better fits for them than the school where they enrolled. Students may view transferring as a ‘back-up’ plan when they are trying to get through the process as high school seniors – ‘I can always transfer’ – but putting the effort in the first time around is the best way to avoid the transfer headache.

What makes transferring such a comparatively messy process:

  • Not all course credits will transfer, sometimes for inexplicable reasons. Thus, the student is likely going to be paying for an extra semester or year and during that time, they will not be employed and earning money. This makes transferring an expensive option.
  • There is not as much merit-based or need-based money set aside for transfer students as for first-year freshmen.
  • The process during senior year of high school was streamlined with teachers, counselors and parents falling in line, completing anything asked of them in a timely manner. This time around, the student will need to take care of most of this themselves – calling the registrar’s office, talking to school administrators, requesting and collating college reports and recommendations, submitting paperwork and the applications.
  • It is difficult for college students to visit other colleges when classes are in session and students are on campus since they are likely on the same schedule as the schools to which they are considering transferring.
  • The transfer process varies wildly from college to college, and even from program to program within a college.
  • Each college handles the transfer process differently. Colleges select what they want from what seems like an ‘a la carte’ menu – college transcript, high school transcript, recommendations, academic evaluation, college transfer report, statement of good standing, test scores, AP and/or SAT subject test scores, resume, writing sample. Some colleges ask for all of these items, some ask for one or two.
  • A student’s chances of acceptance are hard to assess. Acceptance rates vary wildly from year to year. Colleges’ enrollment priorities differ for freshman applicants and transfer students.
  • Transfer applicants are selected for different reasons than applicants for freshman enrollment. For example, the highest emphasis is placed on the student’s most recent grades, and standardized tests are not as relevant as they were when applying as freshmen.
  • Many of the very selective colleges for entering freshmen become even more selective for aspiring transfer students.

The best thing a student can do for themselves is find the place where they have the greatest potential for happiness. When that means transferring, there’s a lot to consider.

« back to the blog


See College Sollutions' Margaret Bolton Baudinet on CBS News.