8 Tips: Transferring to Another College

Most of the attention during every admission season is on high school seniors, which means transfer students often get lost in the shuffle. That’s a shame since a sizable number of college students end up transferring every year.

According to special transfer student report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, a third of students end up transferring to other colleges or universities. Some of these students are transferring from community colleges, but many are also seeking to move from one four-year school to another.

If you or your child is hoping to transfer, here are 8 things you need to know:

1. The transfer admission hurdle is slightly more difficult. The acceptance rate for transfer students (64 percent), according to NACAC, is slightly lower than the acceptance rate of first-year students (69 percent).

When evaluating transfer applicants, the biggest admission factor by far is a student’s grades at their current college. More than 90 percent of colleges that participated in the NACAC survey said the overall postsecondary grade point average was “considerably important.”

2. Transfer students can qualify for merit aid. Seventy-seven percent of colleges reported that they provide merit scholarships to transfer students. Eighty-one percent of small colleges, which have less than 3,000 students, report that they award merit scholarships to transfer students. In comparison, 66 percent of medium-sized schools and 67 percent of large schools offer merit awards.

3. Not all schools have room for transfer students. Small colleges, which have very few undergrads leaving, can have few available spots for transfer students. For instance, Amherst College admitted just 24 transfer students out of 421 applicants for the fall term. Georgetown University, a much larger institution, admitted 364 transfer students out of 1,616 who applied.

State universities are often more equipped to accept large numbers of transfer applicants. UCLA, for instance, recently accepted 5,505 transfer students out of a pool of 18,986 transfer applicants.

4. Standardized tests scores aren’t as important. The SAT and ACT, according to the NACAC survey, are less important for transfer students than high school seniors.

In fact, the more time you’ve spent in college, the less other institutions care about your SAT or ACT scores, according to Deborah Shames, an independent college counselor in northern New Jersey and a transfer admissions advisor for Kaplan Education Foundation.

“If a student is transferring after one semester in college or a year, schools usually want the SAT and high school GPA, but the further away from high school, the less schools rely on them,” Shames says.

5. Check out what a college wants from transfer students. Before applying to a school, find out what the institution is looking for in transfer applicants. You can get a good idea by looking at a school’s Common Data Set. The Common Data Set is a document that four-year schools across the country complete that contains lots of information on such topics as admission criteria, freshman academic profile, campus safety and transfer admissions. You can often find a college’s Common Data Set by Googling that term and the name of the institution.

The College Board also provides this same transfer information. When looking at the profile of any four-year school on College Board, click on “Admission” hyperlink and you’ll find the transfer statistics.

6. Make sure your credits transfer. You don’t want to lose credits when you move to another school. During the admission process, talk to a college’s transfer credit evaluator to get a sense of what credits would transfer.

7. Look for transfer-friendly schools. One way to access that intangible is to ask if the college has a transfer coordinator. Also does the school have a transfer orientation or other transfer programs? Does the school have housing for transfer students? Ideally, you’d like to talk to transfer students about their experience at a school.

8. Focus on the positive when explaining your desire to transfer. College applications will typically ask a student why they want to transfer. Shames warns that students should avoid saving anything negative about their current school. Instead focus on positive reasons for the change and offer specifics on why you want to transfer to a specific college.

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4 Responses to 8 Tips: Transferring to Another College

  1. joey June 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    credit transfr is by far the most important things to take care,but im really suprised that ACT scores arnt as valued as before,it can be quite a challenging test..

  2. Brittany June 17, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    I will be completing my AA winter 2012 and am hoping to transfer to a University in the summer or fall. Do you know if it is very difficult to get admitted for summer quarter? I’m afraid fall quarter I may not be able to get into some classes I need (being low man on the registering pole), so I wondered if it would be beneficial to begin summer quarter so I hopefully get into the classes I need in the fall. I am mostly concerned about my foreign language. That’s the only requirement I have not been able to complete in CC and will have to do when I transfer.

  3. Bernie June 14, 2011 at 2:08 am #

    Great timing for this post because I’m thinking transferring!

    But I’m curious, do colleges prefer a student who transfers after 2 years or less? My story is that I attended a college for two years thinking I’d major in communications, but after volunteering at a local hospital and gaining exposure to prosthetic technology, I became enamored with biomedical engineering. I’ll be attending my current college for another year, which makes me a junior. However, I would prefer to study biomedical engineering an area of study my school doesn’t have (I go to an LAC).

    Will it hinder my transfer application to have three years under my belt seeking a late change (and taking a while to attain the desired bachelor’s degree)?

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy June 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

      Hi Bernie,

      Financially, I think it would be better to obtain your bachelor’s degree at your liberal arts college. It would be difficult to transfer after 3 years. Many schools will only take general ed credits from another school so you could lose a lot of credits and what happens if you decide to go into another field again? I’d explore master’s degree options and also certificate programs through university extension programs or even a second bachelor’s degree, but get that initial one first!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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