Jumping Ship: The Hazards of Transferring to Another University

I got an email recently from a dad named George who shared the bad luck of a young woman who lost lots of college credits when she transferred from one four-year university to another.  His email is pertinent because many students end up hopping from one school to another.  In fact, I believe about one out of four students fall into this category

A Reader’s Question

Here is George’s email:

Our college-age daughter had a friend over for dinner tonight.  She transferred from UNC Chapel Hill to Georgia Tech after this past spring semester ended. She was telling us that she lost a lot of her credits that she had earned at UNC.  This seemed odd to me — UNC and GT are both very good schools, so why would GT not accept credits from UNC?

I vaguely remember that this is a fairly common issue – schools not accepting a high percentage of credits earned at the school being transferred from. Can you educate your followers on this subject?

Avoiding the Transfer Nightmare

I can relate to what happened to this college student because the same credit debacle happened to a family friend’s daughter. In what seemed to be a spur-of-the moment decision, the girl decided to transfer from the University of San Francisco to New York University. It was only after she got to NYU that she discovered that lots of her credits did not make the transcontinental trip. She spent one expensive semester at NYU and then transferred back to USF.

To find out how students can preserve their hard-earned college credits when they transfer, I called Deborah Shames, an independent college counselor in New Jersey and the transfer admission adviser for the Kaplan Leadership Program. She understands transfer issues better than anybody I know. Here is the advice she shared:

1. If you are contemplating moving to another school, contact the transfer admission staffer at that institution and ask for a preliminary college credit evaluation. This evaluation should give you a heads up on what credits the school will accept. Keep in mind, however, that some schools won’t provide an evaluation until you’ve applied to their institutions.

2. Be prepared to lose some credits. That routinely happens, but you should be able to find schools where the loss will be minimal.

3. To keep your credits from disappearing, it’s best to take introductory classes before trying to transfer. Courses that typically fall into that category would include Calculus I, Intro to Psychology and freshmen writing seminars.

4. Some schools will not accept any credits that are in the student’s major or they may only take credits in the major if the student earned “A’s” or “B’s.”

Bottom Line: 

Carefully research your options before transferring to another four-year college. Preserving your credits should be a top priority or you could easily end up requiring five or six years to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes college blogs for CBSMoneyWatch and US News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter.

More at The College Solution:

Good News for College Transfer Students

College Textbooks: 7 Ways to Save Money

The Fascinating Anatomy of a College Scholarship

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