Plenty of students transfer between colleges every year. In fact, about one-third of all students will swap institutions at least once before earning their degree.

Transferring colleges can be a great idea if you're sure that the new school offers opportunities your current school lacks. That said, transferring involves an application process, and competition for open spots can be fierce. Your odds of acceptance as a transfer student are very different from your odds of admission as a first year. Here’s our advice on how to decide if transferring schools is right for you and tips for navigating the process once you’ve decided to make a change.

Student considering transferring colleges

Why Transfer Colleges?

One excellent reason to transfer is because you are unhappy. If you find that the school you are attending is not the best-fit college for you, you don’t have to settle for four years of misery. Now that you have more clarity about what you want out of your college experience, you are even better equipped to find one that will meet your academic  and social expectations.

Another reason to transfer is if your current school does not have a strong program in your major or area of interest. If you've decided to be a doctor and your college has a weak pre-med program, don't be afraid to look elsewhere.

Some students who are rejected from their first-choice school attend another school with the intention of later transferring. Others begin their education at a two-year community college but ultimately want a four-year degree.

However, if your goal is simply to enroll in a college with bigger name recognition, you might want to reconsider. The difference in reputation between your old school and your new one may not justify the time and effort of transferring.

Whatever reason you have, do your research. Pay a visit to the campus of your prospective school, chat with current students, and be sure to sit in on the specific classes that interest you. You don't want to find yourself transferring...again.

Plan Your College Transfer

Transferring to another college is not like applying to college the first time. Your high school transcript and test scores will take a back seat to your college transcript. So earn strong grades in college if you hope to transfer (some schools will still want to see your SAT or ACT scores as well).

Colleges have different policies for transfer students but typically expect you to have acquired a minimum number of credits. You'll have a harder time transferring if you've completed more than two years of study, even if you abandon some of the credit you've accrued.

Of course, transferring can impact your intended graduation date or study abroad plans. Be aware of the policies at your prospective transfer school. Not all classes/credits are transferable and some schools won't accept credit from a class if you earned below a C.

Prep to Transfer Schools

  1. Get letters of recommendation from your college professors . High school recommendations are beneficial, but the opinion of someone who has seen you handle college coursework will hold more weight. Seek out professors who have taken a shine to you (especially ones within your major or academic area of interest). Don't be afraid that they'll be unhappy with your decision to leave; ultimately, educators want their students to be content. If a professor agrees to write you a letter, let him or her know how much it means to you. A thank-you note goes a long way towards making your recommender feel appreciated.

  2. Be mindful of transfer application deadlines. Transfer deadlines vary from school to school, though you'll probably need to send in an application by March or April if you're hoping to transfer in the fall.

Financial Considerations for Transfer Students

Typically, transfer students are eligible for less scholarship funds, though some schools set aside money specifically for transfer students. Be sure to ask your prospective schools about their financial aid policies.

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