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How to Transfer Colleges

Bold.org Editorial Team

Top experts in a variety of areas

If you are looking into how to transfer colleges, the process may seem confusing if you don't know how to start your preparation. Working to transfer schools is less about the application process itself and more about understanding why you want to transfer, the graduation requirements for the degree you are seeking, and working with advisors to switch credits from your old school to your new school. Once you've decided on where you want to transfer, you can apply to different colleges and prepare for the transition.

Transferring colleges

Transfer students choose to leave their original schools for a number of reasons. Whether they initially applied and were denied, started at a community college, or aren't satisfied with the education at their current college, prospective transfer students have a lot to consider when working to transfer colleges.

Finding Your transfer college

Finding transfer colleges is the first big step in the college transfer process. For students already at a university, this is similar to their original search, but for students moving from a community college, it can seem new and overwhelming. Start by finding schools that you are interested in transferring to. Search for schools with programs that you are interested in, schools that are in an area you'd like to be in, and schools that have the financial aid opportunities you are looking for.

If you are switching universities, pay attention to what you didn't like about your first school and search for transfer colleges that meet the expectations your first school didn't. The process of becoming a transfer student takes time and effort, so you want to make sure that the transfer school you end up at is a better fit for you so you don't have to go through the process all over again.

Understanding credit transfer

Once you have an idea of where you want to transfer to, talk with your academic advisor about what the transfer process entails and how your college credits will transfer to a new school. For this, it is extremely important that you understand what the degree program requires at both your current school and the transfer colleges you are looking to switch to.

Get help from your current academic advisor to understand your degree audit report (DAR), which shows the academic plan for your degree program and shows your progress in completing it. This will give you an idea of where you are at in your degree progress and therefore how transferring colleges will affect your progress. Some schools don't accept previous college credits from transfer students, but in many cases, if you've started a program at one school, all or some of those credits will transfer.

While you may not be successful in transferring all the credits you earned at your previous school, be persistent about transferring as many credits as possible. Talk with the admissions counselor at your current school and new school and advocate for yourself, especially if your college transcripts demonstrate your success in those courses.

Preparing to apply

Once you've taken into account what schools have programs you are interested in, which places will take your transfer credits, and ultimately where you want to earn your college education, it is time to look toward the transfer process. As a transfer student, you have to prepare certain materials, especially if you want to transfer your college credits.

Just like applying to college originally, you will have to apply with transcripts, essays, and other important information. You will need your college transcript, and some transfer students must provide a high school transcript, especially if they are transferring after only a couple of semesters. Depending on how long you've been at your college, you may have to include other high school details, such as SAT or ACT scores.

Transfer student application

Once you start applying, you can expect the process to include traditional components, such as an essay, along with new additions, such as letters of recommendation from current professors. You will want to make sure that your application has all the necessary components, giving you the best chance to successfully transfer colleges. Involvement in extracurriculars at your current college also helps to strengthen your application.

Be on top of when the application deadline is for transfer students, and work hard to get into your prospective school. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to successfully transfer colleges.

For general tips on applying to new schools as a transfer student, watch this video with advice for transfer students from a former transfer student.

How to transfer from community college to university

The key to transferring colleges is to plan ahead. Community college students will have the most success in transferring schools if they get help from their academic advisors early on. There are a few important things to look into early if you are planning to transfer colleges.

First, plan ahead as to what programs you want to pursue at a transfer school so that you can take classes in community college that will transfer to your new degree program. Another part of this is picking a major. Many students use community college as a time to explore different fields and find what they are interested in. Before transferring colleges, it is a good idea to know what major program you want to pursue as a transfer student.

Community colleges often have academic advisors specifically for helping transfer students prepare for the transition. Utilize their help: they can help you with understanding college credit transfers and can guide you on what schools look for in transfer applicants. Community college is a great time to figure out what you are interested in and to prepare for the transfer process.

How to transfer from one university to another

Transferring colleges from one university to another is different from transferring from a community college to a university. When transferring colleges, it's important to know that high school transcripts don't matter as much as the transcript from your current college and letters of recommendation. Colleges want to see the kind of college student you are and how much effort you put into your studies.

Just like applying to a university the first time, there are components of the application, such as the essay and the transcript, but it is much more focused on your accomplishments at your current school. Transferring colleges can look different depending on where you decide to go, but if you follow the basic application steps, you will have a good starting point.

How to write a college transfer essay

When writing your transfer essay, you need to put your best foot forward, showing the selection committee that you are a transfer student they want at their school. This means highlighting your extracurricular activities, jobs, and involvement, while not being boastful. The same principle applies to grades.

Transfer applications are different than traditional applications, meaning your essay should reflect a number of things regarding the specific school:

  1. Explain why you have decided to change colleges. Without being too negative about your current school, demonstrate why it was not a great fit for you and why the transfer school is.
  2. Be specific as to why you chose their school. What drew you to their program? Include why you want to transfer there as opposed to other schools.
  3. Explain what you bring to their college. Include why your academic achievements, personal goals and progress toward them, and personality make you a successful student. Schools see applications from many transfer students, so display what makes you different.

This can be done through an interview with the admissions officers, but essays are another great way to showcase why you would be a good fit for this particular school.

Do grades transfer from community college to university?

Grade point average and your community college transcript are taken into account during the process of admission to your new school, but aside from that, colleges do not usually take grades from other schools.

Does GPA transfer from community college to university?

Along those same lines, your GPA will not transfer, since your overall community college transcript will not transfer. Therefore, your GPA at the school you transfer to will start fresh when you begin there. This can be helpful to college students who have struggle to pick a major, since taking classes you are not interested in can make it harder to achieve good grades.

Classes to take in community college to transfer

The list of classes you should take is dependent on your chosen career path, the state you are in, and the new school you are transferring to. A good place to start is by taking general education classes that are required and at the same level as the ones at the school you wish to transfer to. In the same sense, taking prerequisite classes for your degree that you know your transfer school requires may also help.

There is no guarantee that your classes will transfer. But, if you choose classes in community college that are most similar to the ones you'd have to take for your program at a transfer school, you have a higher chance of getting those classes transferred.

If you are unsure what classes you should take at community college in order to help you transfer to another school, do research on the requirements for transfer schools you are interested in, and talk to your academic advisors. They work with many students in your specific situation, so they can help give you the best advice as to what classes are best to take while at that specific community college.

Frequently asked questions about transferring colleges

Transferring colleges can be confusing, but below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the transfer process between schools.

Can I transfer from one community college to another?

Yes, you can transfer schools between community colleges, but whether your GPA, transcript, and classes transfer to your new school may depend on your location. Most states have their policies outlined, which you can find through Google searches or by talking to academic advisors. However, in many cases, community college credits are able to transfer between two community colleges.

Is it easier to get into college as a transfer?

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the average admittance rate for transfer students is 62%, whereas the admissions rate for incoming, first-time freshmen is 66%. So while it isn't easier to get accepted as a transfer student, the acceptance rate isn't significantly lower.

In general, it is a little bit harder to get into schools as a transfer student, but these statistics change when analyzing individual colleges' acceptance rates. If you want a better idea of your chances of acceptance at your transfer school, see what the acceptance rate for transfer students looks like for individual schools.

How does transferring college affect financial aid?

In order to know what your financial aid will look like when transferring colleges, you will have to talk with the financial aid office at the new school you are transferring to. There are many factors that go into keeping certain financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and more.

The amount of money you can transfer will vary depending on what school you go to. Financial aid eligibility will have to be recalculated for your new school, meaning that you won't necessarily get the same financial aid at your new school that you had at your original institution.