How To Transfer Colleges: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Success

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Transferring colleges is never an easy decision, but sometimes it’s necessary. There are many reasons why students want to transfer colleges. You may need to relocate for personal reasons, your current school isn’t the right fit, or maybe you want to study in a better program.


Whatever the reason is, you’ll need to understand how to navigate transferring schools. The last thing you want is not to be prepared and get rejected by your new college of choice. It’s important to understand the process in order to plan a successful transition, avoid any hidden costs, and increase your chances of being accepted elsewhere.


We’ve laid out a step-by-step guide to help you understand how to transfer colleges. Keep reading to learn more about the process of transferring and what steps you need to take to transfer successfully.



Student going through the steps of how to transfer colleges
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How Do You Know It’s Time To Transfer Colleges?

Before you begin applying to other universities, it’s important to reflect on your reasons for wanting to transfer to a different college. This isn’t a choice that should be made lightly, and it can have an impact on your education, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.


For example, if you’re having a personal problem with your roommate, you miss home, or you’re struggling in one of your classes, look into other ways to fix these problems instead of moving to a different college altogether. It’s likely that these problems might sort themselves out over time, and there’s no way of knowing that you won’t run into other similar issues at a different university.


If you’re assessing whether to transfer schools, consider your future career opportunities. Perhaps a different school has a stronger or more specialized program for your area of study. Or perhaps you’ve been studying in a community college and are ready to make the move into a specific degree program that’s offered at a different school.


Sometimes, students consider switching schools for financial reasons. University can be expensive, and not everyone can manage with tons of debt. In this case, it’s good to think about transferring to a cheaper college or even an online university. University of the People offers several accredited online programs that are tuition-free, so you can save money while learning from anywhere.


Transferring is always a personal decision. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need to explain your reason for wanting to transfer when applying to new colleges, so you need to find a compelling explanation in order to be accepted.



Admissions Process For Transfer Students


You’ve already done it once, so applying to transfer to a different college shouldn’t be something unfamiliar to you. The process is similar to applying as a first-year student, but there are still certain things you should look out for.


Much of the application process is often the same, such as submitting an essay, sending in your transcripts, and collecting letters of recommendation. Note that the letters should be recent and from professors at your current university.


You also need to look into the transfer requirements from the schools you’re applying to, as they might be different from the regular admissions requirements. For example, the GPA might be adjusted to reflect the college courses you’ve already completed.


Some schools, especially if they’re in the same area, may have transfer admissions programs in place that make it simpler for students to transfer college credits and courses when transitioning between schools. This is more common between community colleges and nearby universities, so before starting, it’s best to check with the schools you’re applying to.



Step-By-Step Guide On How To Transfer Colleges

While we always recommend checking with the specific college to see if they have any special requirements, these steps are ones you’ll generally need to cover when transferring.



University of the People Students sitting together
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Step 1: Finding The Right School (Again)


This may seem obvious, but it’s a crucial first step.


Once you’ve settled on your reasons for why you want to transfer schools, the next step is researching colleges that can fill the gap your current college presented. If it’s an academic need, then you want to create a list of schools where your academic and career goals can be met.


It’s important not to limit yourself in this step. Applying as a transfer student can be just as frustrating as applying as a first-year student, so you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Branch out and consider schools you may not have thought of applying to in the past.


Finally, once you’ve narrowed down your list of universities, do some more thorough research. Speak to students and staff members, visit the campus, maybe even audit a class or two. You want to really be sure of the colleges you’re applying to since you don’t want to be left disappointed and wanting to transfer again.



Step 2: Maintain A High GPA


Of course, easier said than done, but you shouldn’t be applying for a transfer if you’re failing all your current courses. You need to get your grades up in order to apply to a new college if you want to be accepted, so even if you’re unhappy at your university, this isn’t the time to slack off.


Check the required GPA for admission or for transfer students at the schools you’re applying to, and make sure you’ve at least met the requirement, if not exceeded it.


If you’re considering transferring in the next year or two and you’re worried about your grades, take some easier classes in the meantime. You’ll be able to improve your GPA and increase your chances of getting accepted as a transfer student.



Step 3: Choose Classes Carefully


Aside from choosing classes that can boost your GPA, you also want to be sure that the credits from classes at your current college will be transferred to your new school.


Sometimes, remedial or specialized classes may not transfer accordingly, and may only count as elective credits at your new school. If you still have time before you plan on applying to transfer, take some gen ed classes. Usually, a lot of gen ed classes are similar across most colleges and will transfer more easily.


You should also take into account that if some of your credits don’t transfer, you’ll likely need to take an extra semester or two and delay your graduation. This isn’t the end of the world, but it can increase the total costs of your education.



Step 4: Take A Look At The Risks Of Transferring


Your credits aren’t the only thing you’re risking when transferring colleges. Risk assessment is another key element of considering your reasons for wanting to transfer schools, as some of these are unavoidable.


Firstly, ask yourself if you’re able to take on the additional cost of extra semesters if your credits don’t transfer over. This isn’t so bad if you’re looking into how to transfer colleges after one semester, but if you’re already halfway through your degree, it can be significant.


Next, you’re taking a risk of whether or not you’ll adapt to the new college socially. If you’re transferring for academic reasons, you may have already built a strong community of friends at your current school. The loss of this friend group can be difficult to handle.


Finally, it’s not easy to start over. Maybe this is the reason you’re transferring, in which case, it’ll be something you look forward to. But, if it’s not, then it can be a challenge to get used to a new school, new professors, and new friends all at once.



Step 5: Transferring After Sophomore Year


Wondering how to transfer colleges after sophomore year? The process isn’t entirely different, but there are a few things to take into consideration.


As you complete more courses and gain more credits in college, your high school grades become less and less relevant. This can work to your advantage or disadvantage, depending on how good your current grades are.


For example, if you didn’t finish high school with the strongest grades but are now top of your class, you might be able to transfer to a better university after your sophomore year. On the other hand, if your grades aren’t the best in college and were better in high school, this can hurt your chances of admission.


Speak to an academic advisor to create a personalized plan for how to transfer colleges sophomore year.



Step 6: Get Your Application Together


Once you’ve completed all the previous steps, you can begin to reach out to other schools. Speak with academic advisors or the admissions office there to be sure you have everything you need in order to apply.


You should also check when the schools you’re applying to accept transfer applications, since some might not take them every semester. Each school may have different deadlines as well, so be sure to take note as not to miss any dates.


Gather all the necessary paperwork like your essay, transcript, recommendation letters, your test scores, and anything else you need and be sure to submit your application on time.


Finally, cross your fingers and hope for the best!



Bottom Line: Is Transferring Colleges Really Worth It?

Learning how to transfer colleges can be a headache, but it might also be really worth the effort if you’re doing it for the right reasons.


Some students who weren’t accepted to their school or program of choice initially decide to attend a different school and then transfer in the future. This can be a worthwhile strategy in the interim if you can keep your GPA high and take courses that will transfer. If you fall into this category, you might also want to consider online courses by an accredited institution, like University of the People.


With University of the People’s tuition-free distance learning, you can take a number of courses in multiple fields that can be used to later apply or transfer to a different university. This way, you can work on your long-term education goals without breaking the bank.