Should I Transfer Schools?

Transferring colleges is not an easy decision or process. But sometimes there are good reasons to change institutions. For example, maybe a degree program isn’t available at your current university or you’re seeking a lower cost option. Whatever the decision, this guide is intended for students that want to transfer colleges or universities and how to successfully prepare for the process. Ultimately, transferring schools can take weeks if not months to see through completion.

Determine if you need to transfer schools

The first step to transferring schools is to consider if you really need to transfer. Students usually transfer for a variety of reasons, such as: unhappy with current school, lack of major for career path, financial aid, being closer to home, and so on. So it’s important to have a valid reason to transfer schools. The last thing you want to do is transfer and feel you made a mistake (and transfer again). Remember when transferring schools, you want to go to a better fit for you — so don’t rush the process or let emotions get in the way. Transferring is an overall in-depth process and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

How to transfer colleges

If you decide to transfer to another college, it will be a different experience from when you first applied to your current school. For instance, your new school will likely request your current college transcripts. A strong academic transcript in college can hold more weight than previous ACT/SAT scores. Some institutions might also request your ACT/SAT scores, though.

Every school will have different requirements for transfer students to matriculate. Usually a certain amount of credits will be required. Students typically do not transfer after two years of study as their credits may not transfer and it can be a more complex process.

Transferring schools might also change your graduation date. So make sure to understand thoroughly how your existing coursework will meet new graduation requirements. This will require working with both universities to understand how the credits will be accepted from one institution to another.

Getting organized to transfer schools

You will likely need letters of recommendation from your current professors. Just like your high school scores and assessments, your college experience usually will have more influence. Consider getting letters of recommendation from professors in classes where you excelled or that fit your academic path.

Secondly, like most college planning, deadlines and transfer application due dates are crucial for students. Stay organized and use a calendar to give yourself plenty of time to collect materials and documents you might need.

You will also need the following items:

  • Transcripts from high school (especially if you are still a freshman or only have one semester complete)
  • Transcripts from other institutions (if applicable)
  • ACT/SAT scores (mentioned above, but included again)
  • Mid-year report for current academic standing
  • Major-specific requirements (potentially a resume, portfolio of work, personal or written statement, etc.)

Keep in mind, even transfer due dates and matriculation periods might be different than regular freshmen dates. So make sure you have dates and requirements for the application double-checked.

NYU - transfer students

Planning ahead

If you’ve made up your mind and have organized your materials, the next step is to get into planning mode.

It’s important to work with both your current and prospective schools to determine how many of your credits will transfer and whether those credits will count toward your major. Students should compare their colleges to see how their credits would be accepted. Be aware that some schools may not calculate your potential transfer credits until after you’ve applied and been accepted.

Moreover, confirm these questions with your target school: does your degree program exist at your new university? Is it available to transfer students, or are there pre-requisites you may need to fulfill before being able to apply?

Working on transfer application

Working on your transfer student application is well … a lot of work — which makes sense because you are applying to a brand new school with its own admission criteria. You should expect to invest a good chunk of time into your transfer student application.

In some cases, the acceptance rate for transfer students is lower than traditional freshman acceptance rates. This means at some universities, competition will be higher. While this may not be the case with every university or school, it’s best to have a competitive application to help regardless. For example, at Princeton University, the transfer acceptance rate is in the small percentages. Other schools like public universities might have more favorable admissions rates for transfer students. All in all, it’s worth knowing where you stand when it comes to acceptance rates.

Where you’re applying should dictate the quality of your transfer application. In some cases, you might be required to write an application essay or personal statement. And be prepared to explain why you are transferring. Doing so demonstrates to the admissions committee that you have done your homework and have shown a reason why they should admit you.

Remember, try your best to avoid saying something negative about your current university or college. If possible, reframe how your future plans are better met at the new institution. It’s on you to show how you’ve thought this process out.

What to do after transferring colleges?

Even once you’re admitted as a transfer students, your work is not yet done! But you’re closer to the finish line for your fresh start.

One of the first things you should do after acceptance is to meet with your advisor. Even before you’re accepted, it can be beneficial to reach out to admissions offices for resources on their student transfer process. Do they have a department for transfer students? Extra support? Doing your research on assistance upfront can provide a lot of benefits later on once you’re officially enrolled. And there’s no harm in asking!

Scholarships for transfer students

Many universities offer financial aid for transfer students in the form of scholarships. Here’s an example from the University of Minnesota. Before you transfer, consider your anticipated school’s scholarship offerings. Sometimes you will be automatically qualified for incoming scholarships, but it’s worth asking if there are also funds set aside for incoming transfer students.

Also, when you transfer schools, your federal loans might shift into the repayment phase. A deferment acts like a temporary break, allowing you some time to adapt without the immediate pressure of loan payments. Applying for this deferment is crucial to avoid unexpected financial obligations during this transitional period. It ensures you have a smooth transition without the added stress of immediate loan repayments.

Get involved on campus as a new student

Understand that it may take some time to adjust to your new surroundings. Some schools will offer a transfer student orientation to welcome newcomers. Sometimes they will pair transfer students with existing students to help them feel more adjusted to campus and the new school. Either way, consider getting involved with clubs and organizations on campus as a way to meet new people and expand your network.

Don’t forget — get to know your new professors and build rapport with them. This will help you later on if you need letters of recommendation for a scholarship or internship while in school.


Ultimately transferring schools isn’t that uncommon, but it does come with its own set of challenges as well as rewards. One thing that should remain clear is that details and deadlines matter — a lot. So make sure you adhere to the specifics of your chosen university’s transfer process and policies. Communicating early on with your current institution and prospective institution will help save you a lot of headaches down the road.

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