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how to transfer colleges

Life is a series of choices, and we’re all capable of making errors, growing, or needing change sometimes. We’d all love the process of higher education to be straightforward and painless; but let’s be real, the process of choosing colleges is subject to the complexity and fluidity of human life like anything else.

Whether you’re transferring your credits out of a community college or second guessing your graduate degree program, there may come some point in your academic experience where planning for college requires transferring from one school to another. This is nothing to feel ashamed or frustrated about. In fact, it’s estimated that around one third of students will transfer from one institution to another before actually earning a degree—and the reasons for transferring are as diverse as college students themselves. If you find yourself among them, there are some simple, practical steps you can take to make the transition smooth and successful.

Deciding to Transfer

The first step in the process is to have a clear understanding of why you want to transfer. Put your academic needs first, and try to avoid making rash decisions based on emotional situations, such as a fight with a dorm mate or a bad experience in one class.

Speak to your support system about the fact that you’re considering transferring. Family, friends, favorite professors, and your academic advisor can all be good resources. Be aware, however, that the decision is ultimately your own. It’s crucial to get feedback from trusted people in your life when you’re making a big decision, but don’t let a school friend guilt you into staying in a situation that isn’t good for you or a school employee talk you into sticking with a program you know isn’t a fit.

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Finding a School (And Getting It Right This Time)

Once you’re committed to the decision to transfer, it’s time to lock in your school choices. You are essentially beginning the process of evaluating and choosing programs all over again, except now you have some additional wisdom, academic experience, and a better sense of your desired path that will help guide you in the decision.

Make lists of what you do or don’t want/need in a school. Focus on your academic goals, but don’t ignore social and quality of life aspects. The right school, as you know by now, is much more than a matter of the right classes and schedule.

Also spend some time reflecting on what exactly isn’t working about your current school or program.

You’ll also want to put some time into researching technical details, such as the difference in cost between your current program and the ones you’re considering transferring to, and which (if any) of your credits will transfer to which programs.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few programs, start applying. The application process for transfers is somewhat similar to the application process you did when you first enrolled in college, but with additional paperwork for transferring your credits and existing college finances into your new school’s systems. The focus this time around will be more so on your college grades and your reasons for transferring, but many programs will still require your high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores as well.

Inform Your Current School

Meet with your academic advisor, registrar’s office, and financial aid office to let them know you’re transferring, to ask if there are any additional steps you are required to take before leaving your current school, and to request assistance with any paperwork they might need to provide for the transfer process.

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Additional Resources:
https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/transferring-colleges
https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/transfer-guide/
https://www.npr.org/2021/11/10/1054306602/how-to-transfer-colleges
https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2017-09-22/transferring-colleges-10-frequently-asked-questions

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