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Building a Balanced Transfer College List

One of the most critical components of the college admissions process is a balanced college list, and it’s even more important when applying as a transfer student. The transfer admissions process can be even more selective than the regular undergraduate admissions process, so students need to prioritize a transfer college list with a healthy mix of target, reach, and likely schools.

When building a balanced transfer college list, students need to keep a number of things in mind including why they want to transfer, what they’re looking for at their new school, and more. Students also need to have a firm understanding of each school’s admissions requirements and application timeline for transfer students. This is where research is key! Here’s what students need to do in order to build a balanced transfer college list.

Evaluate Why You Want to Transfer
The first step in building a balanced college transfer list is understanding why you want to transfer in the first place. There are a number of factors that can influence students’ decision to transfer – in fact over a third of college students transfer at least once. For some it can be difficulties transitioning into college life, homesickness, or just an overall negative experience their first year. For others it can be more straightforward – they want to change majors and their current school doesn’t offer the program they’re looking for. Whatever the reason, evaluate what it is exactly about your current institution that doesn’t fit your needs, and begin researching schools that offer what you’re looking for. Remember, fit is key when applying to college – especially as a transfer student – so it’s critical for students to evaluate why their current school isn’t a good fit anymore and what would make another school the perfect alternative.

Approach Your College Search With Fresh Eyes
Chances are you’re not quite the same person you were a year ago when you were still in high school applying to college for the first time. A lot can happen in that time frame, and with the experience of a semester or two under your belt, your perspective on what you want out of your college experience may have changed. When considering the transfer admissions process, don’t just revert back to the original college list you made in high school. Instead, approach the process with fresh eyes and build a new list from the ground up. Did you apply to large universities only to find that you enjoy a smaller campus community better? Were you set on West Coast universities but after arriving realize it’s too far from the things you enjoy? While location alone shouldn’t influence your decision to transfer, consider those criteria that were so important for you the first time around and decide if they still matter. Spend some time doing some thorough research on new schools that offer the size, location, programs, and campus culture that matters to you now.

Research How Current Credits Will Transfer
College is expensive, and transfer students want to hold on to as many credits as they can in order to avoid paying more for an extra semester or summer school to catch up at their new school. When building your transfer college list, do your due diligence and talk with admissions officers and the registrar’s office at prospective schools to learn more about transfer credits that they accept, how they evaluate whether or not to accept transfer credits, and, generally, how long it takes transfer students to graduate. This is critical, as it can greatly impact your experience on campus. For example, if a school won’t accept some of your general or core courses, you could be taking History 101 again as a sophomore or junior. Transfer students need to do their homework so that they fully understand how their credits will transfer at different schools and how that will impact their experience once they’re on campus.

Fit Matters!
We can’t stress this enough – fit is key! For many students, the decision to transfer comes because the school they’re in now is just not a good fit. It could be because of the size, location, academic offerings, or a number of other factors. Whatever the reason, it’s important to focus on fit this time around. Fit is important for all facets of your college experience, from the big picture stuff like major, minor, and academic programs, to the small stuff like dorm life, amenities, the surrounding community, and more. Take time to build a list of good-fit target, reach, and likely schools – any of which you’d be happy to attend. And we mean REALLY happy! Don’t add a school just because you like it better than where you are now. Your main goal shouldn’t be to just go “anywhere but here.” This opens you up to enrolling in another school that’s not a good fit – leaving you with the same problems you had before. Instead, invest in comprehensive research. Learn everything you can about the schools you’re interested in transferring to, so you can really envision yourself thriving there. Fit is extremely important and can make the application process much more enjoyable if you’re applying to all good-fit schools that you’re genuinely excited about.

Applying to college as a transfer student may feel like déjà vu, but it’s a very different process the second time around. Be diligent about researching schools of interest, building a balanced transfer college list, and making good grades in your current courses. There are a lot of moving parts to consider when applying as a transfer, but with proper planning and a list of great-fit schools, you’ll find the next college where you’ll be successful and happy.

At IvyWise, we work with students throughout all parts of the college admissions process, including transfer admission. Contact us today for more information on our services for transfer students.