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What to Do If You Want to Transfer

Several factors are involved when finding your best-fit college. You research, visit, and spend hours imagining your freshman year there, but for some students even their “dream school” can turn out to not be the best place for them. And unfortunately, there are a few students who find this out too late.

It’s difficult to succeed at a school that turns out to not be the best-fit for you. If you’re feeling like your school isn’t right for you, there are some things you need to consider before submitting your application to transfer.

There are a number of reasons why students may want to transfer to a different school after their first year. Maybe they decided to change their major but their current school doesn’t offer it. Or perhaps the hustle and bustle of an urban campus turned out to be more stressful than a student originally thought. Whatever the reason, whether it’s campus life, academics, or just the overall atmosphere of the school, it’s important to take some time to reflect on why you may want to transfer schools.

Only 1% of IvyWise students have transferred schools in the last fourteen years, but according to a recent NACAC study approximately one-third of students transfer to another college in four years. Below are some things to think about if you are considering making the switch.

Stay engaged in your classes and community at your current institution.
Keep up your grades and your involvement outside of class. Transfer student readers want to know that you’ll be a strong student in the classroom, and a productive member of the campus community. Also, the Common Application for transfer students requires a recommendation letter from a professor.

Generally speaking, your grades from your current college/university courses will play a major role in your transfer admissions file. You may also need an official high school transcript and test scores, even if they aren’t considered as strongly, to include with your application.

Do careful research on schools that you are considering transferring to.
Many schools do not offer housing for transfer students and you don’t want to find that information late in the application process. In addition, try to talk to a transfer coordinator to get an idea of which courses will transfer over for credit at your new school and whether or not they have a transfer orientation program when you arrive to your new campus.

Be prepared to address why you want to leave your current school in your application and/or interview.
Work on finding a positive way to express why the school you are currently attending turned out to not be the right fit for you, as opposed to just expressing everything that is wrong at your current school. Many times you want to transfer because your interests have changed and your current school does not offer the major you would like to pursue.

Transferring is not as easy as you may think.
Transferring into another school can often be more difficult than applying as a freshman. The NACAC report shows the overall acceptance rate for transfer students at all schools in the country was 64% compared to 69% for freshman applications. This debunks the myth that it is easier to be accepted as a transfer student.

Many schools’ enrollment models do not leave much room for new students to enter in, and many desirable schools have such high retention rates that very few spots open up for new students to enter at all, like Harvard and Amherst College, making it tougher for transfer students to gain admission. Universities tend to read the inter-school transfer applicants (or students transferring schools within the same university) before reading the transfers from another school. Some schools, like Princeton, do not accept transfer students at all.

If you’re thinking of transferring, one of the most important things you can do is stay positive! Transferring is not a mark of defeat, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself the second time around. Be diligent in your search and do your homework on the schools you want to apply to as a transfer student. There’s a great-fit school out there for everyone and you’re sure to find it!

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