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How to Prepare for a College Transfer

By Edited Jan 31, 2016 1 0

Making a transfer from one college to another may seem like an intimidating task. Whether you are graduating from a two-year college and moving on to the next level of study or you've simply decided to change to another school, the procedure will require some planning and organization.

The best course of action is to simplify the process as much as you can. By breaking down the necessary requirements into manageable increments, you can smoothly transition from one university to another.

Research Colleges in Advance

As soon as you decide you'll be transferring universities, hit the Internet and start seeking colleges that offer the curriculum program you want to pursue. Your academic counselor in your current school usually can also offer tips on how to research schools if you don't have a specific college in mind. This is important for several reasons, but the most significant one is that you want to make sure you can continue in your desired area of study. Once you select a school, call and speak to an admissions counselor. He or she will help outline everything you will need to do in order to make the transfer. The earlier you plan for this, the better.

[Related reading: Benefits to Starting a 4-Year Degree at a 2-Year College]

Wellesley College
Credit: Soe Lin on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Examine the Likelihood of Transferring Credits

Once you've narrowed down a school that offers your degree program, speak with a college representative who is able to evaluate transcripts. This step ensures whether or not the credits you've already taken are comparable and if your new school will accept the credits you've already earned.

Chances are very good you will be able to bring most, if not all, of your credits with you (especially if you've taken mostly general education/core classes), but it is not a given. If you initially started college with a plan to be a transfer student, you will have had the advantage of careful course selection. However, with an unexpected transfer, unfortunately, you may find some courses won't transfer and/or apply to your new degree program.

Complete Some English and Math Credits

Complete some English and math credits, if time permits, before you transfer. If you are leaving a college prior to completion of your degree program, try to finish at least one credit-level course in each of these subjects before changing schools. Most colleges require an assessment test (often called a placement test), and if you haven't completed any of the credit-level English or math courses, you may be required to take a placement test even if you've already taken one and the recommended pre-requisite courses (also sometimes called "remedial courses").

Unfortunately, some colleges don't accept pre-requisite courses for transfer; this will likely vary from school to school. Additionally, if you've taken a placement test at your current school, sometimes schools will accept these results, sometimes not. It may depend upon the type of test you've taken and whether or not the school uses the same test; keep in mind some results are only good for a specified time (i.e. two years).

SAT - Math Section
Credit: Butz.2013 on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Having previously worked in admissions/registrar office, this is a common situation I had observed. It is frustrating for a transfer student to have to repeat skill-building courses he or she has already taken (taking extra courses not needed can be expensive), or be required to take a placement test when it's already been done. If you have time to plan your transfer, it's likely easier to just complete an English 101 and a first level math course. Usually these credits will smoothly transfer to your new college.

Look at Your Grades

Most schools will require a "C" grade or better in order for the course to be acceptable for transfer. If you have some courses with lower grades you'll either want to repeat these before you transfer or be prepared to re-take them at the new school if they are required classes. If you have several low grades, you also want to check the minimum number of earned credits required to transfer to the school you're looking at attending. Additionally, if you have an overall low GPA, you may have difficulty transferring schools. 

Have Admissions Paperwork Ready as Soon as Possible

This paperwork includes application, residency documentation (if needed), essays, and recommendation letters. The faster you have your proverbial ducks in a row, the earlier you can complete the transfer process which will free you up to take care of other business.

This includes official transcripts. It is a good idea to request official transcripts sooner than later, this is an important detail to remember. Once you've completed your application package and have it ready to go, make a formal request to your current school to send your future college a copy of your official transcripts. Some schools may even require your high school transcripts as well, depending on the situation. Most schools and universities process these requests quickly, but don't leave it to the last-minute - just in case. Remember, these need to stay sealed, do not open the envelope to take a look. This transcript will contain pretty much the same information you can see in an unofficial copy; log into your account, most colleges make these available online these days.

Get Financial Aid Paperwork in Order

If you already have financial aid for the year, don't forget to fill out the required paperwork that allows you to transfer your grants to your new college, or if you are starting a brand new term, fill out the paperwork as quickly as possible to get the ball rolling for the next year. Financial aid can be a slow and tedious process, and it is not uncommon to hit some road bumps in this process.

It's a good idea to talk to counselors at both schools to get all the information you will need to make sure you don't miss any of the required details or deadlines. Transferring colleges takes a bit of organization, but by breaking it down in steps and double checking to make sure you dot your proverbial "i's and cross your proverbial "t's", the transition will be far easier.

[Related reading: Common Mistakes in the College Application Process]



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  1. "The College Transfer Process." Princeton Review. 27/01/2015 <Web >
  2. "What Are College Placement Tests?." College Board. 27/01/2015 <Web >
  3. "Assessment Center." Riverside City College. 27/01/2015 <Web >

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