Wondering how to transfer colleges? You're not alone.
In fact, more than a third of undergraduate students will transfer colleges at least once before they finish earning their targeted degrees. That could be for any number of reasons. Some students might decide they want to study something else not offered there. Others might feel like their original choice isn’t the best fit.
Some students might even be transferring for financial reasons—starting at a comparatively inexpensive 2 year community college, for example, and then transferring to finish the four-year degree. Whatever your motivation, it is a big decision, so make sure to put care into researching how to transfer colleges.
Should I Transfer Colleges?
The first step in the college transfer process is an obvious one—deciding for sure whether it’s the right choice for you. For example, how do you tell if you’re just homesick, or still adjusting to the lifestyle change of a new degree program? The answers could be slightly different for everybody.
6 Reasons You Might Want to Tranfer
- It was the plan all along.
Some students enroll in a program with the intention of later transferring. A common example of this is a two-year program (such as in a community college) designed to facilitate transferring to a four-year program once you’re finished. In this case, some two-year schools may even have relationships with nearby four-year programs that make this process go a little more smoothly.
- The classes are too hard.
Having trouble keeping up? While many schools have resources to help struggling students succeed, a few students may instead opt to transfer to a program that better aligns with their experience and learning needs. If this is the case for you, it might be a good idea to talk to your current program to find out if there are any avenues you haven’t explored there before changing schools.
- The classes are not challenging enough.
At the other extreme, some students might enroll in a program, get there, and realize they’re not being challenged to the degree they want. They might be doing well academically, but feel under-stimulated by the courses themselves. In that case, some students might choose to transfer into a new program with the rigor they want.
- They want different opportunities.
Some students enroll in a school and a degree program, only to realize they want to study something else that’s not offered at that school. In that case, they might transfer into a college that offers the degree they want. Similarly, some students might be looking for certain services or opportunities—like getting involved with research, internship programs, study abroad—not offered at their current college.
- The schedule or format doesn’t work for them.
One situation that could motivate transferring colleges: your lifestyle and scheduling needs. For example, if you enroll in a campus program, only to discover that your work and family commitments demand more flexibility, you might decide to transfer into an online school instead.
- They’re just not comfortable there.
Finally, sometimes a student just plain isn’t happy. After all, every school isn’t for everyone! If your school culture doesn’t feel like a great fit for you, it could just take some getting used to. But if that’s not the case, it’s a perfectly valid reason to transfer into a school where you’re a little more comfortable.
How to Transfer Colleges: Getting Started
Not every college accepts transfer students, and the ones that do might accept at different rates.
As such, the application process, prerequisites, and other factors may vary from school to school, depending on what they’re looking for.
5 Things You Need to Know About Transferring
- Not all schools take transfer students.
While many schools do accept transfer students, that’s not the case across the board. Similarly, some schools may work to attract transfers and have more slots open, whereas in other cases, the amount of spaces are limited. Sometimes, this could even change from year to year. If you’re interested in transferring to some place in particular, make sure they’re taking transfers when you want to apply.
- Admission might be a little more competitive.
Because the amount of space schools have for transfer students tends to be comparatively smaller than regular admission, it’s possible that transfer admission might be a little more competitive. However, that’s not always the case, and largely depends on the amount of people trying to transfer into that program. When in doubt, follow up with the admissions department in question.
- Standardized test scores tend to be de-emphasized.
While this could vary at individual schools, in many cases, elements like standardized testing scores (such as SATs) might have less significance in your application—if they even ask for it.
- The credits you’ve already earned might transfer differently at different schools.
If you’re transferring schools after you’ve already completed some coursework—especially if you’re enrolling in the same type of major—transfer credits could be a big priority. Different schools have their own rules regarding which credits could transfer, how they’re applied, and how many you’re allowed to carry over. Make sure you review the credit transfer rules and process when making your decision.
- Some schools might have scholarship opportunities for transfer students.
Concerned about paying your tuition? In addition to need-based financial aid, some schools may have merit-based scholarship opportunities open to transfer applicants. This is likely to vary by school, so make sure you ask your transfer admissions counselor for more details.
5 Things to Look For in a Transfer-Friendly School
When researching how to transfer colleges, you will find some schools are more transfer-friendly than others, and work harder to attract potential transfer students to their campus. Transfer-friendliness could be an important factor in the ease of your transition once you apply and are accepted. Here are a few things to look for.
- A transfer coordinator on staff to help you through this process
- Transfer orientation process to help you acclimate
- Transferability of credits from your previous institution
- Housing for transfer students (if the program is on campus)
- Other transfer students—see if you can talk to them and ask about their experiences!
How Does Transferring Colleges Work?
The college transfer process varies from school to school—and sometimes between students, depending on their unique situation. As such, how long it takes to transfer colleges varies on a case-by-case basis. Some factors that impact the potential timing include how many credits you’ve already completed, how similar or different the schools and curricula in question are, and the nature of your transfer process. (For example, if you started at a local community college, and are transferring to an affiliated local four year program, it might be a little more straightforward due to this relationship.)
The exact process on how to transfer colleges may vary depending on where you’re going and the school's requirements, your exact situation, and other details.
6 Steps to the Transfer Process
- Identify what you need in your new school—the type of programs, resources, financial aid, and other factors.
- Do your research! Once you find some schools you think you might like, make sure you familiarize yourself with the transfer application process, and all its requirements and deadlines. It might also be a good idea to try to find out how competitive it might be.
- Request letters of recommendation from your current college professors, if possible. This could be a requirement, but even if it’s not, it might be a positive addition to your application packet.
- Arrange for your current college transcripts to be submitted to the schools you’re applying to. This could involve you completing a few other steps, such as paying off any outstanding debt, returning overdue library books, etc.
- Write your application essay or personal statement, if any.
- Submit your application, fee, and other necessary components, before the recommended deadline!
Bear in mind that you might need to change the above list depending on the application requirements where you’re applying, personal preference, and other factors. For example, some students may also choose to tour the new school or schedule an application interview.
Another factor that could have a big impact: whether you’re transferring between four year programs, from a two year to a four-year program, and whether you’re changing majors while you’re at it.
Example Transfer-Friendly Schools
Many schools accept transfer students, and even have programs in place to help facilitate the process and ease the transition. Here are a few examples of schools from our sponsored program listings that may accept transfers, for you to consider!
At Rutgers University, the process, requirements, and competition for transfers may vary by campus. For example, Rutgers University New Brunswick campus was listed by US News & World Report as among those that accepted the most transfer students for the 2015 year. They accept up to 60 credits from two-year institutions.
Moreover, if that two year program was a community college in New Jersey, you’re in luck! Rutgers is part of the New Jersey State-Wide Transfer Agreement, which is designed to help students move from an affiliated associates degree program into a four year program at a public university in New Jersey.
Rutgers has been helping students in New Jersey obtain higher education since it was founded in 1766 as Queen’s College. It’s one of only nine colleges in the United States that was chartered prior to the American Revolution. For more information about Rutgers University, its campus locations, and Rutgers Online programs, visit the school page to request info, or get in touch.
California State University, Northridge
California State University Northridge was listed second by US News & World Report for new transfer students enrolled in Fall 2015. CSUN accepts both out-of-state transfer students as well as those from California residents. However, the space available for each type of student may vary per semester.
As of this writing, California State University Northridge only accepts “upper-division” transfer applicants. That means that applicants must have completed at least 60 transferrable credits in order to be admitted. Students also typically need at least a 2.0 GPA (or higher if you’re from out of state). Specific requirements may vary by program, state residency, and other details. For more information about transfer requirements and timelines for your target semester, reach out to CSUN.
University of Massachusetts
Want to transfer to a nationally ranked university? If so, you might be considering the University of Massachussets, or UMass, which was listed as #74 for National Universities in US News & World Report.
UMass Amherst is the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system. UMass Amherst welcomes transfer students with their Transfer Registration program, designed to help smooth the transition between schools and give incoming students the chance to get to know other transfers.
8 Steps to Transfer into UMass Amherst
- Common Application and the associated application fee or waiver
- Official high school transcripts, if you’re transferring during your first year
- Official college transcripts for all completed coursework at prior institutions
- Official SAT or ACT score reports, if you’re transferring during your first year
- Audition or Portfolio materials, if relevant to your program
- Disciplinary reports and mid-term reports from prior colleges
- TOEFL/IELTS scores, if you’re an English as a second language student
- A resume or gap explanation, if you took time off between high school and college
American University, or AU, is located in Washington DC. It was founded in 1893, and currently serves more than 7,000 undergraduate students, and more than 3,000 graduate students.
On top of its location at the heart of the nation’s capital—and all the exciting opportunities that entails—American offers a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, with 889 full time faculty on staff. They attract students from more than a hundred countries internationally, offer study abroad programs, and more.
And on top of all that, they tied for #74 for National Universities in US News & World Report in 2017
5 Steps to Transfer into American
- Common application and application fee
- Completed application essay
- Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended
- Letters of recommendation
Specific GPA requirements and other supplements may vary depending on the program into which you’re transferring. For more information about this process and how you might need to prepare, reach out to AU.
Start Researching Transfer Options!
If you think you might want to learn more about how to transfer colleges, it’s never too early to start researching. Think carefully about what you’re looking for in a school, and what you want to gain from transferring. Then, once you’re sure, start looking into options and gathering your application materials.
But don’t forget about your current program! Remain in good standing and work hard in your current courses. Be sure to position yourself for success in your new school.