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1. The transfer admission hurdle is slightly more difficult. The acceptance rate for transfer students (64 percent), according to NACAC, is slightly lower than the acceptance rate of first-year students (69 percent).
When evaluating transfer applicants, the biggest admission factor by far is a student's grades at their current college. More than 90 percent of colleges that participated in the NACAC survey said the overall postsecondary grade point average was "considerably important."
2. Transfer students can qualify for merit aid. Seventy-seven percent of colleges reported that they provide merit scholarships to transfer students. Eighty-one percent of small colleges, which have less than 3,000 students, report that they award merit scholarships to transfer students. In comparison, 66 percent of medium-sized schools and 67 percent of large schools offer merit awards.
[Find money for college as a transfer student.]
3. Not all schools have room for transfer students. Small colleges, which have very few undergrads leaving, can have few available spots for transfer students. For instance, Amherst College admitted just 23 transfer students out of 412 applicants for the fall term. Georgetown University, a much larger institution, admitted 284 transfer students out of 2,028 who applied.
State universities are often more equipped to accept large numbers of transfer applicants. UCLA, for instance, recently accepted 5,261 transfer students out of a pool of 16,587 transfer applicants.
4. Standardized tests scores aren't as important. The SAT and ACT, according to the NACAC survey, are less important for transfers than high school students.
In fact, the more time you've spent in college, the less other institutions care about your SAT or ACT scores, according to Deborah Shames, an independent college counselor in northern New Jersey and a transfer admissions advisor for Kaplan Education Foundation.
"If a student is transferring after one semester in college or a year, schools usually want the SAT and high school GPA, but the further away from high school, the less schools rely on them," Shames says.
5. Check out what a college wants from transfer students. Before applying to a school, find out what the institution is looking for in transfer applicants. You can get a good idea by looking at a school's Common Data Set.
The Common Data Set is a document that four-year schools across the country complete that contains lots of information on such topics as admission criteria, freshman academic profile, campus safety and transfer admissions. You can often find a college's Common Data Set by Googling that term and the name of the institution.
The College Board also provides this same transfer information. When looking at the profile of any four-year school on College Board, click on "Admission" hyperlink and you'll find the transfer statistics.
6. Make sure your credits transfer. You don't want to lose credits when you move to another school. During the admission process, talk to a college's transfer credit evaluator to get a sense of what credits would transfer.
[Discover how transferring schools can affect student loans.]
7. Look for transfer-friendly schools. One way to access that intangible is to ask if the college has a transfer coordinator. Also does the school have a transfer orientation or other transfer programs? Does the school have housing for transfer students? Ideally, you'd like to talk to transfer students about their experience at a school.
8. Focus on the positive when explaining your desire to transfer. College applications will typically ask a student why they want to transfer. Shames warns that students should avoid saving anything negative about their current school. Instead focus on positive reasons for the change and offer specifics on why you want to transfer to a specific college.
Will My Credits Transfer?
Ultimately the answer to this lies with the institution; however, you should do your homework and discover if and how your coursework will be possibly awarded credit at your new school. Most colleges will require you to apply and enroll before they will give you a transfer credit evaluation. CollegeTransfer.Net has a couple of ways to help you figure it out. You can use the Will My Credits Transfer Tool and/or create a Student Passport account to input your completed courses and run equivalency maps to schools in which you are interested. Or, you can Search for Transfer Agreements between schools that outline a checklist of requirements and equivalent courses that will be accepted usually for a specific program of study.
What does "accredited" mean?
Accredited colleges must meet certain minimum standards that are established by regional or national agencies. This is probably one of the most important things you need to know about the college your are transferring from because other schools will not accept your coursework for transfer if an institution where it was taken is not accredited. Most colleges only guarantee they will accept transfer credit if it is coming from a school that is regionally accredited.
Do I have to have an associate degree to transfer?
No, but earning your associate degree before transferring does have its advantages. Students who complete either an A.A. or A.S. degree before moving to a 4-year college tend to have a much better chance of completing their bachelor's degree. For many students, having an associate degree guarantees entry to the 4-year as a junior. Last, but not least, earning an associate degree before transfer will save you time and money as your coursework is accepted as a block instead of a mishmash of courses that may or may not be accepted or apply to a major.
Will my AP or IB credit be accepted for credit?
Again, this is up to the school but most do award credit for AP and IB exams. There are also other options to test out of courses such as CLEP and DSST exams. Use our Search for Exam Equivalencies to see how your exams might be accepted for credit.
Are there different admission requirements for transfer students?
Most colleges do have different requirements for transfer students. These can include application deadlines, minimum GPA requirements, whether or not transcripts and SAT/ACT scores are required, if you need to submit an essay or letters of recommendation and more. Use our Search for Transfer Profiles to see what your prospective school will require of you.
What will happen to my financial aid when I transfer?
Financial aid can't be transferred from one college to another. However, if you received federal financial aid to attend one institution, then you should be eligible for it at another. You must request that the information from your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be sent to the school you are interested in attending. Also, be sure to consult with the Financial Aid Office of your prospective school to find out their institutional offerings in the form of grants, scholarships and work-study.
Are scholarships available to transfer students?
There are scholarships available for transfer students, and the Office of Admissions at any institution will be able to tell you what their school has to offer. Look into the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (offering $30,000 to 60 students who will be transferring from a community college to a four-year university), the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (offering more than $37 million to members who are finishing an associate degree and plan to enroll in a baccalaureate program) as well.
How do I choose a major?
While it is beneficial to choose a major quickly, it doesn't have to be done right away. Take some time to explore different areas of study and really think about what you would be good at doing and what will make you happy. Use your time wisely and do a little research by self-assessing your values, aptitudes, interests, personality and skills. Also do some research into different careers, what skills they require and what they have to offer. Check out our Career and Self-Assessment Center to get started.
Should I finish my college degree?
This question is often asked both by students enrolled in a college or adults who are thinking about returning to college. The answer is overwhelmingly - Yes! According to the National Student Clearinghouse, bachelor degree recipients earn $21,000 more on average than high school graduates. Even students graduating with an associate degree or certificate will have the advantage salary-wise. Other things to consider are the fact that unemployment rates for college grads are lower, the fastest growing jobs in America all require a college education and a degree provides you with a competitive edge while looking for a job or advancing your career.