Transferring schools is an advantageous decision for numerous college students every year. Despite its commonplace in higher education, however, the decision to transfer should be made through careful consideration and research. To aid students in this daunting process, there are many resources available to help guide them to the right choice.

Here’s an overview of why students transfer, the different pathways they can take, and how to overcome the various challenges of the transferring process.

Why Transfer?

There are many reasons a student may consider transferring. Some students transfer because their current school isn’t a good fit for them. Perhaps the culture is too fast-paced, or the classes are too large. Some students transfer because they’ve changed their major to one their college can’t accommodate. And others transfer to a school with a better reputation that may improve their job prospects and earning potential on their resume.

In some cases, depending on the state, students decide to start their college experience at a community college and transfer to a different school after two years to obtain their bachelor’s degree. In fact, students moving from a two-year to four-year institution make up approximately 49 percent of all transfers.

Whatever the reason, students should evaluate their motivations for transferring, and explore all possible pathways to ensure they’re new school is the right fit.

Transfer Pathways

There are different transfer pathways available to students, but it’s important to be aware of these options to ensure you make the right choice. The first step is to “look at the type of agreements your current institution has with the institution you're transferring to,” says Alexander Patturelli, director for undergraduate admission at Regis College.

This agreement can be very informative when choosing a pathway to transfer. These pathways include:

  • Expedited Pathway: Many students may have access to expedited pathways to transfer, but these can vary by state and institution. For Massachusetts students, this pathway is called MassTransfer. MassTransfer partners with institutions like Regis College to provide a quicker and more affordable pathway for students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Traditional Pathway: Students taking a traditional pathway to transfer apply to their new school using the common application process, just as most prospective first-year students do when applying to college initially. This pathway is straightforward and fairly common, however it doesn’t provide a quick and seamless experience that expedited pathways offer.
  • Reactivation Pathway: Reactivation is a pathway that isn’t offered by every college or institution, but is uniquely beneficial to those who choose it. At Regis College, for instance, reactivation applies to students who were accepted as high school graduates, but chose to attend a different school. For those students, Patturelli explains, Regis College honors their original acceptance for two years, should they decide to transfer into Regis College. What’s even more unique is that Regis honors previously awarded scholarships to reactivation students as well. “Because of this, reactivation students get a lot more of a scholarship benefit than traditional transfer students.”

How to Transfer Colleges

The transfer process can be a long, complicated endeavor. By taking a methodical approach to the search and decision-making process, you’re considering all the important factors that will ensure a successful transfer experience.

1. Decide Whether Transferring Is the Right Decision

The decision to transfer isn’t one that should be made alone. It’s important to connect with the experts to determine whether you’re making the right choice. Speaking to your current admission counselor can provide essential information and direction necessary to focus on the right schools.

2. Begin Searching for the Right School

The search for your transfer school should begin by examining your reasons for transferring. If you’re switching your course of study, you’ll want to be sure your new school offers a program for your major. If you’re transferring to a more affordable program, you’ll want to ensure your new school has enough financial aid and scholarship offerings.

You will also want to make sure your current college credits can successfully transfer to the new institution. Speaking with an admission counselor and researching the school’s transfer credit policies can help you determine whether the transfer will require duplicate coursework or your current credits are enough to pursue new courses.

All colleges and universities have different requirements for transfer credits, however, some also have different pathways in place for transfer students. Students participating in the MassTransfer program, for instance, complete their prerequisite education with a guarantee that their community college credits will successfully transfer to any participating college or university.

3. Contact the School’s Staff

While the transfer process can seem daunting, Patturelli encourages all transfer students to work with the school’s staff to ease the often long, complicated process. “When you’re transferring, your admission counselor is your greatest advocate,” says Patturelli. Leaning on knowledgeable administrators in the admission and financial aid offices ensures the necessary steps are taken and all the required paperwork is gathered.

4. Visit the Campus

Whether on-site or online, visiting your potential new campus can be an important part of the transfer decision. These tours give you an inside look into the classrooms, campus, residence halls, and recreational facilities of each institution. This is your best opportunity to place yourself in your new environment and determine if it will be a good fit.

5. Fill Out the Application

Once you’ve picked your new institution, visit their admission website to begin your application and check off the required materials and steps for transfer. There, you’ll find applications to transfer (e.g., first-time transfer, expedited, reactivation). Be proactive and note all deadlines to be sure you submit all necessary materials on time.

Overcoming School-Specific Challenges

The transfer process isn’t over once you’ve picked a school. Every college has different transfer policies, and it’s important to be prepared for roadblocks and requirements to avoid possible setbacks.

One of the most common pitfalls of transferring from a state school to a private school in particular, is the discrepancy in course requirements. “There will be courses you’re not required to take at a state school that you will be required to take at a private school,” says Patturelli. ”You’ll want to look at specifically which prerequisite and general education courses will transfer from a state school to a private school so that you’re not losing out on previous hard work.” Religious colleges, like Regis College, often have additional required courses, like religious studies, that you won’t find at state schools.

It’s also important to pay attention to a college’s particular curriculum map. Many students may not realize that some institutions require students to take a certain percentage of their major-specific courses at that institution. For example, Regis college requires nursing majors complete all their nursing courses in-house. The idea of these types of specific program requirements may not immediately occur to transfer students, but without considering these pathways before transfer, students can face real challenges to their transfer and ultimately, their degree.

Make Transferring Easy

Transferring isn’t an easy process, but there are plenty of resources available to those who need help. Remember that the admission and financial aid offices are meant to support students in any capacity, including helping students successfully transfer in and out of their school. With the help of others, you can make your transfer process as seamless as possible.

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