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A Guide to Transferring Colleges

April 21, 2020 · 4 minute read

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A Guide to Transferring Colleges

Transferring colleges can be a big change, but it may be advantageous or even necessary for some students.

Whether you’re moving from a community college to a four-year university, trying to find the right fit, or looking to lower your tuition bill, transferring schools could help you achieve a better college experience.

The transfer process can take time, however, so the sooner you decide where you want to go and gather the necessary paperwork, the better experience you should have. Here are some tips to help you figure out how to transfer colleges smoothly.

Deciding Where to Transfer

Whether you’re looking for a better college experience or want to save money, picking the right school is essential. Here are some things to consider as you narrow down your selection.

Figuring Out Why You Want to Transfer

Understanding your reasons for wanting to transfer will give you an idea of what to look for in a new school. For example, if your current college is too expensive, it may help to focus on tuition rates when you’re comparing alternatives.

Or if you don’t like the general environment of your school, you can focus your search on the aspects you want in a college. If you’ve spent time at a community college and want to transfer to a four-year school, look for a university that offers a good program in your area of study and provides the environment you’re looking for.

Speaking with an Advisor

Your college may have student advisors who can give you some information and personalized advice based on your needs. It’s likely they’ve gone through the same process with other students and may be able to provide some perspective to help you make the right decision.

Visiting Multiple Colleges

Unless you’re certain about where you want to transfer, it may make sense to take the time to visit different campuses to get a feel of the environment and programs they offer.

While you’re there, consider setting up an appointment with an academic advisor and financial aid officer to get more information about the transfer process and how you can get the aid you need to afford tuition.

Before You Start the Transfer Process

From deadlines to documents, the transfer process is usually a little different from the regular admissions process for new students. So it’s important to start preparing as soon as you think you might transfer. Here’s some info that may help as you start figuring out how to transfer schools.

Transferring Schools is Common

The decision to change colleges is a big one, but you’re not alone in the process. Nearly one out of every three college students is a transfer student. More and more colleges and universities are accepting, and even seeking out transfer students.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center , nearly a third of students who enroll at a community college end up transferring to a four-year university after receiving an associate degree or a certificate.

Being Aware of Deadlines

The deadline for your transfer application can vary from college to college, so make sure to check the school’s website and write it down, so you don’t forget.

Also, keep in mind that some universities may have different deadlines for the transfer application, financial aid application, and testing.

Which Credits will Transfer?

You’ll typically need a minimum number of credits to transfer from one school to another, though policies can vary by university.

More importantly, you may not be able to transfer some of your credits. This can happen if the new college doesn’t offer the same course, you took a class too long ago, or you received a poor grade.

If you’re still a relatively new student and have only taken general education classes, you’ll likely have less trouble getting your credits to transfer. Speak with an academic advisor at the new school to find out which credits will transfer and how they’ll be treated.

Understanding the Required Documents

Transferring colleges typically requires that you provide some documentation about your time at your current school and your overall academic progress.

For example, you’ll usually need to provide a copy of your college transcript, which your current school’s registrar’s office can send electronically or by mail. Depending on how long you’ve been a college student, the new school may also want to see your SAT or ACT scores.

Other possible required documents include letters of recommendation, a resume, your high school transcript, and essays. Contact the school’s admissions office long before its transfer application deadline to make sure you know what’s required and can prepare.

Submitting the Application

Being aware of the application deadline is important, but if you can, try to avoid waiting until the last minute to submit yours.

If something goes wrong and you miss the deadline, you may not get another chance until the next semester.

Depending on the college, you may or may not have to pay an application fee.

If you can’t afford the fee, however, you may be able to qualify for a waiver . After you submit your application, consider calling the admissions office to get an idea of when and how you’ll receive updates.

Figuring Out Your Financing

Before you submit your application or while you’re waiting for a response, you can apply for federal financial aid with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form—keeping in mind that each state has different FAFSA deadlines. This will determine whether you’re eligible for federal student loans and other forms of federal financial aid.

Also, you can start looking for scholarships through the school you’re transferring to and through private organizations that can help you cover the cost of your education. Websites like and Fastweb list a variety of scholarship opportunities.

If you’re planning to borrow money for school, federal student loans are typically one of the first options students turn to because they generally provide low interest rates for undergraduate students, as well as income-driven repayment plans, and loan forgiveness programs.

If you’ve maxed out your federal loan allowance, however, a private student loan through SoFi can help you bridge the gap. Just keep in mind that private student loans typically require a credit check, so you may need to have someone like a trusted relative or parent co-sign your application to possibly improve chances of approval.

Planning for Success

Transferring colleges can be a stressful experience, but the process can go a lot more smoothly if you know what you want and start preparing long before the application deadline.

Take the time to understand how the process works for the school of your choice and start thinking about financing options sooner than later.

As you do so, you’ll be in a better position to hit the ground running with your new school and have a better overall college experience.

Learn more about private student loans with SoFi.

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