Guide to Transferring Schools: What to Consider

There are various reasons why college students decide to transfer schools. Maybe you started college and realized that the major or school your originally picked isn’t the best fit for you. Maybe you’re staying on your current path but would rather be closer to home. Maybe it’s been your plan all along to finish a set of required credits at your current school before you moved on to finish your degree.

Whatever the case may be, if you’re thinking about transferring schools, you are not alone.

Transferring colleges is common and it could be the right move for you. So, let’s look at some specifics about transferring schools. Here is what we will review.

  1. Reasons students transfer
  2. Steps to take to switch schools
  3. How transferring affects your student loans, financial aid, and overall finances.
  4. School transfer options

What Are Common Reasons College Students Transfer Schools?

There can be a variety of reasons why students choose to transfer colleges.

When it comes down to finances, there can be both a price and academic reasons for transferring. For example, many students start at a low-cost community college to take care of prerequisites and then transfer to a more prestigious but expensive four-year university to focus on their major.

But also, you may realize that the financial burden of an expensive school is not going to be worth it. So, you can also choose to transfer to a less expensive school.

Beyond finances, another popular reason to switch schools is for students who are searching for different offerings or switching majors completely. Extracurricular activities like sports, arts or military programs can also impact a person’s reason to change colleges.

Some students may struggle with the academic rigor of a certain school, or you may decide to transfer schools based on emotional reasons like homesickness, social scenes or needing to be closer to home due to specific family situations.

Whatever the reason is that leads you to the decision to transfer colleges, juggling classes and going through the college application process again can be stressful. So, it’s all about taking the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition.

Steps to Take if You’re Thinking About Transferring to a Different School 

The process to transfer schools will be specific to your chosen colleges, but there are some steps every student should take.

  1. Assess why you want to transfer colleges, to begin with. Once you’ve pinpointed the why, you can begin your search over again, this time looking for a better fit.
  2. Create a short-list of schools that fit your needs. Evaluate your options, including related costs, and then schedule a time to meet with your current advisor to discuss.
  3. Work closely with an advisor. They will guide you through the process, which will include contacting the registrar, admissions and financial aid offices at your current school as well as determining which credits you’ve already earned that will likely be transferable. Have an honest conversation with your advisor and your family about your financial situation to avoid any surprises. And for those students who need financial aid, check each school’s financial aid policy and inquire about funds set aside specifically for transfer students.
  4. Always be sure to figure out which credits are transferable. Misunderstandings about credit transfers can have expensive repercussions, such as having to take additional classes at your new school. Manage this closely.
  5. Get letters of recommendation from your current professors. You may need these for your new college application. Be sure to factor in enough time for your professors to provide this kind of documentation.
  6. Fill out relevant forms. You will need to fill out the FAFSA once again and begin the school application process. You should also take a second look at new sources of gift aid, such as scholarships and grants. Take careful note of application deadlines to make sure you don’t miss anything.

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How Does Transferring Schools Affect Student Loans and Financial Aid?

Transferring will affect your student loans and financial aid.

Neither your student loans nor financial aid packages transfer between schools, so you will need to factor in canceling loans and re-applying for financial aid to your strategy. You will need to resubmit your FAFSA with your new school’s information. Loans and other financial aid may not be the same for your new school as for your original school so be sure to check with the financial aid office at both schools.

The amount of financial aid you receive can change from school to school. For example, some schools have less money to award than others and you may not receive enough to cover the difference between in cost of your old and new school. Some federal loans, such as the Perkins Loan, have limited distribution, so you may not be able to get the same loans.

The cost of attendance at your new school and timing will make a difference, so be sure to talk to your financial aid office as soon as possible and have your current aid package details handy while evaluating schools.

If you are transferring and have private student loans, be sure to notify your lender as soon as possible. This will allow them to cancel any pending disbursements to your school. Funds may not be distributed in the same manner at each school, so be sure to check when your loan money is disbursed so you can alert your lender before it is sent.

You will also want to discuss the repayment options of your original loan with your lender. If you will still be in school full or part-time, you can defer your student loan payments. Notifying your lender early about your transfer plans can help ensure that transferring does not impact your repayment schedule.

Learn more about private student loans.

The Financial Impact of Transferring Schools

As you weigh your options and consider the pros and cons, it’s important to think through the financial impacts of transferring schools. You could save money, but transferring could also cost you. Here’s what you should consider.

  1. You could save money. For many students, the main advantage of transferring schools is the amount of money it can save in annual costs. A common scenario is college students completing their first two years at community college, and then finishing the second half of their college education at a four-year university. By attending the first two years at community college, you could save a lot of money and still end up with the same degree. If this is of interest to you, make sure you do your homework so you know what credits will transfer make sure you know what credits will transfer, so you can maximize your savings strategy.
  2. It could cost you money. If you are transferring between public universities, the costs associated will likely be the same, unless you’re going from an in-state to an out-of-state school. But if you’ve set your sights on transferring to a private university, you’ll likely see an increase in tuition. Also, be sure to factor transportation, cost-of-living and room, and board differences, into your overall costs.
  3. Application fees. In the grand scheme of things, an application fee probably won’t make or break your decision to transfer, but it’s still something to plan for when tallying up the total costs associated with transferring. According to U.S. News & World Report, college application fees typically range from $44 to $90 per application, which may help you ultimately decide how many schools you want to apply to.
  4. Indirect costs. Are you transferring schools because you’re also transferring programs? If you’re choosing an entirely new path for your education, it could mean starting from scratch. Past courses and credits may not count towards your end goal anymore, and you’ll have to factor in the time and money that went towards those courses. In that case, you may also take longer to finish school, and there are costs associated when you take longer to graduate. The longer you’re in school, the more likely you’ll experience increases in tuition, and you’re putting off starting your career and the salary that comes with it.

Options to Consider When Transferring Schools

If you think transferring is for you, here are some different kinds of schools you can consider.

  1. Public Universities: Many students transfer from a community college to a public state university once they’ve earned a certain number of transferable credits. Many public universities are well respected and share staff with private colleges. For community college students, check to see if your school has any partnerships with local public universities to make the process easier and save you money.
  2. Private Universities: Students attending community colleges or public universities are often the ones who look to make a switch to a private university. Private universities may have different admissions criteria in place and can be more competitive which is something to keep in mind during the search process. Often students focus on improving their GPA before transferring to a more competitive private university.
  3. Community Colleges: Community colleges are, two-year, schools that typically provide associate degrees and other professional certificates. Many community colleges offer courses designed to set students up for their four-year degrees. Because they are often more affordable than four-year schools, community colleges are a viable option for private and public-school students looking to save money on pre-requisite classes. Community colleges also offer an opportunity to lift your GPA so you can apply for a more competitive school in the future.
  4. Arts and Design Colleges: You can earn an associate or a bachelor’s degree at an art school. Many students who study the arts go onto have careers in design, photography, fashion, music, or theater.
  5. Liberal Arts Colleges: These are a specific type of four-year school. They’re usually private, but there are some public liberal arts schools as well. They focus specifically on a liberal arts curriculum in smaller class settings that teach communication, analytical and problem-solving abilities. In terms of real-world experience, students coming out of school with a liberal arts degree tend to offer critical thinking and analytical skills that set them up for a diverse range of career options post-college.
  1. Mission-Driven Colleges: Historically Black Colleges and Universities, also known as HBCUs, formed after the civil war and have played an important role in the African American higher education experience. Hispanic-serving institutions, also knowns as HSIs, are colleges where over the quarter of the full-time undergraduate student body is of Hispanic descent. Many women find a supportive atmosphere at Women’s colleges. And different religious sects also have their own universities.
  2. Technical Schools: Similar to community colleges, technical schools offer alternative options for students looking for real-world experience in a fraction of the amount of time a traditional college would take. Transferring to a technical school or vocational or trade schools as they are also known— offer shorter programs focused on getting you into the workforce faster by fostering specific skill sets.

Transferring is Challenging but Could Be Worth It

Be prepared to make some tough decisions throughout the process of transferring schools. Whether it is cost-related, program-related or something to do with the geographic location, chances are you will need to make some sacrifices to get to where you need to go. Make the decision that feels right for you and that best suits your needs and goals. The most important thing is to do your research and plan so you find the right school for you and your career path.  While it may be a challenging time, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Transferring schools and need a new loan? Apply for a private student loan.


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