Transfer students: College tips for why to move, what to know, and what to ask

Students at Liffey CollegeTo be or not to be… a transfer student, that is. About 30 percent of college students transfer to a different school. Some students want to try out the college life at a community college first, then transfer to a four-year school. Others choose a new school that better meets their academic and cultural needs. Here are some college tips for transfer students or those considering transferring.

Transferring to colleges on the rise: what to consider

More and more students are transferring to new schools. “The student society is becoming more mobile,” according to Michael Reilly, executive director of American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers in “Transition can be tough for college transfer students,” by Melanie Dostis in Boston Globe, December 26, 2012. Reilly cites a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study that found one-third of first-time college students between 2006 and summer of 2011 were transfer students.

Transferring — the good:

  • You get a chance to move to a school that better fits your academic needs and style.
  • You might gain maturity and develop good study habits in a better suited environment.
  • Transfer students tend to score as well and have the same graduation rate as native four-year students.
  • You’re in good company – seven U.S. presidents were transfer students!

Transferring — the bad:

  • There’s a chance you’ll lose academic credits.
  • You could graduate later than expected.
  • You may have difficulty adjusting: to a new city or state, a new school and its campus culture and new social circles.
  • You may not get on-campus housing.
  • You may not receive orientation programs.

You won’t necessarily save money

College is expensive. Some people think a frugal option is to go to a two-year community college first, then transfer your credits to a four-year college. Then you only have to pay for the expensive four-year college for two years. Not so fast, says the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (TG). A recent study, reported in the article “Transfer Students Don’t Save Money On Student Loans,” posted on Inquisitr.com on January 16, 2013, found that for college students in Texas, “students who transfer to a four-year college will accumulate an equal amount of student loan debt as those who never transferred.”

For example, both transfer students and native four-year students who graduated from a public university owed an average of $20,000 in debt. The findings are worse for a private university: transfer students owed an average of $27,000 while native four-year students owed $25,000.

Why the discrepancy? According to TG researcher Carla Fletcher:

  • Transfer students are less likely to receive grant money.
  • Transfer students use up more of their savings when they enter four-year colleges.
  • Only one-third of community college students who want to transfer to four-year colleges do so within three years.

Lessons from one transfer student — Barack Obama

President Barack Obama was a transfer student, moving from Occidental College in Los Angeles to Columbia University in New York in 1981. He explained in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, that he moved to find a school more urban and diverse. He matured and became a disciplined student at Columbia. Yet he also felt isolated—literally: transfer students were not allowed to live on campus, and figuratively: it was difficult making new friends with students who already knew each other.

According to Kim Clark in “Obama’s Lessons for Transfer Students,” in the January 16, 2009 U.S. News and World Report, college admissions officers suggest some tips for adjusting as a transfer student:

  • Don’t go through the hassle of transferring unless you are very unhappy where you are or another school has an academic program more to your needs.
  • Know the transfer acceptance policy of the school you want to move to. Some accept only a small percent of—or no—transfer students.
  • Write a killer essay on why you want to transfer to the new school. Great grades and essay writing will help impress admissions officers.
  • Find a school that offers help to transfer students, such as on-campus housing, counseling, early course registration and a transfer student organization that helps transfer students get acquainted with their new school.
  • Jump right into your new school with all your gusto! Join clubs, make friends and explore your new campus and town.

Considering transferring to a new school? If so, what are your concerns?

If you’ve already done so successfully, what are some of your tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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