Before you transfer, you really don’t know what to expect. Your current institution says one thing, and your admissions counselor says another. You’re wondering what transferring is like, but no one’s talking about it.
Here are 15 things you should know about transferring, but probably don’t:
- Transfer application: The transfer application process is fairly similar to the application you originally filled out to apply to college. For example, you’ll use FAFSA again, like you did as a freshman. In some cases, it may actually be a little simpler because some colleges don’t require as many additional materials for transfers as they do for freshmen. After your freshman or sophomore year, high school grades probably won’t be required, but college transcripts will be required, regardless of transfer year.
- Transferring credits: The tricky part about transferring is petitioning for transfer credit. If credit isn’t originally awarded (which, unfortunately, is very common), you must then petition for credit.
- Year of transfer: Some colleges, like the University of California, only accept junior-year transfer students, and other institutions accept sophomore or junior transfers. Make sure you do your research before you apply anywhere.
- Transfer GPA: Your GPA won’t transfer. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your grades at your previous institution, but either way you have a clean slate after you transfer. Take it as a blessing if you didn’t do as well as you’d hoped at your last college, or take it as a challenge if you did well at your previous college.
- Housing: Since you’ll be a new student on campus, you might be placed in freshmen dorms. This varies by institution, so you should ask your admissions counselor (along with these questions). If you’ll be required to live in freshmen dorms but would rather not, remember that other housing options may be available.
- Leadership positions: If you were involved at your previous college, way to go! Unfortunately, if you held any leadership positions, they won’t help much if you run for a position at your new institution. I encourage you to apply for leadership positions and definitely talk about your past experience, but know that you’ll probably be competing against students that have been in the organization longer than you have.
- Electives: Did you want to take a fun elective to explore a new interest? For some, you may not have space in your academic plan since many courses will (most likely) transfer as electives. If your institution requires electives within your major, you might be able to utilize those class options. Or, if you’re willing to take an extra class, you should be able to add an elective of your choice to your schedule.
- Freshman status (part I): I can’t tell you how many times you’ll be asked if you’re a freshman. You’ll probably be asked twice as often at a small college, but people will also assume you’re a freshman at a large university when you attend new student events. (Take it as a compliment that you look young for your age!)
- Freshman status (part II): You’ll feel like a freshman. You won’t know anyone, you’ll get lost on campus, and you won’t know the ins and outs of campus. Part of you will want to be treated differently than freshmen because you aren’t a freshman, but another part of you will need some of the hand-holding that freshmen do. Stick with it, it will pass!
- Class with freshmen: Chances are, you’ll be in at least once class with freshmen, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; freshmen can swipe you into the dining hall and may look up to you for advice. Or, if you’re a sophomore transfer, freshmen won’t be much younger than you. If you are an older student, there will probably be another student or two in your shoes.
- Friendships: Making friends will probably be difficult because, unlike freshman year, people may have established friendships already. Since you attend new student events with freshmen, you might find yourself building relationships with them. Additionally, make sure you reach out to your peers in class. Encourage any healthy relationship that you can; you’ll probably need a shoulder to lean on at some point during the semester, and you never know who will end up being a lifelong friend!
- Credits: You’ll probably graduate with more credits than necessary. If your classes transfer but don’t fulfill your new institution’s course requirements, you’ll need to take additional courses or retake previously completed courses.
- Summer courses: If you’re considering taking summer classes in order to graduate a semester early, discuss this with your admissions counselor. Most colleges require you to be enrolled for two years, and some may actually state that you must be enrolled for four semesters (two fall and two spring). Make sure you’re aware of your options.
- Financial aid: There may be fewer scholarships available for transfer students, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be scholarships for you at your new school; check if your transfer institution has transfer-specific scholarships! Additionally, there are other ways to pay for college.
- Time: Adjusting to a new campus will take extra time (searching for your classroom, learning the shuttle schedule, etc.), so make sure you allow time for this. Over time, going to class and catching the shuttle will become second nature to you.
Transferring is confusing, frustrating, and can be discouraging. Knowing what to expect can make the process a bit more manageable, and I hope this post helped prepare you for what may come in the future.
– Sarah C.