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The Pros and Cons of Transferring Schools

Jun 30, 2011

In 2010, The Washington Post reported that close to one in three college students end up transferring schools. Changing colleges is a big (and usually expensive) decision that can impact a student's path to graduation. Consider the factors below before making such a crucial decision.

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Why Students Transfer

Students transfer from one school to another for a variety of reasons, including money, campus experience, academic struggles or opportunities, or to 'trade up' to a more prestigious school. It's a decision that can have large ripple effects. Students who transfer without a plan can find themselves taking longer to graduate, owing a lot more money, and feeling no better about their new school. It's important to think carefully about the positives and negatives of changing schools.

How It Could Help

There are a variety of potential pros to transferring schools. For example, there may be more suitable degree programs, more accessible professors, and more chances for success at a new school. If you had academic or disciplinary problems at your previous college, transferring could lead to a fresh start. Keep in mind that your academic or disciplinary records will be considered for admission to a new school; however, once you get accepted somewhere, you essentially have a blank slate.

In addition, a new school could have a completely different social scene. You might participate in new activities, sports, or organizations simply not available at your previous school.

How It Could Hurt

While there are plenty of pros associated with transferring, you should consider the cons as well. For example, you may not solve the problems that led you to transfer in the first place, like academic performance or community involvement. There's also a strong chance all of your previous credits won't transfer, especially if you move from a private university to a public one.

The decision to transfer could cost you in financial aid and scholarship money. If you don't plan well, you could be giving up substantial amounts of scholarship aid. You may even wind up owing your first school for a scholarship you received.

Things to Remember

1. Transferring schools is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Don't make the decision based on a single event, like receiving poor grades in a class, breaking up with a significant other, or having a fight with your parents. You must plan 6-12 months in advance.

2. At many schools, transfer admissions are more selective than first-year admissions. Many Ivy League and other top-tier schools simply don't accept transfer students, or accept so few that the process seems impossible.

3. Moving from a private school to a state school could save you money, but it may cause you to lose a number of credits.

4. You can't run away from a low GPA by transferring. For a majority of admissions departments, your post-high-school academic record is the most important factor in an admissions decision. Many more selective schools will also consider your high school records.

5. If you plan to transfer after attending community college, earn your associate's degree first. Four-year colleges tend to view community college graduates who wish to transfer more favorably than community college students who transfer without an associate's degree.

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