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When Is the Best Time to Apply for a College Transfer?

The best time to apply to transfer colleges may depend on the courses that you've taken and your overall goals in higher education. Read on to learn more about when you should consider transferring.

Transferring between universities and transferring credits is becoming increasingly common. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that 38% of students transfer, and some more than once. When you should transfer depends on the reason you are seeking to transfer as well as your educational goals. Here, you can learn about common times that students choose to apply for a transfer and why this can be a good choice.

Popular Times to Transfer

After One Year of Study

Some students realize early in their college careers that the initial school they chose was not a good fit. Knowing more what to consider in colleges, they may wish to transfer after their first year of study. Other students may not have met the admission requirements for their first-choice college and spend a year improving their academic credentials before reapplying. Transferring at this point allows students to ensure that they can meet specific requirements and prerequisites at their new university.

As a transfer after one year of study, you may be concerned about the types of credit that will transfer. First-year transfers who require several additional credits before transferring might consider taking CLEP exams, offered by the College Board as a way of testing for college credit. Study.com offers preparation courses for these exams in a wide range of areas including biology and Spanish.

After Completion of a Two-Year Degree

According to the Common Application, 40% of transfer students are those who have completed a two-year degree. This is a great time to transfer as many prerequisite courses will be complete and students can focus on major requirements. Some states have articulation agreements between local community colleges and state universities which allow for full transfer of credits for those who have completed their associate's degree. Students who transfer after completing their associate's degree are generally more likely to persist in completing their bachelor's degree.

After Separation from Military Service

Veterans who have earned some college credits while serving in the military may transfer to a traditional university upon their separation from service. The Veteran and Military Centers at many universities can help provide support to ensure that veterans are knowledgeable regarding their ability to transfer credits and the benefits to which they are entitled under the GI bill. Veterans may receive a Joint Services Transcript to document military training and experience. The American Council on Education provides a guide used by many universities to determine which of these may be transferred for college credit.

There are also opportunities for military veterans to take CLEP examinations as a way to earn transfer credit before beginning a university program. Study.com offers test prep programs to help members of the military prepare for these exams in a range of subjects commonly taken by members of the military, including analyzing and interpreting literature and college mathematics.

Considerations when Transferring

Many questions will arise when pursuing a college transfer. Some common questions students may think about and investigate include:

  • University processes for transferring credits
  • Whether housing is available for transfer students
  • If there will be other transfer students
  • Support services available for transfer students

When Not to Transfer

While choosing to transfer is a highly personal decision, there are times that it can pose a more significant challenge. Many universities require a specific number of credit hours to be taken at their institution, so if you're very close to graduation it may add significant time to complete your degree if you transfer. In addition, transfer seats for highly selective or technical programs may be limited.

If you've been enrolled in a highly technical program without similar classes at another university, the new university may be unable to accept transfer credits. If you're choosing to transfer, you may want to consider the question of whether to transfer in the fall at the beginning of the new academic year as opposed to the spring; depending on the college, one may be more competitive.

The decision to transfer has many facets, and those making this choice must investigate their target university's policies. Many students who choose to transfer do so after one year of study, after completing a two-year degree, or after leaving the military.


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