Niche Resources
Niche Resources
Niche Resources

5 Things You Should Know About Transferring Colleges

When you are headed off to college as a starry-eyed freshman, you probably didn’t see a transfer in your future. But things happen. Maybe your career goals or financial situation changed, or you realized that a big party school isn’t really for you after all.

Whatever the case, you’re now considering a big move: becoming a transfer student. Transferring colleges may seem scary, but it’s also surprisingly common. About 1 in 4 college students change schools.

Still, the process is complex and potentially confusing. Before you decide to start a new college adventure, consider these five things you should know about transferring colleges:

1. Applying as a transfer student can be even more competitive.

You’re already aware that college admissions are highly competitive. Depending on the school you want to attend, applying as a transfer student can be even more difficult.

Ivy League universities, other top-rated schools, and schools with higher retention rates may have fewer spots available for transfers. In the fall of 2018, for instance, Princeton University received applications from 1,429 transfer students. 13 of the students were accepted.

Of course, that’s Princeton. Overall, the difference between acceptance rates for freshmen and transfer students isn’t too dramatic. A report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling indicated that the average rate of admission for transfer applicants is 66%, compared to 62% for first-time freshmen.

If you want to boost your chances, experts advise earning your associate degree before applying as a transfer student.

2. Your college GPA becomes the most important part of your application.

Now that you have some college experience under your belt, your high school grades and test scores are less important. Colleges will prioritize your GPA at your current college, along with your average grade in transferable courses. They’ll also look at a personal statement, letter(s) of recommendation, the rigor of your schedule, and your involvement on campus.

If you’re planning to transfer, avoid “checking out” of your current college. Stay involved, keep taking challenging courses, and maintain a solid GPA. You can’t rely on a strong performance in high school to get you into college as a transfer student.

3. You’ll have to meet application requirements for both transfer students and your specific program.

Application requirements for transfer students vary. Schools require different minimum GPAs, minimum and maximum completed credits, and prerequisite courses.

Once you’ve made a list of colleges you’re interested in transferring to, visit their websites to read up on transfer requirements. You may need to cross some schools off your list or create a plan for reaching unmet requirements before applying.

But wait—there’s more. You’ll also need to meet specific requirements for the program you’re transferring into. Typically, this means there are several prerequisite courses you must complete. Many programs also have “recommended” or “highly recommended” courses for interested students, and it’s a good idea to take those too.

It’s best to start planning for a transfer well in advance. This gives you time to do your research, complete requirements as needed, and compile an impressive application.

4. Some of your credits may not transfer with you.

You’ve already earned some college credits, and you don’t want to leave them behind when you go. But credit acceptance policies also vary by school. Again, you’ll need to do your research to determine which schools will accept most of your credits.

Once you’re accepted to a school, you’ll receive an official credit evaluation. Still, you want to have a general idea of how many of your credits a school will accept before applying. Helpful resources include the school’s website, your state’s Department of Education website (if you’re transferring to a school in the same state), and sites like

Of course, you can still attend a school that won’t accept many of your credits. Just understand that the move will delay your graduation, meaning more of your time and money spent. Weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s worth it for you.

5. There are plenty of resources available to help you through the transfer process.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this point, don’t worry. There are plenty of tools and resources to help students navigate the transfer process.

A few of these include:

  • Your state’s college transfer website: If you’re transferring to a school within the same state, you’ll find plenty of useful advice and helpful tools on your state’s site. Many states (like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Louisiana) even have common numbering systems for equivalent courses.
  • College websites: Every college website should have a section specifically for transfer applicants. You’ll find requirements, tips, and resources like credit transfer equivalency tools and degree program plans.
  • Browse schools, utilize a course-to-course equivalency guide, and set up a free “student passport” that allows you to input your course history and compare transferability among different schools.
  • Transferology: Similarly, Transferology allows you to list courses that you have taken or will take, then “Search for Matches.” You’ll see a list of schools that accept your courses, and you can filter by distance, tuition, best match, and more.
  • College transfer office/adviser: Most four-year schools have an office and/or adviser dedicated solely to transfer students. They’ll help you acclimate once you arrive, but you can also contact them with questions throughout the process.

Final Thoughts: 5 Things You Should Know About Transferring Colleges

Transferring colleges is a big decision that requires careful consideration and planning.

If you’re sure it’s a step you want to take, you’ll need to create a list of schools that meet your needs, research requirements for transfer students and for your program of interest, and see which of your credits are likely to transfer. Once your research is complete, you may need to improve your GPA or take additional prerequisite courses to prepare.

It may sound like a lot, but you have a wealth of helpful resources at your fingertips. Finding the right school for you is important, and it’s doable—even if it takes a couple of tries.

Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.