Here are the details on how it works and issues you may have to address.

Now that you and your student have agreed that transferring colleges is the right move (see my previous post on reasons to transfer), you need to get moving on making it happen. The process is very similar to applying to college for the first time.

Figure out what went wrong Before starting on the transfer process, make sure you and your teen know why it didn’t work out the first time to ensure the same mistakes aren’t repeated.


Starting the Process
Pick the colleges and do your research Sometimes the easiest place to begin is with the list of colleges your teen used last year since those schools were appealing not so long ago. Or start a new search on College Board.

Look at schools where your teen might know someone, if making friends was the main issue. Naviance can help with this because it identifies the number of students on campus from your high school. Find a college closer to home for the kid plagued with homesickness.

Check retention rates. Colleges with lower numbers have more spots for transfer students, although you may be left wondering why so many kids left early.

College websites provide most of the answers you’ll need. If you don’t find transfer information under Future Students, search on the college’s website with the keywords: “transfer student application.”

Deadlines Application due dates vary dramatically among colleges. Don’t discount a college whose deadline has passed, though, because most schools work on a space available basis. That being said, advise your student to send in their applications ASAP for the best chance of acceptance.

Pay attention to decision deadlines. Some are rolling, meaning first come, first served.

Application requirements Your student will likely need to submit some or all of the following: college grades, high school transcript, recommendation from a college professor, financial aid transcript, ACT/SAT scores, description of college coursework, and an essay/personal statement. Minimum GPA is usually 2.0.

Some colleges offer or require an interview. Depending upon your teen’s reason for transferring, an optional interview might be helpful. 

Issues you can’t ignore
Transferring credits In deciding which credits to accept, colleges evaluate whether equivalent courses are available at their school, if the credits are for elective or major courses and the level of the coursework. Note that a credit shortage could automatically put your student on the five- or six-year plan.

Credits that transfer are applied to graduation requirements, but not to GPA. New transfers begin with a 0.0 GPA.

Financial aid Unfortunately, transfer students usually receive smaller packages, particularly merit-based scholarships, because current students and incoming freshmen get priority. That’s not to say need-based aid won’t be available. But realize that the nice aid package your freshman has at their current school is unlikely to be replicated at the new one.

College vs. high school grades Colleges are going to want to see both. With enough credits, a student’s college grades will receive priority over high school ones, helpful for the kid who slacked off in high school but got it together in college.

What your student brings to the table Was your teen involved outside the classroom at the current college or do they have any special talents or interests they’ll bring to the new campus? Admissions officers want to know.

Transferring from a community college Articulation agreements between two- and four-year colleges set up community college students with the courses that will successfully transfer to a four-year program, putting them on track to graduate on time with a bachelor’s degree.

These agreements are between colleges in the same state, and community college students should talk to their adviser early on about how it works to ensure a smooth transition to a four-year college.

Call the admissions office Once you and your freshman know what’s required, contact the college with any questions or concerns. Colleges prefer a student makes this call, but you may need to get involved if you need faster answers about credit transfers, financial aid in light of a dramatic reduction in your family’s income, orientation and housing programs specifically for transfers and even what the school is looking for in transfer students.

Share your thoughts and experiences on the college transfer process in the comments section below.