Friday, March 2, 2012

6 Questions about transferring

A new study released this week showed that one-third of all students transfer at least once as they work towards a degree. (Students who earned an associate's degree and then moved to a four-year institution were not counted as transfers). The study followed nearly 2.8 million full and part-time students from 2006-2011. What's most interesting about this data is that 51.9% of students transferring from four-year public institutions transferred to two-year public institutions. Why this was the case isn't something the study examined, but I would think that the economy played a big role, at least for some of those students. Community college is becoming an increasingly popular option, especially amongst families with annual incomes over $100,000. A Sallie Mae study found a six percent increase over the last four years, from 16 percent to 22 percent. Community colleges can be fantastic options. They tend to have smaller class sizes and it could be a quicker path, depending on your career aspirations.

But plenty of students still transfer from one four-year institution to another. How do you know if it's the right move? A lot goes into a decision like this, but unless it's really, truly awful, don't transfer in your freshman year. Try to see your first year through instead of just one semester.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is it social? Are you putting yourself out there? Much of what makes college a great experience is your own devotion to it. Are you getting involved in clubs or other activities?
2. Is it because you aren't attending your first choice? Again, college is what you make it. If you never got over the fact you didn't get into your first choice, then maybe you aren't giving your current school a fair shake. For the sake of the tuition bill, make the effort.

Take transferring as seriously as you (hopefully) took applying to college the first time around. Be thoughtful about this. If you don't think you can make your current college the place you want to be, then you really need to think about what didn't go well. This might be made easier if you have a college in mind that you want to transfer to. If you know that transferring is what you need to do, consider these questions: 

3. Did you do your research? Simply put, if you know why you're transferring then you should know why you want to go to the school you're transferring to. Have you looked at the transfer admission rate at your targeted school? Some college make room for transfer students and some really don't, so it could be even harder to get in than at the incoming freshman level.
4. How many credits do you have? Make sure you know where you'll stand as a transfer student. If you're changing majors, will you lose credits at your new school? Will you be ok with that? Credits will also be important for how your new school will see you. Too few and you'll be seen as a freshman. Talk to an admissions counselor at your desired school to see how they handle things. And make sure you keep those grades up!
5. How does the school handle transfers? Are there any orientation programs or other activities to welcome transfer students? Maybe that's a big deal to you, maybe it's not. But what about housing? Ideally, you want a school that's as welcoming to transfer student as it is to incoming freshman.

Transferring can be tough. You've got to make a plan and stick to it, same as when you were a senior in high school. They're going to have deadlines and expectations too, so don't think that the application process for a transfer is totally different from that of incoming freshman. So, the sixth question I have for you: are you ready?

I can actually speak from experience on this one. I spent my freshman year at a school in Boston (my first choice school), wasn't happy, and transferred to a school in Philadelphia. These were the two schools I couldn't decide between when I was a senior in high school. I don't regret my decision for a minute. I changed majors, added a minor, and still graduated in the traditional four-year timeline. I made some wonderful friends who welcomed me just as though I'd been there with them the previous year. It can be very discouraging to go away to college and be completely disappointed after a multi-year build up to what are supposed to be some of the best years of your life. Take some of the pressure off yourself. Be thoughtful, weigh your options, and chances are it will all work out in the end.

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