Top 12 Reasons Students Transfer Colleges

  • Over one-third of students transfer colleges at some point before earning their degree.
  • Community college transfers make up one of the largest groups of transfer students.
  • Other reasons for transferring colleges include finances, COVID-19, and school fit.
  • Transferring can be a smart move for those looking to attend a four-year institution.

You’ve finally made it to college and are excited to begin your life of independence away from the confines of home. Your goals are simple: make lifelong friends, earn your degree, land an amazing job, and live happily ever after.

But after a year or two, your circumstances change, and you come to the realization that the path you’re on at your current school is no longer the path you want or can afford to stay on.

You wouldn’t be the first to come to this conclusion. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, around one-third of college students transfer schools before earning their degree. The number of transfer students varies by institution but generally falls somewhere between 15% and 40% of all newly enrolled undergraduates.

For example, UC Berkeley puts its number of transfer students at one-third of new enrollments, while UCLA‘s percentage is slightly higher at 36%. The percentages are much lower at schools like the University of Washington (15%) and the University of Michigan (16%).

Students transfer colleges for a variety of reasons. Some make the decision to transfer before they ever set foot on campus, whereas others want a fresh start after spending a year or two at a particular school. In some cases, the decision to transfer is forced upon a student due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control.

One thing we know is that students are being encouraged to apply for college earlier as more schools offer early application options. While being accepted sooner may be great for some students, for others who aren’t fully committed or who are uncertain about their career path and desired college experience, early acceptance may not be the best course of action.

Read the top 12 reasons students today are making the decision to transfer colleges and if that decision is right for you.

Is Transferring Colleges a Smart Decision?

Whether you should transfer colleges ultimately depends on your own circumstances and why you are choosing to transfer. Not all transfer students are satisfied with their decision, and some even experience a condition known as “transfer shock.” Nevertheless, the majority of transfer students have a positive experience and go on to earn their degree.

Before you commit to transferring colleges, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does transferring make sense financially?
  • Does this new college provide the type of social and academic environment I’m looking for?
  • Will I be able to maintain or improve my academic performance?
  • Will I still be able to earn my degree within the timeline I’ve set?
  • Will transferring colleges improve my career options and opportunities?

Transferring from a community college to a four-year institution to earn your degree is almost always a smart decision, as most high-paying jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that over a period of just five years, 38% of employers raised their educational requirements for open positions.

Transferring colleges for financial or family reasons can be a wise choice, too, as long as you understand the fees and associated costs you’ll be responsible for. Remember that you always have the option of applying for financial aid and looking for part-time work.

If you’re considering transferring because you don’t think your current school is the right fit for you or you’re feeling socially isolated, try consulting on-campus advisors and counselors — they should be able to help you make an informed decision.

If academics are influencing your decision to transfer, you might first consider getting assistance from your professors, looking for study groups to join, and/or hiring a tutor. Those still set on transferring who have a GPA below 3.0 or even 2.5 may have trouble finding a good college that will accept them as a transfer student.

Before making the decision to transfer, do your research. Visit the campus of the school you’re thinking of transferring to and talk with students and advisors within your prospective major department.

The last thing you want is to transfer schools only to discover that the grass growing on your new campus isn’t any greener than that on the campus you just left.

By Alicia Hibbard
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