Transferring schools can be a complicated, multifaceted process. The decision to transfer to a new university is not made lightly, especially considering the effort it can take just to get accepted. But life is full of uncertainty and surprise, and sometimes a family or medical emergency, the longing to be closer to home, or just the desire to try another program can make transfers a necessary part of the college experience.
Though the transfer process is fraught with potential pitfalls, any student armed with a little bit of knowledge should be able to easily avoid those dangers and truly enjoy the adventures that come with a diverse college background. As a three time transfer student myself, I became very familiar with the transfer process and all the resulting headaches and benefits that can accompany it.
Regardless of the reason you are transferring, the most important thing to remember is that you are ultimately responsible for yourself. Most college advisers, especially at public universities like the ones I attended, are responsible for thousands of students. These brave and mostly helpful administrators are overworked and underpaid, and they simply do not have enough time to review every student’s every need. The best thing you could possibly do for yourself as a transfer student is become intimately familiar with your transcript at your current school and with the credit transfer process and degree and major requirements of your prospective new school. I’ve been told by advisers that though they wish they could do more, they generally put a student’s file away as soon as the student leaves the room. Remember, they are there to advise you, not to hold your hand; if you don’t take responsibility for your academic career, you could easily slip through the cracks in the system.
If you are thinking about transferring and have not yet begun the application process, you might have a few questions about the various requirements necessary to be accepted by another university. From high school to college there are a number of factors that go into a university’s decision to admit. These same factors play a role at the university level as well, however, when transferring from college to college the most important requirements are GPA based. This is not to say that universities will not consider your resume, recommendations, achievements, and special circumstances when making an admission decision; but, if you are thinking about transferring, the best way to help yourself is to do your job as a student and keep your GPA up.
Transferring can also be an excellent strategy for recent high school graduates who feel they don’t have the grades to get into their university of choice. Many universities have automatic admission programs that allow for students to automatically be admitted into their university as a transfer student; again, most of these requirements are GPA based. Beware though, some universities’ automatic admissions programs depend on your grades and application status as an incoming freshman. For example, a program like the University of Texas’ Coordinated Admissions Program (CAP) requires a base GPA of 3.2 at a satellite school or other approved affiliate, among other conditions such as a particular SAT score and class rank, in order to automatically transfer the next year. Each university will have different requirements, and will require individual research.
If you feel that your high school academic career was less than stellar but you are ready to succeed at the next level, then a community college or junior college might be a great place to start. Local universities like community colleges and junior colleges allow students to accumulate college credit, experience, and learn how to deal with the various difficulties of college life. The most important aspect of taking this tack is to set goals you feel you can really achieve, and to have a plan in place that will allow you to meet those goals. For example, it’s important to understand a 4.0 GPA at your local community college probably won’t get you into Harvard, but it’s equally important to know it might get you into a premier state university, and an that additional year of excellent course work there could take you anywhere.
There are also a number of smaller details any transfer student should pay attention to when arriving on a new campus. Though you may have a year or more experience as a student under your belt, it is important to acknowledge the fact that a new university means a new daily routine. After visiting your adviser, the next most important thing you can do is familiarize yourself with your new campus. You should know what buildings your classes are in and where those buildings are before the first day of a new school year. Likewise, it’s important to know where the other on-campus facilities are; knowing where the cafeteria, library, and even (especially!) bathrooms are can save you time, effort, and embarrassment. Spending a day or two walking around and getting to know your new campus can lead to a remarkably smoother transition than an ‘i-already-know-it-all’ attitude ever could.
My last and most important piece of advice to a recent transfer student is: DO NOT BE AFRAID! Approach your new circumstances with confidence. Yes, you may have left most or all your friends behind, and yes, a fresh start can be daunting; however, I encourage you to take advantage of the experience, not to shy away from it. Get involved on campus, join student organizations, and participate in events and activities you care about. You will be amazed at how quickly you can make a new university ‘Your University.’ The fastest way to meet people is through university programs. Also, if you are living in a dormitory, both on or off campus, there should be any number of options available for you to participate in. One of the most lasting benefits of being a transfer student should be the social skills you gain from putting yourself through a diverse college experience. But you can only take advantage of these opportunities if you are not afraid to seek them out.