Preparing for College

Liberal Arts Transfer for First-Semester Art School Freshman?

Question: My son is finishing first semester (freshman) at an art school with fairly good grades. However, he is very unhappy at his current college and wants to transfer to a liberal arts school. He would rather do an internship during second semester, as he feels that he is wasting money at the school he attends now. Does he have any chance of being accepted for transfer if he does not finish the whole year at this college?

Your son will definitely have transfer options without finishing his entire freshman year, and if he comes up with a good internship plan, this might make him an even more interesting and attractive candidate than if he simply stayed in the school where he is unhappy.

BUT .... (and, if you've ever read any past "Ask the Dean" columns, I bet you knew there might be a "BUT" coming ;-)) ... with so little college under his belt, your son should not expect to transfer to a school that wouldn't have taken him as a senior in high school. In other words, some transfer applicants hope to "trade up" to a college that is more selective and/or prestigious than the one they currently attend. Yet without a year--or possibly nearly two years--of college experience, this is unlikely. However, your son should be able to identify liberal arts colleges that will welcome him, as long as he focuses on roughly the same level of selectivity that he would have focused on last year, had he been heading to a liberal arts college and not an art school right from high school.

On the other hand, if he has been able to create a new portfolio--or improve on an existing one--during these months at art school, then it's possible that he may be able to parlay that into an acceptance from a college where would have been only a borderline applicant last year. If he is still considering a major in studio art at his liberal arts college, this could work in his favor, too, since this is often not an oversubscribed department in liberal arts schools. And remember, at the typical liberal arts college, if your son applies as a studio art major and then changes his mind, he should be able to do so very easily, even if he decides to opt for one of the more common fields.