What to Expect When Completing A Transfer Application
Despite your best efforts, there are numerous reasons why you might decide to transfer colleges. Plenty of students, for one reason or another, might find that they're unhappy with their first choice college, or maybe the school they ended up attending initially wasn't their first choice anyway, and they want a second shot. Maybe they've discovered that their current school doesn't have a strong program in their major or area of interest, or perhaps the student simply wants to save some tuition dollars by transferring to a less expensive school closer to home.
Transferring colleges can be a great move if you're sure that the new school offers opportunities your current school lacks. That said, transferring involves an application process (often including procuring another set of recommendation letters, resubmitting test scores and writing even more essays), and competition for open spots can be fierce, especially at prestigious and highly-selective schools. There are also some key differences you'll notice from applying to colleges the first time around.
New School, New Grades
With a transfer application, your high school transcript and test scores will most often take a back seat to your college transcript. Standardized test scores are used (in theory) to predict college grades. Although some schools will still want to see your SAT or ACT scores, they are less important once you have college grades. So while it's always important to shoot for top marks in class, earning strong grades in college has an added weight if you hope to impress another university with a transfer application.
Don't Waste Time Deciding on A Transfer
The policies that colleges have in place for transfer students will vary, but it is common for a college to expect you to have acquired a minimum number of credits. It's also important to keep in mind that you might have a harder time transferring if you've been in college for a longer period of time as well. In particular, students who have completed more than two years of study will face more difficulty, even if they abandon some of the credit they've accrued.
Being “Undecided" Is No Longer an Option
Colleges usually expect transfer applicants to have clear, compelling academic reasons for wanting to switch schools. The best reason is a strong desire to pursue a course of study or experience that isn't offered at your present school. You'll have to make your case in detail and be convincing. A transfer applicant, unlike a first-year applicant, can't get away with being “undecided" about academic or career goals.
Research What You'll Gain by Transferring, But Also What You Might Lose
Of course, transferring can impact your intended graduation date or study abroad plans. Be aware of the policies at your prospective transfer school. Not all classes or credits are transferable, and some schools won't accept credit from a class if you earned below a C. Make sure you're fully aware of what you'll be leaving behind at your old school before making a decision to transfer.
With all of that said, and as with any aspect of the college application process, it's important to weigh the pros and cons when applying for a transfer — keep in mind that your overall college experience should be your top priority and that that in itself relies on many factors. But rest assured that wanting to transfer colleges is not an abnormality, and that it is entirely a possibility.