What is transferring schools, and how do you do it?

By Paige Lyman• Last updated: Nov 8, 2023
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For students not from the United States, the idea of transferring schools might be entirely new. 

Transferring schools can often be an unforeseen decision that a student makes during their time in university for any number of reasons, from big life changes to wanting to transfer to a school that is more in line with what a student is looking for.

National transfer rates based on a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that 37% of students between the years 2008 to 2014 transferred at least once. 

In this article, we’re going to walk you through what exactly transferring schools means, why students choose to transfer schools, and the general process of how to do it.

What does transferring schools mean?

What it means to transfer schools is pretty straightforward! When a student makes the decision to transfer schools, they unenroll from their current school. Then, they enroll in a new university. 

Transferring schools is fairly common in the United States. Students can apply to colleges that might have previously rejected them, or entirely new schools. In most cases, transfer students will also be eligible to apply for financial aid. 

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Why do students transfer schools?

There are a number of reasons why students might choose to transfer from one school to another. According to data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 59.2% of students transferred from a two year institution to a four year institution.

In that case, students have most likely completed their Associate’s degree and are then moving onto their undergraduate studies. But that is only one reason as to why a student might be transferring schools. 

Other large reasons why students might transfer schools include:

Reasons for transferring schools

  • Finances: students might be transferring to a more cost effective school. A university might not align with what a student can afford or budget for anymore.
  • Moving: students may be moving across town, out of state, or even out of the country. They might also make the choice to move back home if life circumstances call for it.
  • Employment transfer: a student may need to transfer due to their job requiring relocation.
  • Major or degree switches: Degree and major changes might also cause a student to transfer! A different university may have a degree or program that a student is more interested in.
  • International transfer: students who are interested in studying abroad or who might be looking to complete their studies fully in another country may transfer to schools in another country.

How to transfer schools

Now that we’ve looked at what transferring is and why students do it, let’s take a look at the basic steps of how to transfer schools.

  1. Find the schools you’d like to consider transferring to. Be sure to research the schools that you think would be a better fit for you. 
  2. Be sure to speak with your advisor! Your advisor has undoubtedly worked with other students who have transferred out of or into your current school. They’ll know more about the process and specific things you’ll need to get the transfer process started.
  3. You’ll also want to make sure that you look into what credits will transfer in between schools. You can do this by speaking to your advisor for more information and sending your transcripts to the school(s) that you’re looking to transfer to. Not all of your credits may transfer, so that’s another part of the transfer process to keep in mind when looking at new schools.
  4. Consider your finances and financial aid. If this is an important part of your reason to transfer schools, you’ll probably already be on top of this! But speaking to your school about possible financial aid is a good idea regardless.
  5. Be sure to bring everything you need together for your application. Check your school’s website or speak to someone in admissions to make sure you have everything you need.
  6. Make sure to apply! You’ll want to make sure that you have the deadline in mind as you prep your transfer application. Each university will have different transfer deadlines, so if you’re applying to multiple schools, this is an extra important step.

If you’re looking to transfer schools, be sure to get in touch with the appropriate department at your current school to see if there are any specific steps that you might need to take.

Now that you have a better idea of just what it means to transfer schools and the basics of what that means, if you ever need to consider it yourself you’ll be a little more prepared.

And keep in mind that transferring schools can be stressful, no matter the reason. Taking the time to get everything in order and managing your stress at the same time can help the process go a little more smoothly.

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Guest Author | Study Abroad Expert

Paige Lyman is a freelance writer and journalist who writes in the pop-culture space. With a wealth of experience in stu...Read More

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