Advice from a College Transfer Guide on Navigating the Perilous Road of Transferring Colleges
As an independent Los Angeles college consultant, I have seen a considerable rise in transfer activity among college students. Whether students are applying for a transfer from a community college to a four-year university or between four-year universities, transferring college is much more complex than the application process from high school to college. Many students are left to navigate this path on their own without the help of a college transfer guide. Adding to the confusion is that there is no set of uniform guidelines that apply to all schools. On the contrary, potential transfer students need to meticulously research the admission requirements of each individual college where they intend to file an admission application.
There are quite a number of obstacles that transfer students face in securing a successful college transfer. First, the number of openings for transfer students at colleges can vary greatly between colleges and even from year to year. Some schools may even have no openings. Large public universities are thought to have more openings than small private colleges because state universities are committed to taking graduates of community colleges in their state. This can potentially lessen the available spaces for transfers coming from other four-year universities.
Community college students also encounter their own challenges. It takes a substantial number of community college students more than two years to complete their associate’s degree. Budget cuts and overcrowding have made it difficult for community college students to complete all the courses they need within two years, leading many of those pupils to take courses at multiple community college campuses. This has its own set of problems when the time comes to acquiring transcripts from all colleges attended, in addition to having to review multiple articulation agreements. This leaves many students without adequate college counseling as they no longer have a “home”. Community colleges also require placement exams for writing, math, and foreign language. Having to take additional remedial courses could delay graduation and also more than likely, will not be transferable.
For transfers between four-year universities, the largest difficulty I see is that many transfer students lose credits in the process. This adds to their cost of education as it now takes additional semesters to graduate. Also, many universities have minimal transfer requirements such as freshman writing and a college level math course. There may not be articulation agreements between some colleges, especially for students applying out of state. Some schools may not even offer an equivalent course, which means the student may need to look to complete the course at another institution. I have seen this happen with schools that are focused on the arts or a technical trade. There is a reasonable chance they may not offer the academic equivalent of these basic courses. Specific programs may have additional requirements, so students should not only check with the admissions office, but also the program within the college for which they are seeking admission. I recommend that international transfer students contact each university individually and speak to an international counselor to find out what courses are most likely to transfer and how they can fulfill required courses.
When trying to weigh a transfer student’s chances of admission, I like to look at data of transfer acceptance rates for colleges. That data can be found at http://transferweb.com/stats/transfer-acceptance-rates/. It is preferable to look at schools that have a higher transfer acceptance rate or are considered “transfer friendly”. In many instances, these schools will have a transfer advisor, helping to facilitate a smooth transition for the student, in addition to a greater likelihood of accepting most of the student’s credits from their prior college.
What are the most important factors considered in a transfer student’s application for admission? First and foremost is academic performance at a student’s present college, meaning a student’s grades. Generally, from my experience, most schools are looking to see a minimum GPA of a 3.0, although that number can vary greatly depending on the selectivity of the school. There are some schools that will consider students with a 2.0 and others where you need a 3.5 to be competitive for admission. Many private colleges will also require recommendation letters and both public and private universities may consider extracurricular involvement. If the transfer student has accrued less than 30 credits, schools usually will request high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. The competitiveness of their current college program may also enter into a decision. International students are usually required to submit TOEFL scores, with highly selective colleges generally looking for scores in the 90’s or better. Lastly, the student’s personal statement and supplemental essays play a big part in the admission officer getting a “feel” for the student. The essay should be well written and thought out, displaying maturity and self-reflection. Be ready to explain your reasons for transferring and your long-term goals.
In consideration of the difficult transfer process, Helping Hand College Guidance has these recommendations for transfer students to hopefully facilitate a smooth college transferring process:
- Community college students should adequately prepare for placement exams to prevent having to take remedial classes.
- Start the process early. Contact colleges of interest and make notes of their transfer requirements. Obtain articulation agreements to these colleges, if available.
- When selecting potential transfer colleges, remember to think about the “best fit” for you. That means taking into account academic, social, and financial parameters.
- Work hard to keep your grades high. That will be the single most important factor in your transfer success. Many colleges also offer merit aid for transfer students.
- Try to pick “transfer friendly” colleges.
- Stay in contact with colleges of interest and try to select courses that will transfer at your present college. Some colleges may even require a specific grade in a course to be eligible for transfer credits and even factor into eligibility for a specific program.
- Remember to save course catalogues and syllabuses in case you need it to determine if your college credits will transfer to your new institution. There is even the possibility of filing an appeal to an unfavorable decision. This process can vary greatly. It is even possible that a GE course may transfer as an elective or two GE courses will count as one GE course somewhere else. Most schools will want at least a C in a class to give credit.
- Pay attention to both application and financial aid deadlines. Different schools have different deadlines. It is best to map it out on a timeline so as not to miss an important deadline.
- In my experience, most colleges will not evaluate transfer credits until after the student is admitted. However, you should have that evaluation before an enrollment deposit is due.
- Most schools have a cap on the number of transferable credits they will accept. Around 65 credits is usually the maximum, but again that number can vary between universities.
- Apply to a balanced list of schools, including some safety schools to make sure that you have options.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to write the college essays. Allow enough time to create thoughtful flawless essays that portray you in the most positive light. Try to remain positive in the essay and refrain from negative comments about your present school. There is always a bright spot or a positive learning experience to talk about.
Attempting college transferring without the guidance of an experienced transfer counselor can be challenging. If you follow the outlined recommendations above, you will greatly increase your success in transferring to the college of your choice. If you wish to consult an expert transfer counselor, Pam Ohriner of Helping Hand College Guidance is here to provide services as your college transfer guide. Please contact Pam at Pamela@helpinghandcollegeguidance.com.
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