How to Transfer Colleges Successfully: 6 Expert-Recommended Best Practices

Are you considering transferring from your current college to a new institution? You’re not alone. According to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, one-third of all students switch schools before earning a degree. Whether you’re looking for a better fit, more affordable tuition, or a change of scenery, transferring colleges can be a tricky process.

In this article, we will explore six best practices recommended by experts to ensure a successful and seamless transfer.

1. Apply Early and Follow Up

The key to a successful college transfer is starting early. As soon as you’ve made the decision to transfer, begin researching potential schools.

Create a comprehensive list of important deadlines and ensure you submit all necessary documents well in advance. It is recommended to follow up with the receiving institution to confirm that everything has been received and is in order. Remember, time is of the essence for transfer students.

2. Use Transfer Credit Tools

Before transferring, it’s essential to understand how your credits will transfer to your new school. Many colleges offer transfer credit tools on their websites.

These tools allow you to input the courses you’ve taken or plan to take and see how they align with your desired transfer school’s requirements. If an electronic transfer credit tool isn’t available, check for articulation agreements with nearby institutions.

3. Meet with Advisors at Both Schools

Seeking guidance from advisors at both your current college and the prospective transfer institution is crucial. Take advantage of the transfer resources available to you and schedule meetings with advisors early in the process.

It is important to compare schools based on your interests. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, reach out to the transfer counselor at your desired school to plan your course schedule. By involving advisors from both ends, you can better navigate the transfer and minimize any potential challenges.

4. Prioritize Your Academic Program

While factors such as school size, location, and extracurricular activities are important, your academic program should be the primary consideration when transferring.

Transfer students should avoid being influenced solely by friends or surface-level attractions. Choose a program that aligns with your interests and offers the necessary support for your academic success. Remember, a valuable degree goes beyond just “getting a job” – it contributes to a fulfilling life.

5. Search for Transfer Scholarships

Financial considerations are a significant aspect of transferring colleges. Thankfully, 77% of colleges offer merit scholarships to transfer students. Always fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to explore financial aid opportunities.

Even if you didn’t qualify for aid at your first school, you may be eligible at your new institution. Additionally, some scholarships are exclusively reserved for transfer students. You should explore these scholarships as a potential avenue for financial support. If cost is a concern, consider submitting a Change in Financial Circumstances Appeal if your financial situation has changed.

6. Be Competitive from the Start

Even if you plan to transfer, it’s important to make yourself competitive from day one. Maintaining a good GPA during your first two years will impress prospective institutions and increase your chances of acceptance.

Actively engage in campus life, whether that means studying abroad, joining clubs, or working on campus. Your active engagement will not only boost your competitiveness for admission but also give you an edge in securing jobs, scholarships, and internships down the line.

Also read: How to Successfully Transfer to a UC: Frequently Asked Questions


Transferring colleges can be a complex and challenging process, but with the right strategies, it can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling educational experience. Remember to apply early, utilize transfer credit tools, meet with advisors at both schools, prioritize your academic program, search for transfer scholarships, and be proactive from the start.

By following these expert-recommended best practices, you can ensure a smooth transition and set yourself up for success in your new academic environment.

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