Posted October 09, 2007 by

Top Transfer Questions Answered!

No doubt about it–the transfer process can be daunting. As a college student, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to researching schools, finding programs that interest you, figuring out which of your credits will transfer, and preparing your applications. And while you’re at it, you’ve still got to juggle your current course load and keep your grades up!
The good news is, you have what some college counselors call “the transfer advantage.” “You’ve already learned what you don’t want or what’s missing,” explains Carol DelPropost, assistant vice president of admission and financial aid at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. That means you’re more focused, more mature, and more likely to succeed at your new school.
Still, you’ve doubtless got plenty of questions. And we’ve got answers! We spoke with transfer admissions counselors at colleges across the country and asked them the most common questions asked by transfer students. Here’s what they had to say.

How can I find out which of my classes will transfer and how many credits I’ll get at my new school?
The onus is on the student to research the particular guidelines,” says Debbie Woods, associate dean of admissions at Mills College in Oakland, California. Don’t assume that because your classes will transfer to one school they’ll necessarily transfer to another. You can consult a counselor at your current school, but even the most efficient transfer counselor can’t keep on top of the credit requirements of every single college.
Start by contacting the schools you’re interested in. If you visit the campus, bring a transcript–even if it’s an unofficial one–and ask an admissions officer to estimate how many classes will transfer and what your class standing will be. Keep in mind, however, that this will be an estimate, not a guarantee. “Without seeing the official transcript, it’s difficult to evaluate,” warns Brenda Doran, director of transfer admission at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. In fact, most colleges can’t give you a definite answer on which of your credits will transfer until you actually apply.
Don’t forget to consider the actual course requirements–not just the number of credits–you’ll need in order to graduate. “Students sometimes get hung up on credits,” says Doran, “when they really need to worry about which classes they’ve taken.”
For example, suppose you plan to enter your new school as a psychology major. Your first step should be to find out how many courses taken at your current school will count toward this major. If you’ll need to take a lot of courses in order to fulfill a psychology degree at your new school, this could add another semester–or even a year–to your college career.
Haven’t decided on a major yet? Take as many general education requirements as possible at your current school. Lower-level and general education courses are most likely to transfer and fulfill credits at your new school.
Another potential wrinkle is that colleges don’t all measure course credits the same way. Emily Foster, a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, transferred from a college that used credit hours, as opposed to Ohio Wesleyan’s units. To further complicate her credit translation, her old school divided its academic year into quarters, while Ohio Wesleyan is based on a semester schedule. Foster’s advice: “Be prepared to spend a lot of time with the registrar!”
Because admissions personnel at your new college might need to analyze course content when it’s evaluating your credits, Foster recommends keeping copies of syllabi for all the courses you’ve taken. “Copy your course descriptions from the school’s website into a word processing document,” she suggests.
Another caveat: Most colleges put a cap on the number of credits that they’ll accept, and the number of credits that transfer will determine your class year. So even if you’ve already completed two years of college, unless a sufficient number of credits will transfer to your new school, you might not qualify as a junior when you enroll.
I’m nervous about starting out again in a brand new environment. Will I be able to make friends?
Moving to an entirely new place is always a little scary, even when you’re confident it’s the right thing to do. Remember the “transfer advantage:” You know what you did and didn’t like about your old school, and you know what you’re looking for in your new one. This applies to your social life as well as your academic life. “We have students who transfer here because they could not find a group they felt comfortable with [at their old school],” says Carol DelPropost.
Daniel Willis, who transferred to Bryant University, found it easier to make friends as a transfer student than as a brand-new freshman. “You already have a feel for what college is about, so [that adjustment] is easier,” he explains. “Also, there will be plenty of other transfers in your position.”
So how do you find your social circle once you’ve arrived at your new school?
Start by reminding yourself why you thought the school would be a good fit for you. Many colleges hold orientation sessions specifically for transfer students; these are an excellent way to meet other students who share your situation and, very likely, your anxiety! Be sure to take part in any programs for new students, even those attended mostly by freshmen–after all, you’re all in the same boat when it comes to learning the ins and outs of your new environment.
Get involved in activities outside the classroom, even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone. Look for clubs and activities that interest you, take part in study groups or volunteer opportunities, and make an effort to meet students who share your interests. The more involved you are, the sooner your new campus will start to feel like home!
How can I be sure I’m choosing the right four-year college?
Before you can choose a college that suits you, you need to clearly define your interests and priorities. Start by asking yourself what you most enjoy doing–is there a particular program or major that matches that? Look for colleges that offer strong programs in your areas of interest.
If, like many students, you’re still exploring different paths, you might focus instead on a school’s size, location, cost, diversity, or other factors–whatever matters most to you will provide a starting point for your college search.
You can learn a lot about a college from its website–many offer online campus tours, student blogs, faculty e-mail links, and more. Be sure to look for information specifically for transfer students; this can be an effective indicator of how much attention a school will give to transfer students. “If there’s nothing [on the site] specifically for transfers,” says Brenda Doran, “that’s a problem.”
Most admissions counselors strongly recommend visiting a college before you decide to enroll. “Do as much research as you can ahead of time–visit, and take advantage of every opportunity,” advises Debbie Woods. “The more knowledge you have, the less stressful it will be.” If you do visit, arrange to meet with an admissions representative or advisor (don’t forget to bring your transcript!), and be sure to ask plenty of questions.
You might also consider meeting some faculty members, especially if you’re planning to apply to a specific degree program. Many schools will allow you to sit in on a class or will arrange for you to chat with a current student. “Having a chance to see the campus first-hand, as well as meet some of the current faculty and students, is really valuable in the process of deciding which school has the best environment for you,” says Mills transfer student Kiva Schrager. “One of the most appealing parts of Mills for me was how available and helpful the entire faculty was, and I would not have been able to know this if I hadn’t taken the time to visit.”
If you plan to transfer to a school that’s close to the one you currently attend, look into cross-registration programs, which allow you to take classes at participating colleges or universities while you’re still enrolled at your current school. Many two- and four-year schools offer cross-registration with nearby universities. It can be a great way to “try out” another school without the extra expense.
Finally, be sure to look into whether your current school offers any articulation agreements with other colleges. These agreements can help simplify the transfer process by guaranteeing admission and often, transfer of credits, for any student in good academic standing. “[Articulation agreements] can be just the ticket to completing a bachelor’s degree,” says Wendy Adler, dean of academic affairs at Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts. “[They provide] a seamless way for students to transfer while keeping their options open.”
Will I be able to handle the stress of transferring?
Transferring to a new college will inevitably involve some stress, particularly during the first few weeks, as you try to fit in socially while juggling a full schedule of demanding new courses.
Many students worry about whether they’ll be able to keep up academically at their new school. That’s a valid concern–in fact, Carol DelPropost advises transfer students to anticipate a change in academic rigor. “A lot of students want to be more challenged, but they need to understand what that means,” she says. “When you visit, talk to [current] students about what their workload is like.”
If you start to feel overwhelmed by your workload, take advantage of campus resources such as study groups and tutors, and find out your professor’s office hours if you need extra help. Also, don’t forget to consult your academic advisor regularly. He or she can help make sure you’re taking the right classes and that you’re on track to graduate on time.
Wendy Adler recommends that students meet regularly with an advisor when they’re still in the planning stages of their transfer. “A good advisor will always have a reason for the student to come back,” she says. “It’s important to do the ‘follow through’ and for advising centers to get to know students early on. This will help students become more aware of their preferences and will in turn help them find the best college ‘fit’.”
Will my financial aid situation get complicated?
Not necessarily. In fact, many students report that navigating the financial aid waters was easier as a transfer student. The likely reason? Once you’ve been through the process, you already know how to fill out the FAFSA, what information and documents you’ll need to provide, and how to search for scholarships and loans. Just be sure to contact your new school’s financial aid office early to check on deadlines and ensure that all your information is in.
Remember that few students actually pay the full “sticker price” for a college education, so try not to be discouraged by schools that might seem financially out of reach. “Don’t limit yourself to state or public schools by assuming that a private university is unaffordable!” advises Debbie Woods. “The sticker price may be high, but there are many forms of financial aid, including merit- and need-based.” Many students find that attending a private school ends up costing them less than a public or state school.
Your financial aid package will almost certainly be different when you transfer from one school to another, even if your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) doesn’t change. “Every school disburses their own funds differently,” says Carol DelPropost. “Some schools may not have merit scholarships or grants. Ask what type of aid your new school offers.”
Once you receive your new aid package, make sure that you fully understand the details–remember that loans have to be paid back, while grants do not. Call the financial aid office if you have any questions.
Finally, don’t forget to consider how long it will take you to complete your degree. If you’re planning to start your degree from scratch, chances are you’ll be in school longer than four years, which will likely add to your student loan burden.
As a transfer student, will I be able to participate in programs and activities such as study abroad and honors college?
Absolutely! Transfer students are as welcome as any other student when it comes to joining clubs, activities, or organizations at their new school. “In my experience, every activity and opportunity that I wanted to participate in after transferring to Bryant was available for me,” says Daniel Willis. “All elected positions were done on a yearly basis, making them available, and most other things are done based on credits and seniority, which put me on even ground with my other classmates.”
Brenda Doran suggests talking to transfer students from previous years to see which activities they’re involved with. Ask about how easy or difficult it was for them to feel included. If you’re interested in studying abroad or participating in an honors program, mention it when you first meet with an advisor. He or she can help you figure out how to fit it into your schedule.
If you’re still a little nervous about the prospect of starting your college search all over again, remind yourself of the “transfer advantage” and focus on the positive change you’re about to make in your life. Armed with plenty of research, your transcript and financial aid documents, and the right questions, you’ll be ready to visit all the schools on your list–and find the one that’s just right for you.
Article by Alexandra Struzik and courtesy of

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