It is very common for a student to transfer college. Data from the National Student Clearinghouse states that 37.2% of college students transfer at least once.
What we don't know is how many of those students planned to transfer from the start, and how many felt compelled to do it based on a bad experience, or making a poor decision the first time.
Many students plan on starting their college career at a two-year institution and transferring to a four-year to finish their degree in order to save money. This can be an effective strategy, especially when they enroll in a program that has an established tradition of transferring students to nearby institutions.
Whatever the reason for the transfer, there are risks involved. The majority of transfer students lose credits and some lose financial aid.
When You Know Transferring is a Good Idea
- Your child has a GPA over 2.5 and is interested in continuing his or her education at another institution.
- Your child is interested in moving from a community college to a four-year college, known as a lateral move, or a vertical transfer. This is one of the more effective ways to transfer to another school, especially is they are staying in the same major and just going from an Associate's degree to a Bachelors.
- Your child is moving from one public institute to another public institute. In general, students have the greatest success with retaining their credits transferring between public colleges, especially those in the same state.
- Your student is taking advantage of an Articulation Agreement made between two colleges that allows them to apply earned credits to a similar program at another school.
- Your student has decided on a major that they want to study that is not offered at their current school, and is ok with starting mostly from scratch (only recommended in the first 1-2 years of school).
Encourage your student to get their ducks in a row as early as possible! Retaining their credits will often depend on the transfer path taken and the work they put in.
Collect Information About Colleges and Programs
Spend some time discussing with your student the available options. Peruse college websites, send away for pamphlets and brochures, look at sample costs and commitments. You can also make an appointment to visit the school.
If possible, talk to current students and learn more about the curriculum and the instructors in his specialized field of study. Admissions personnel would also be the best source for questions but make an appointment. Prior to the meeting, get together with your student to formulate some questions.
Dig into Transfer Resources, Policies and Agreements
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency that investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, published a study that estimates: students who transferred from 2004 to 2009 lost, on average, an estimated 43 percent of their credits, and credit loss varied depending on the transfer path.
There are a lot of hoops to jump through pertaining to transfers. There is usually a minimum grade requirement. Study the various degree programs to get an idea of the load—the classes required and the number of hours needed.
Look for a transfer course equivalency guide to determine how credits may be applied to the new school. Find out if the school has a 2 + 2 graduation plan that can supplement the associate’s degree earned.
For public schools see if there is a Statewide Articulation Agreement between your state’s community college and the university.
An Articulation Agreement is an officially approved agreement between two institutions, which allows a student to apply credits earned in specific programs at one institution toward advanced standing, entry or transfer into a specific program at the other institution. Study these documents carefully and keep track of the transfer process, application deadlines, and any possible aid that may benefit your family.
Find out what type of financial assistance may be available; determine the odds of your student receiving a grant, loan or scholarship opportunity.
Know the Law
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ensures that your student’s educational records are sealed when they turn eighteen or when he or she goes to a secondary level school.
All academic information regarding your students is privy to the student and not his or her parents, with the exception of the school’s academic advisor.
One way to access these records is to document that you claim your student as a dependent for income tax; (and know that colleges may request these papers). The other way is for a student to sign a FERPA waiver, which allows the college to release academic information if requested.
Contact Your Student’s Chosen School
Your student can speak with a transfer advisor—some schools have advisors strictly for transfer students. Start early to allow the school time to complete their part of the process. See when they will need official transcripts and pay the fees for those documents, plus, make sure they are originals (some colleges will not look at copies of copies).
Plan to tour the city and the university campus. Check into all types of housing. Many colleges require that freshmen or newly-arrived students live on-site and in a dorm: calculate those fees, transportation outlets or parking fees, and price the college food services and cafeteria or dining plan.
You may have to encourage your student to become involved in campus programs or join in for available activities that will lay out the college life and its culture. Remember, many of the students are there under a four-year program and they are already comfortable with the school’s rhythm and “sense of place.” Expect that your student will go through a transition and be there to listen and learn.