What to Do If Your Child Is Interested in Transferring Colleges

by Naomi Mannino

It’s common for students to transfer to a university after successfully completing a two-year community college program. At this point, students are ready to take the next step in their academic careers and earn their bachelor’s degree.

But sometimes, a student starts out at a four-year university and it turns out to be the wrong fit. In this case, students are also likely to consider transferring to a new school. Here’s how to ensure transferring colleges is the right choice for your student, and tips for helping them navigate the transfer process.

Deciding When to Transfer

Every transfer student has a unique story. Reasons to transfer (or postpone transferring) vary from student to student, says Peter Lujan, assistant director of transfer recruitment for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Azusa Pacific University. Students may find course availability a problem or they may be at odds with the social or academic atmosphere at their current school, prompting a desire to transfer to another college or even to a community college.

“The reality is that many students may not have been adequately prepared or academically ready to take on college-level coursework. Some may have had unforeseen life circumstances push them off track and some need more time to figure out exactly what they might want to do professionally,” says Lujan. “By staying put or by using their time wisely at a community college, students will develop better study habits, time management skills, and build confidence and momentum as they take their next step toward earning their bachelor’s degree.”

The idea that attending a community college is a setback or a sort of “Plan B” is unfair and untrue, suggest Lujan. Often, successfully completing one or two additional semesters of academic work at a community college can strengthen students’ abilities—as well as their application for admission to a four-year university.

Another very common reason students choose to first enroll in a community college is affordability.

“Some students may simply seek to save as much money as possible by completing as much coursework as they can at their local community college prior to transferring to a four-year university,” says Lujan.

Ensuring the New School Is the Right School

The only way to know which school is going to be the best fit for any student is to visit the campus and connect with an admissions representative, Lujan advises.

“Most universities offer free tours, preview days, and counselor appointments; I recommend that every prospective transfer student and family take advantage of these services in order to really learn about the campus culture, academic experience, and to get a feel for the community,” notes Lujan.

If a student is transferring to a four-year university down the line, he or she should meet with transfer counselors at prospective schools. This allows the counselors to evaluate the student’s transcripts and provides the student an opportunity to ask questions regarding the transferring process, like which existing class credits can be applied to the new school. Lujan recommends students stay proactive by meeting and checking in with transfer specialists regularly to ensure a smooth transfer.

Graduating on Time

It is a common misconception that transferring colleges delays graduation. Lujan seeks to debunk this myth. Like students who go straight to four-year universities out of high school, transfer students only extend their graduation dates when they do not stay on their academic plan, change the plan to require additional courses, or fail to pass all of their classes.

“Being a transfer student does not automatically mean that it will take a student longer to graduate than it would take a student who went straight into a four-year university,” says Lujan. “If students take advantage of their community college’s academic advisors immediately and make sure they are on a solid transfer path, they should graduate in a timely manner.”