No, it's not really terribly hard, but there are some pros and cons to consider. Probably less hard than the original application process you went through to get into your first college. Of course, there's no guarantee that the target college will accept a transfer student, but if you've got your heart set on it, it can definitely be the right choice in many cases! (Context: In senior year of high school I applied to NYU but was declined. I went to SUNY Binghamton instead. Two years later, I applied to NYU and was accepted, so I transferred!)
How to transfer
First, you need to know a few specific colleges / universities / programs you want to transfer to. Just like your initial application process for your first college, you'll need to make a list that you feel comfortable with. The last thing you'll want to do is to transfer colleges and find that you like the new one even less than the current one! So check your list twice, and get input from advisors (including on CareerVillage.org if you'd like) as helpful.
Second, make sure you know the application deadlines, and take a look at the application forms to get a sense of the extent to which you would be able to give the admissions offices what they need. Transfer deadlines are often not the same as deadlines for "regular" admission.
Third, reach out to your target college(s) with your transcript in hand to verify which of your existing coursework will be able to be transferred over to the new college for full credit. You need to work with them to figure out how long it will take for you to graduate from the new college, as sometimes degree requirements at the new college will force you to stick around for longer than you would normally expect.
Lastly, make sure to reach out to your college registrar and advising office to let them know that you are considering a possible transfer and ask if there are any specific deadlines or requirements you might want to consider from their perspective. For example, knowing the deadline for making a deposit on the following semester's tuition might be helpful to make sure you're going to get responses from your future college before you have to make a decision with your current college.
If you have these things figured out ^ you should technically be able to apply for the transfer.
Pros of transferring
- Sticking with a bad fit won't benefit anyone. When I was a sophomore I was in a major that wasn't a fit for me, at a school that wasn't a fit for me. Sticking with that college would probably have been fine, but not really optimal for my interests and needs.
- You may be able to "trade up" in the brand name on your degree. I was originally enrolled at SUNY Binghamton and then transferred to NYU Stern, which for my target occupation at the time (in business) was a clearly more attractive brand.
- You may be able to save money. Sometimes transferring from one program to another can bring with it certain financial aid benefits. Perhaps, for example, you don't get financial aid at your current school but the target school wants to offer you aid. But this may be hard to predict in advance at times.
Cons or risks of transferring
- Your new program might not be better. If you make a bad decision, you'll end up in a worse spot. This could be due to academics, or the school culture, or maybe just leaving your friends behind and not getting along with new classmates at your new school. This risk is hard to predict!
- You will have to explain your transfer to skeptical employers when you try to get a job. They will certainly ask you "Why did you transfer from College X to College Y?" You should have an answer for them that will make you a more attractive candidate than someone who was at college Y all along. So, a bad answer might be "I transferred to College Y because I had bad judgment in picking college X." but a better answer might be "I originally applied to College X because I felt that I could have the most impact in the world by working in government, but after learning more and getting an internship with my state government, I've learned that I actually would be a better fit for working in business, which is why I switched from Political Science at College X to Business at College Y, and why I'm a great candidate for your job." (or something similar)
- Transferring may delay getting your degree. If time is a concern, transferring might slow things down for two reasons: (1) you may not be able to get all of your credits transferred over. College Y might say "We don't really believe that the 4 credits you got for Class 123 at College X is equivalent to 4 credits at our school, so we're not going to count those." and (2) your new major may include degree requirements that you haven't had a chance to complete yet. For example if you spent 2 years as a History major and you transfer over to a Computer Science program, you'll definitely have to make up a lot of coursework to get back on track.
At the end of the day, transferring schools can be very rewarding, and it was very rewarding for me. But it's not something to take lightly! Take your time and gather as much info as you can. And of course, we'll all be here for you at CareerVillage.org with more advice if helpful. Good luck!
Source: I transferred colleges after my sophomore year because I found a major at a different university I was more interested in.
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