Guide to the College Transfer Process

Guest blogger, Fred Amrein, is the founder of PayingForED

Luckily, at most state and private colleges and universities, the equity in your primary With the coronavirus impacting the college experience, many families may be rethinking their college expenses or current institution. The college transfer process is not a new issue or an easy one. According to the September 2017 Government Accountability Office study, one in three students will change colleges before they graduate.

To make things easier, PayForED has compiled a guide to the college transfer process. It is grouped into specific areas that students should investigate before making this decision. Listed below are the five major areas:

College Transfer Program

As this issue is becoming more prevalent, many colleges have created a specific department to handle the college transfer process. Some colleges even have express transfer nights, where you get your acceptance and credits approved within the interview process.  This makes it easy and less stressful for all involved.

Depending on the size of the college, the transfer process could be different. Some colleges have it managed under the total admission area of the college and at larger universities, it may be managed by the specific school within the university.

Understanding the College Transfer Requirements

The timing of the transfer will have an impact on what will be required from the college. Most transfer programs will look at your most recent academic progress.  If you are a college sophomore or junior, they will be more focused on your college transcript for admission.  For the transferring freshman, the focus will be the same, but they will review your high school transcript and standardized test scores.

Colleges will ask why you want to transfer and what major you will be studying. These two factors are important to a college so they can predict if you will be successful in that program and fill seats in specific areas of the college.

Determine Course Credits that Transfers

Do not get blind-sided by the unexpected costs of lost college credits when you transfer to a new college.  It occurs more often than you think.  Denial of course credit even occurs when you have good grades in specific courses.

Do your research and investigate the number of accepted college credits that will be honored at the new institution.  During your review, a student may find that some of their current college credits may not be eligible for transfer to the new institution due to the new college’s curriculum, college major change, or grade attained by the student.  It is important to understand that not all college courses are equal and the college curriculum is not standardized.

In preparation for this course credit review, you need to get an unofficial copy of your transcripts and the course description for each course.  Having this information handy will make the credit transfer discussion more comfortable with the new college.  If you are changing majors at the same time as the transfer, this review could become painful but necessary.

Establishing a New Graduation Date

With all this change, a student should determine how many credits they will need to graduate on a specific date.  The student should understand their new student’s academic progress (SAP) at the new college.  The term SAP is important since it has a direct relationship with the student’s financial aid eligibility for each year.

As part of the student transfer process, the student should plan out which courses need to be taken by semester. As a student moves toward graduation, many upper-level courses require prerequisite courses that are only offered in certain semesters. A simple course selection mistake could delay a student’s graduation by another year.

In this course planning process, evaluate summer course availability and approval.  This may allow you to accelerate your graduation or catch up if you are behind in credits. Most summer courses are often discounted which makes them even more attractive.

Evaluate Financial Aid for Transfer Students

Most merit-based financial aid is offered during the freshman year admission process.  As college transfer students become a bigger part of the college business process, more transfer scholarships are becoming available. Some colleges will honor a portion and maybe all the initial merit scholarships if the student was accepted during the traditional freshman class.

The family must revise the structure of the new financial award.  Identify the need-based and merit-based financial aid so that you can understand the total cost of the transfer. As stated above, the student’s academic progress will determine the amount a student will qualify for under the Direct Federal loan program. These loan limits will be prorated based on that number and are adjusted each year.

The PayForED In-College solution can help a student navigate this financial aid analysis. It will show the family timeline in relation to the projection of debt to graduation. This information helps the family evaluate if the student will qualify for more financial aid in future years.

Two recent legislation changes may impact a student’s financial aid package.  The elimination of SULA limits may help need-based financial aid students qualify for more Subsidized Direct Federal Loans.  This is a plus for students who will be in college longer.  The other is an increase in Pell Grants amounts.  Both of these may help in offsetting some of the additional cost that happens due to a transfer

College Transfer Process Conclusion

There are many reasons why a child may decide to transfer to a new college.  My best advice is to do your research and make sure you get clarity from the admission office before you make your decision to change institutions. Having all this financial information will allow you to plan more effectively and utilize your resources to pay for any added expenses.

What is most important in this process is recognizing the financial significance of these changes. This is often overlooked and not recognized until after graduation.  The PayForED approach explains the importance of a student’s debt structure, what their net income will look like at graduation, identifies best repayment options, and factors other personal living expenses. Our added transparency allows a student to see the financial consequences of their transfer decision and envision their financial future.

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