Before You Transfer . . .

I was sitting in my office when one of my students stormed in. She was in the last semester of her first year as an adult student and she was ready to transfer. As much as she loved her current college, another college offered a program of study that really interested. It was different from the one she originally intended to major in, but I saw the stars in her eyes and knew that she was ready to flee. I went through my usual questionnaire and came up with a couple of ways that she could have that same major where she was. No luck. The student who I welcomed nine months ago was leaving.

A year later, I received a call from this former student. She was ready to return. It turned out that her new school wasn’t as exciting as she thought and the new major was just a fancy name for something we already had. I welcomed her with open arms, as I had done before with other nontraditional students. In my attempt save you some time, this is my piece on things to consider before transferring to a new college.

Nontraditional students decide to transfer to a new college all the time and the reasons vary. Sometimes the newer school provides better tuition rates. There are more adult organizations to join. The class schedule is more flexible for the intended student’s major. Sometimes it’s simply because the student heard great things about the new school. For different reasons, students choose to change colleges because they believe that their life will be better (i.e. less hectic); however, I have witnessed the effect of this happening. Some of those same students who transferred ended up returning to their former institution. Whenever a student returned after transferring, I would ask “why” and the answer seemed to boil down to one factor: the student thought the grass was greener on the other side.

In these cases, former students reached a point where they questioned their decision of where they attended college. This is actually pretty common. When an adult student decides to return to college or attend for the first time, the excitement is all about “getting in.” Some students do not research the school they are interested in attending, mainly because they are not aware of what they want or need as an adult student. Once the semester starts and they get a few classes underneath them, the reality hits that juggling work, school, family, and community obligations is not what they imagined. As a result, the first thought is to change schools because nothing else seems flexible enough to change. This is when the talk of transferring begins.

Now, it’s not a bad thing to transfer colleges if you’re doing it for the right reasons (i.e. your current college does not offer what you realistically need). However, before you transfer, do research on your current institution and make sure that they truly don’t have what you need. So, let’s look at some reasons why students transfer:

  1. Tuition is too much:  This is very common among adult students. While on paper, tuition seemed to be affordable, emergencies happen, books and materials cost more money than one thought, and trying to balance academics with the rest of life gets expensive. Before you transfer, ask about scholarship and financing options. You’d be surprised at what is available.
  2. Class schedule changes:  Have you ever created an academic plan only to find out that the course you were scheduled to take in spring of 2022 won’t be offered until 2023? Don’t panic. Most of these plans are drafts and they can change at any time. If a class change throws your graduation date off, talk to you adviser about other class options. No school wants to be responsible for students graduating a year later than planned. Often, independent studies or alternative classes can be offered in lieu of the scheduled class.
  3. Embarrassed about needing a break:Believe it or not, some students get too embarrassed to say that they need a break. Instead, they leave school and when they are ready to resume studies, they transfer to a new college. Stopping-out (aka taking a break) is not unusual and many schools have policies surrounding stopping out. Your adviser will know what you’re talking about, so don’t be nervous to have that honest conversation.
  4. Financial issues: Aside from tuition, a nontraditional student’s world seems to crumble when resuming school. Many times, I have had to calm students down when, after registering, their parent became sick or the house flooded (literally). Something horrible always seems to happen when a student decides to return to college, but before transferring, ask for help. Many colleges have resources available to help students life crises such as: housing issues, childcare, transportation, utilities, and other mishaps. These resources may not be made public, but talking to your adviser, department chair, or dean could do the trick. They can point you in the direction of the right campus resource to assist you.

*Another avenue is your college catalog. It has so much information on campus resources. Read it to see what’s available to you.

While there are many good reasons to transfer institutions, there are also reasons that could easily be resolved at your current college. Don’t attempt to start over at a new place if your current place can make things easier for you. Do your research and ask for help.

Keep moving forward,

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