5 tips to a smooth college transfer

A man on a latter and a woman building "future" blocks
  • Send your transcripts to the new school before applying for admission.
  • Find out what your total cost of attendance will be at the new school.
  • Make sure the new school is a good fit, socially and academically.

Forget financial aid. To save college cash, just pick an institution and stay there, say the experts. While some transfer students do save money, especially those who move from a community college to a four-year institution, many wind up losing credits and financial aid dollars in the process. To make sure you're getting the most out of your college transfer, consider these five ways to cut the cost of changing schools.

Research reciprocation

Unless you're going from a two-year to a four-year institution, a college transfer is probably going to cost you, says Peter Ratzan, co-founder of the college funding consultation firm College Planning Specialists of Florida, located in Weston, Fla.

"In my experience, students usually lose about one semester in lost credits," he says. "It could be more. We had a physical therapy student that transferred from the University of North Carolina Asheville to Emory University, but they don't offer the same kinds of courses at Emory. She lost an entire year's worth of credits."

To ensure that your coursework does transfer, Ratzan advises potential transfer students to send their transcripts to the new school before applying for admission. If all credits won't make the cut, students can investigate whether they can take classes at community and two-year schools at a lower cost.

Investigate graduation rates

Even if your credits transfer, you could still find yourself with an extra bill, especially for students who transfer from a private university to a public institution.

"With budget cuts, a lot of students at state colleges can't get all the classes they need to complete their majors," says Andy Lockwood, co-founder of College Planning Specialists of Florida. "It could take longer to graduate even if your credits do transfer over."

Before signing on the dotted line, Lockwood encourages students to ask about the college's average graduation rate and to have an admissions counselor plot out how they can graduate within four years with their current credit load.


Figure the financial aid

After checking out course transfers, investigate financial aid packages. Generally, a student's financial aid package is based not only on the student's financial need, but also on the cost of their current college and how much the school doles out in private scholarships and grants. So a generous aid award at one school doesn't necessarily mean an equally generous one elsewhere. Cheaper schools sometimes cost more in the end simply because they can't offer the same financial aid awards as pricier colleges.

"I encourage all students to ask each college, 'What will my total cost of attendance be?'" says Tyler Peterson, director of recruitment for Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala. "Financial aid offices should be able to give a good faith estimate of what the costs will be for next year."


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