Should You Transfer Colleges?

Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s Transfer Application Statistics

Love at first sight doesn’t always work out, so what do you do if you’re a college student who’s unhappy at the university you committed to? Believe it or not, this happens to lots of people and is completely normal. 

But if you’re considering transferring colleges, you should think about the exact reasons driving you to transfer before you jump into such a big decision. Some reasons to transfer are excellent, but others might have you regretting your transfer choice. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve helped thousands of students with their college application essays, including transfer essays. In this post, we’ll cover some of the most common reasons students want to transfer. We’ll break down how you should approach this big decision so you find yourself at the best college for you. 

If you are thinking about transferring, check out our free resource below: it contains acceptance rates and other key statistics for transfer applicants to many of the US’s top schools. 

This should only take you around 5 to 10 minutes, but we really recommend starting with this exercise. It’s simple: just create a bullet-pointed list, in as much detail as possible, of the reasons you want to transfer. 

Do it on your computer or on paper, but don’t just keep it in your head. The key is to have all of your reasons explicitly laid out in front of me. Then, you can read through this post and decide how many of your reasons show up on our “Good Reasons” and “Bad Reasons” to transfer lists. 

Got all your transfer reasons written down? Great: just read on to see whether transferring colleges is the right choice for you. 

There are plenty of good reasons a student might need or want to transfer universities. Below, we’ll cover some of the most common good reasons to transfer, offering explanations of why all of these are legitimate reasons to transfer colleges. 

  1. Financial Considerations

There are many financial reasons that might make you want to transfer. Perhaps tuition has increased more than you expected. Perhaps you lost a scholarship or other financial aid you were relying on. Or perhaps you simply didn’t quite anticipate how much living and studying at this university would cost. 

If any of these are major reasons contributing to your desire to transfer, you need to take them seriously. You may find other school options that are cheaper, offer better financial aid, or are simply in lower cost of living areas. 

Make sure you remember to identify exactly how much money you’ll be saving at the schools you’re considering transferring to. You don’t want to find yourself with the same problems again!

While only you can decide exactly what you want to pay for college, any financial incentives are generally excellent reasons to transfer. 

  1. Unique opportunities 

What if you discover your current school is missing key academic or professional opportunities that are crucial to you? 

This could happen for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps you decide to pursue a different major, but your current college lacks educational opportunities. Or maybe you just find that there’s a real lack of professional development for your future career at your school. 

This is another excellent reason to transfer! If your current institution doesn’t have what you’re looking for–research, internships, or specific classes–then you’d be putting yourself at a disadvantage by staying! 

  1. Location

We’re not saying you should sacrifice financial or academic reasons just to live in a nicer place. But it is important that you’re happy wherever you’ll be living for your undergraduate career. 

Maybe you moved from a small town to a huge city, or from a cold climate to a hot one. Whatever the case, location can have a huge impact on your college experience and your quality of life. 

While we think this is a less important consideration than finances and opportunities, we do think that location is a decent reason to transfer. Ultimately, you have to be really honest with yourself: is the location just inconvenient? Or is it such a problem that it interferes with your ability to succeed in school?

  1. Institutional prestige/rigor

Again, we wouldn’t sacrifice the financial or academic aspects just to go to a university with better name recognition. But we do think you should seriously consider transferring if you found yourself in a less selective or less academically rigorous university that you believe you’ve outgrown. 

Many stellar college applicants find themselves rejected by elite universities. Although it’s difficult, some of these students do submit successful transfer applications to these same elite schools after a year or two as undergraduates at a less selective school. 

More likely than not, this will also mean you’ll be paying more for school, so be sure to factor that in. That being said, if you think you have a chance to transfer to your dream school, it’s worth a shot: whether you attend or not is up to you, but it’s worth applying. 

If you are pulling the trigger on a transfer application, be sure to check out our free transfer application acceptance statistics for 70 of the top schools below. You might be surprised at the transfer acceptance rates at schools like Princeton and Harvard! 

If your reasons for transferring mostly fall into the above categories, you’re in great shape. If you find that a lot of the following reasons apply to your decision, however, you might want to reconsider. 

  1. Social reasons

Of course, all of this is subjective. But generally social reasons should not be a major factor in your decision to transfer. What do we mean by social reasons? That could be any of the following: 

  • Difficulty making friends
  • Social scene you don’t like
  • Interpersonal problems with other students
  • Campus culture
  • Campus housing

Now, we’re not saying social life isn’t important at college–just the opposite! However, the real problem is that there’s no guarantee these social aspects will be any better at your new school than they were at your previous institution. 

This is especially true if you’re a freshman. If you’ve been at college for one year or less, you’re likely still transitioning to the college social experience. Most likely, you’d be better off giving your current school another chance, rather than uprooting your life all over again. 

For the most part, social awkwardness is just going to be a part of whatever university you attend. A big part of the college experience is learning to navigate that. 

Plus, you should think about your transfer application itself. If your reasons for transferring are primarily social, the college you’re applying to likely won’t take you very seriously. 

You can read more about the transfer application process and transfer essays in our post here! 

  1. You don’t like your professor(s)

Similar to the first point, this isn’t a good reason to transfer. It’s true: there are plenty of professors that simply aren’t good teachers. And there are professors that are downright unpleasant, rude, or mean. 

But this is just one experience. Every university, including the Ivies, has a mix of amazing, good, and not-so-good professors. 

Make sure to keep your bad experiences at college in context. Always ask yourself: is this a problem with a professor, or with the entire university as a whole? Will this problem affect me again in the future, or is it over and done with?

There are also plenty of ways to avoid getting stuck with a professor you hate, without transferring schools. It’s not always so simple, but you can simply avoid classes taught by that professor. 

Or you can use a website like RateMyProfessors to scope out popular professors ahead of time. 

Shaking up your whole life to get away from a few bad teachers is ultimately going to do more harm than good to your academic experience. 

  1. You’re homesick

Again, every person’s case is unique. In some cases, pressing commitments to your family might in fact override your desire to stay at your current university. 

But, for the vast majority of students, that initial period of homesickness will go away quite quickly. Instead of trying to transfer to a school closer to home, give your current college a chance. 

Almost everyone moves on from that initial homesickness–in fact, it’s one of the most important parts of the college experience! 

What separates a good reason from a bad one for a school to school transfer is ultimately how much it will continue to affect your life. If what’s making you unhappy at your current school is merely temporary, the solution is to wait and outgrow it. 

If what’s making you consider transferring is something inherent to your university and something that will continue to negatively affect you, however, you might want to sit down and look seriously at your options for submitting a transfer application. 

So, how many of your bullet pointed reasons fall into the “good” category, and how many fall into the “bad” category? Considering that is crucial to making an informed decision! 

The decision is yours, of course, but we hope that you think seriously and critically about your reasons for searching out another school before you go through the transfer application process. 

If you are ready to go through the process, we have a few final pieces of advice. First, read over our guide to the transfer essay: it’ll give you invaluable insight into a crucial part of the application process.

Second, once you get ready to start writing your essay, contact one of our essay coaches. The transfer application essay can make or break an application, and our coaches can help you draft and edit your essays to wow admissions committees. 

Finally, get a sense of your chances of acceptance. We’ve collected statistics on transfer application acceptance rates for top US colleges and universities: there are even some schools where transfer acceptance rates are higher than first-year acceptance rates! Download those free below. 

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Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.