College  |  December 19 2023  |  Prima Bhakyapaibul

Pros and cons of being a transfer student 

What you'll learn

  • How transferring could benefit your lifestyle
  • Why your campus surroundings matter
  • How transferring might affect your academic trajectory

Picture this: It was decision day for my dream school. I got the email in my inbox, clicked on the link, and my heart dropped. I was offered guaranteed transfer admissions, meaning I had to attend a different school before I could transfer to my dream school. This was definitely not how I pictured my college journey starting out.

Transferring schools isn’t usually a part of the plan, but sometimes that’s just the unexpected curveball needed to steer you in the right direction. For me, transferring was one of the biggest decisions I made in my undergrad career, and probably the most difficult. There are lots of factors that come into play when it comes to transferring schools. Let’s get into some of the pros and cons. 

Pros

Study what you want, where you want

If you were rejected from your dream school, you might still get there through transferring. So, try not to get too discouraged by that initial rejection. It’s hard, I know, I was there too. And it’s totally okay to feel all the emotions and super important to talk it out with someone you trust. No one should have to go through that alone.

The other thing is that different schools offer different programs. Let’s say you’re studying and start to realize that you may have other interests outside of the major you chose. Stay calm. Switching majors is more common than you think. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, nearly a third of undergraduate students changed majors at least once.footnote 1 If the school you’re attending doesn’t have a major that appeals to you, you may find the right academic track elsewhere.

Grow in a new environment

The environment you surround yourself in plays a huge role in your experience. If you feel stuck, you’re probably less motivated too. This can really take a toll on your academic performance and your overall experience. Transferring schools can open you up to new opportunities that could suit your lifestyle better.

Perhaps you chose an inner-city school with a big metro campus and that’s just not your style. Maybe a smaller campus is what you’re more comfortable with and transferring schools might be the solution.

Get your degree faster

There are so many different programs and tracks out there. Maybe you got accepted into a program that’s not exactly what you had hoped for. A lot of the time you can find a similar track at a different school that may suit your needs better. With this, you hopefully have already taken most of the same credits required at the new school. And hopefully, the school will accept your transfer credits as part of their curriculum. What this means is that you may be able to finish school faster. Perhaps the school you currently attend requires you to take courses outside your field of study, and that might not be what you want to do.

Cons

Graduation might be delayed

It’s no secret that transferring schools is a whole process. Because schools have different programs and academic tracks, it can be tricky to get all of your credits transferred from your previous school to your new school. If you know early on that you want to transfer schools, definitely keep an open line of communication with your academic advisor and contact the school you’re transferring to. You’ll want to be on top of the documents you’ll need to send over to the school to hopefully make the process a little easier and smoother.

Finding your people...again

Let’s be real, no one wants to be the “new kid.” It’s always going to be hard adjusting to a new environment. For some, transferring might mean leaving your tight-knit group of friends for a place where you know absolutely nobody. This can be a big deal and a big change. Don’t get discouraged and give yourself proper time to adjust.

Culture shock

Some schools have large on-campus communities, while others don’t. You could be going from an inner-city school with a lot of commuters and a diverse campus to a closed-off campus that’s big on school spirit and fostering a community. You’ll want to keep this in mind when figuring out what’s best for you. Your interactions with people truly affect your day-to-day life.

Do what’s best for you

Whether you’re thinking about transferring or it’s something you have planned but are scared for, remember that you’re not alone. There are so many resources available to support you throughout your transition. Don’t hesitate to contact your academic advisor to get some extra guidance and talk to your support system too. Transferring can be a pretty big decision for some, but at the end of the day, you’ll want to do what’s best for your situation and future goals.


footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote External links and third-party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks, and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote 1. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018434.pdf