Parenting Your College Transfer Student: The Decision to Transfer

Roughly 2.5 million college students every year transfer to a different school.  Statistics from the United States Department of Education suggest that close to 60% of college students will attend more than one school before they graduate.  While many students find just the right college and stay there for four years, these statistics suggest that there is a good chance that your college student may consider a transfer to another college at some point during his college career.

While the overall transfer rate in the United States may be going up, if your child decides to transfer, the process is a major event for him.  Even though others may be going through the same process, it does not lessen the impact of the decision for your individual student.  Obviously, for some students who attend 2 year institutions, the decision may not be whether to transfer, but rather where to transfer. For other students, the decision is more difficult because a transfer may be an option.  Your student will need to go through a process of deciding whether or not a transfer is the right answer for him.  If he does decide to make a change, he will need to deal with the actual process of transferring, and finally he’ll need to make the transfer work once it happens.  This post considers some of the reasons that college students consider transferring to another institution and how you can help with the process.

Many students make what is called a vertical transfer.  Quite simply, this is a transfer from a two-year college to a four-year institution.  The student may have opted to begin her college career at a community college or a junior college.  After completing work there, perhaps with an Associates’ Degree, she transfers to a four-year institution to complete her undergraduate work for a Bachelor’s Degree.  Some two-year institutions have Articulation Agreements with four-year schools.  This means that the student may have direct entry into a program at the partnering institution.  This type of transfer is a big step, but does not have the emotional impact of a difficult decision.  It is a natural next step.

Most other students who transfer make horizontal or lateral transfers.  This means that they transfer from a two-year to a two-year or from a four-year to a four-year institution.  Their reasons for transferring may be as varied as the students themselves.  Students may transfer because they want to be with friends who are at another school, because they want a fresh start after a rocky first year, because they want to be closer to home or further away from home, because they are homesick, because they have changed major or program of interest and another school has more to offer, because they want a more prestigious degree, or because of a change in finances.  Some students transfer because they have been dismissed from a school.  And some students may consider transferring because they simply believe that “the grass is greener” somewhere else.

Some of these reasons may seem more valid than others, but it is important to recognize that whatever the reason, it is important to your student.  As the parent of this college student, you may wonder how you can help.  There are several ways you might participate in your student’s thoughts about transferring.

  • Recognize that this may be a difficult, or at least, very significant decision for your student.  Be as supportive during this decision making time as possible.
  • Understand that your student may not have been truly able to make an informed decision about college when he was in high school.  He may not have understood enough about himself, about the realities of college life, about his interests, or about possible majors. He may need to make a change now because he looks at college, and life, differently.
  • Congratulate your student for recognizing when something may not be working and trying to do something to improve his situation.
  • Help your student try to determine whether the problem is truly with the institution, or whether it is something that he may be able to address without changing schools.  Might a change of living situation, study habits, social circles help?  Are there advising or support services available that might make a difference?  Is a new school going to be the answer, or will the student take the problem with him?  A change of school may be the best course of action, but it is possible that some other type of change may be what is needed.
  • Stand back and allow your student to make this decision.  If he asks for your advice, certainly share your opinion.  But remember that your student must take responsibility for his college career.  If he feels that making a change will help him, and you have guided him to consider all factors, then respect his decision and try to help him make the change.

If your student has done some important soul searching and decided that a transfer is the best solution for her, then there are important things to consider about the process of transferring itself.  We’ll consider these in our next post.

Related Posts:

Parenting Your College Transfer Student: Navigating the Transfer Process

Parenting Your College Transfer Student:  Supporting Your New  Transfer Student

What Is a College Articulation Agreement?

The Path To Graduation: What’s Your Student’s Timeline?

What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed From College

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2 thoughts on “Parenting Your College Transfer Student: The Decision to Transfer”

  1. Rutgers University is partnered with community colleges throughout the state catering exclusively to the transfer population. Most transfers attending these Higher Education Centers are “vertical” transfers from the partnered two year school, although we do also have “lateral” transfer in attendance. To learn more about the NJ transfer process and the Rutgers Higher Education Centers check out the Knowledge Transfer Blog post or visit us at


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