10 Tips for Transferring

By Alexandra Ley

It’s been five months since you arrived at Barnard as an eager First-Year ready to conquer New York. Everyone around you seems happy all the time, caught up in a whirlwind of academic, extracurricular, and New York-related activities. They’re anticipating declaring majors, picking sophomore-year roommates and running for student organization activities, but you just don’t feel excited. In fact, you’re not enjoying your college experience at all, and you’ve been thinking that Barnard might not be the place for you.

Statistics, shmatistics… point is, it’s OK to transfer.


I wish someone had said those words to me when I didn’t love my freshman year. Instead, when I mentioned that I was filling out transfer applications, other students looked at me like I had three heads. They couldn’t fathom why I would want to put effort into leaving that school.

Fact: About 30% of two-year and four-year college students transfer at some point. When including community college students, that percentage goes up to 60%.

There is nothing unusual about your situation, but as you go through the next few months and decide where your education should go, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Ask yourself “Why do I want to leave Barnard?”
…and be honest! Get used to the question, because everybody who finds out you want to transfer/will transfer/have transferred will ask it. Make a list, or ask a friend to talk it out with you to figure out what’s really making you uncomfortable or upset about your school. Admit it to yourself if your reason seems even slightly superficial- “I feel like I have no friends” or “I was counting on making the swim team here and I didn’t” are conditions that could change with time. “My lack of financial aid is casting a huge burden upon my family” and “I’ve finally figured out what I want to study, and this school doesn’t offer it” are issues that extend beyond present circumstances and could warrant a change of location.

2. Make a list of everything you like at Barnard.
Make sure you realize now what you’d be leaving behind by changing schools, or you may have some regrets later on. Knowing what has been good about the past year will help you make decisions on which school might be a better fit.

3. Find out more about the school you’re at.
Don’t write off your current situation so quickly- talk to a current senior in your major/intended major about how the academic program progresses. Ask her about her overall experience at the school, and ask if she ever thought about transferring- a lot of the time, the answer is “yes!” Find out what changed her mind. Try to find a junior or senior who transferred here and find out why she chose Barnard and how she feels here now. Talk to a professor, your academic advisor, and other students about what your options would be if you continued to attend your school. Maybe you could consider rushing Greek life, taking some classes for fun around the city, or experimenting with a few fun classes to mix it up and change your circumstances.

4. Think about your first college process.
Obviously, it didn’t go quite as you planned. Find out where you felt like you faltered–did you procrastinate too long on your essays? Did you apply where you thought your parents/college counselor wanted you to, instead of thinking about where you wanted to go? Did you care a lot about the location of your school when you should have thinking about other things?

5. Talk to your parents/guardians.
Your family is most likely going to have something to say about your college education, especially if they’re paying for it. Make sure your parents realize why you want to make the decision to transfer- you might need their help transporting your belongings back home or to a new school. They might be past college transfers themselves, and can offer you some advice or tips.

6. Always check requirements for admission and application.
Since you’ve pinpointed your reasons for wanting to leave Barnard at this point, you’re ready to think about what you want in School #2. Once you think you have a solid list, go through and make a list of what every school requires from transfers. Some want a high school transcript, some just want a college transcript, some accept ACT scores, some accept only SAT scores, some require extra recommendation forms…it can cause headaches! Also, if you’re considering applying to a school you previously applied to, see if that school “reopens” applications. Admissions officers will consider your new application alongside your old one and see how you’ve grown as a student and as a person. Extra perk: some schools will waive application fees and require fewer recommendations if you’ve applied there before.

7. Consider adding a “safety school.”
Just like when you applied to college before, you cannot assume you will get into the school of your dreams. However, if you think coming back to Barnard is simply not an option, think about a school that could be or was at one point a “safety.” Of course, each school’s transfer admission rate depends on how many people leave their freshman class, so don’t be surprised or freaked out if the transfer admission rate ends up being lower than the freshman admission rate.

8. Be prepared for a dip in your bank account.
Application fees + transcripts from high school + transcripts from Barnard + SAT scores + ACT scores + AP/IB scores + pre-college program transcripts (yes, sometimes they want them!) + postage + possibly visiting schools = $$$. Transferring is NOT cheap (although, trust me, it does pay off in the end!). Apply for fee waivers whenever possible and try to do the math early on so that you know how many schools you can afford to apply to.

9. Establish relationships with the admissions offices.
lot of offices have specially appointed advisers or officers who communicate with transfers and handle their applications. The more you talk with these people, the more you’ll know about what the school is like and the more they will know about you and your application. They understand what the transfer process is like and can get you an extension on deadlines and contacts within your academic departments.

10. Take advantage of the essay portion of the application!
This is one tip I cannot stress enough. Back when you applied to college the first time around, you had angst over the “perfect” topic for your personal essay and made sure that the admissions officer would be able to understand just how big an impact that community service trip or family member or huge academic challenge affected your life. Most of the writing you’ll have to do this time is about why you want to change schools, with maybe a few shorter essays thrown in. In order words- it’s easy. If you’ve gotten to the point that you’re actually putting work into your application, you probably know why you want to leave Barnard and go to School B. One transfer admissions officer did tell me that admissions committees tend to look down upon essays by applicants who are “whiny” or badmouth their current schools, so be careful how you phrase your decision-making process.

Alex is a sophomore at Barnard College and is a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing. She transferred to Barnard her sophomore year.

Image courtesy of Saint Katherine’s College.


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