There are many factors that motivate students to transfer from their initial college. Perhaps the college is different from what you expected, or possibly you have grown from the independent experience of living on campus, or maybe you’ve simply gained a deeper understanding of the kind of college experience you want.

You might have realized you prefer smaller classes or a larger school. Perhaps you would rather live near an urban setting, or enjoy a sprawling campus with large green open spaces. The college major that you intended to pursue may no longer interest you, and your new major of choice may not be offered at your current university. The Greek life you thought you would love might not meet your expectations, or you might be at a Division III school, missing the spectator sports you enjoyed in high school. Or maybe, after a strong academic performance in your freshman year of college, you feel that you have proven yourself a worthy candidate for a more academically challenging school than the one you are currently attending.

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the trends that are driving transfer admissions and whether considering a transfer is right for you.

What Motivates Students to Transfer?

In a 2015 report, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center concluded that more than one third of college students transfer and almost half of those transfer more than once. That number is staggering when you consider the amount of effort, time, and money devoted to first-year applications.

According to Fastweb, there are several important factors that cause students to consider transferring, which include:

  • Affordability
  • Prestige of the institution
  • College location
  • Social scene
  • Academic programs not offered by your current university
  • A rough start to freshman year

Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School, wrote an article for the Washington Post describing what he sees as several generational factors that are driving transfer admissions.

Perseverance is lacking, and overprotective parenting does not allow children to experience failure and adversity in adolescence. As a result many students begin to face challenges for the first time in college and then give up.

Early Decision, a rising trend, forces students to choose their college before they’re fully ready.

Social media can leave students feeling inferior compared to their peers attending other colleges; students who spend too much time on social media can become disconnected from their social environment.

Student athletes who are recruited and choose their college by sophomore year lose out on two additional years of maturity in making their college choice.

Large class sizes, which most likely occur during freshman year, can leave students feeling detached from their teachers, especially compared to their experience of high school class sizes.

Colleges often market to students through campus amenities, but when the reality of the workload hits students, they can feel disillusioned and unsure of their experience.

Before You Decide to Transfer, Weigh Your Options

According to U.S. News, there are many factors that a student should take time to consider before deciding to transfer.

  • Did you give yourself enough time to settle into your new college environment?
  • If you do not like your classes, consider switching courses, rather than schools.
  • Making friends can take time; if this is your issue, try to become more involved socially through clubs, activities, intramural sports, or an on-campus job, before giving up on your school. Also, keep in mind that homesickness is a normal part of adjusting to this new stage of your life.
  • Finally, do not base your entire worldview of college on one negative experience. Be sure you are looking at the whole picture, and not just focusing on one incident that caused you distress.

I Still Want to Transfer, Now What?

If you decide that transferring is the right option for you, begin by reflecting deeply about the features of your current college: which aspects match your interests and preferences, and which do not? Make lists of features that you now seek in a transfer college. If possible, speak with other students who have transferred to find out more about their experience and seek the guidance of advisers and your parents in making your decision. For more information about the process of submitting transfer applications, see our blog When to Transfer (and How to Go About It).

Finally, be sure to stay fully engaged in your current college, even though you’re planning to transfer.  You want to perform as well as possible academically in order to be a strong candidate for transfer admissions. You also want to show your transfer college that you are capable of participating fully in the life of a college. Transfer colleges want to admit students who can round out the undergraduates already on campus — the more information you provide about how you will contribute positively to campus life, the better your chances of admission!

Whether you’re considering regular or transfer admission, the application process is ultimately about finding the right fit for YOU, so that you can get the most out of your college experience possible.  For more information and guidance, contact We’re always happy to help!