You may start college with high expectations, but you could eventually begin to feel that your school’s not the right one for you. If that’s the case, you might consider transferring colleges to finish your degree somewhere else.
But although transferring colleges could help you find a better college experience, you might also run into unexpected obstacles. For instance, you’ll want to make sure all your credits will transfer, as well as figure out how transferring will impact your financial aid.
These three students all changed colleges, and they shared their firsthand insight into the process with Student Loan Hero. Here’s what they gained from making the switch, along with the challenges they faced along the way:
When Damisha Ricks began her studies at Arizona’s Glendale Community College, she had a full-ride scholarship and was able to earn her associate’s degree. But once she transferred to a four-year state university, she lost her scholarship and struggled to afford tuition.
“I liked that I was able to work toward my bachelor’s, but I was disappointed that I could hardly get financial aid,” said Ricks.
After moving out of state halfway through her bachelor’s program, Ricks decided to complete her degree at the University of Phoenix, a for-profit online school.
“I was left in almost the same predicament, since it was a private school that did not really offer scholarships,” said Ricks.
To fill the gap, Ricks took out additional student loans, but unfortunately illness prevented her from finishing her B.A. In the end, she owed student loans but didn’t get the degree for which she’d borrowed them.
If you’re similarly thinking of transferring, make sure to research how your financial aid will change. A significant loss in grants or scholarships could make it difficult to get your degree at your new school. You should also do some research before choosing a for-profit school, as some have been accused of defrauding students.
Although transferring schools won’t necessarily harm your finances, it’s important to know how this move will impact your fiscal situation before taking the leap.
Some students plan to transfer college before they even start, as part of a “2+2” approach, which involves spending two years at a community college and then transferring to a four-year school to finish their bachelor’s degree, just as Ricks did.
This strategy can be a huge money-saver, as you can enjoy low tuition costs for your first two years, rather than paying a big university bill for all four years of a typical bachelor’s program.
This is the strategy Brian Morton used to save money on his education. He started at El Camino College, a community college, before transferring to California State University Long Beach (CSULB).
“The tuition was so cheap,” Morton said of his studies at El Camino. “I took four to five courses a semester, and I really enjoyed my time there. In the long run, I ended up saving myself a lot of money.”
After earning his credits at community college, Morton transferred to CSULB.
“I was able to complete my major in two years after transferring,” said Morton. “After I completed my two years at CSULB, I found out that I had financial aid money remaining from the year that I went to El Camino. Since I enjoyed my time at CSU Long Beach so much, I decided to stay another year and declare a second major.”
This approach can be a savvy way to save money, but make sure your credits are transferable, like Morton did. Otherwise, you could end up having to spend extra to take additional qualifying courses.
When Minnesota resident Jessi Beyer headed off to college, she took the leap and went international, enrolling in veterinary school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. But she quickly realized the specialty institution she’d joined wasn’t for her.
“Everyone there was studying to be a veterinarian,” said Beyer. “I realized that being a vet wasn’t the right fit for me due to a variety of reasons, so it made no sense to stay at a school that was halfway around the world when I knew that I wouldn’t like the career I’d have when I was done with it.”
After her first year, Beyer decided to transfer to the University of Minnesota, a decision that she now feels was the right one.
“I’d say the biggest benefit was leaving a place that I knew was not the right fit for me,” said Beyer. “When you’re struggling to shove yourself in a box you don’t fit in, it’s quite unhealthy, and your motivation for attending school and performing well drops substantially.”
But while Beyer saw the University of Minnesota as more in line with what she was seeking, she had trouble getting her international credits to transfer to a U.S. university.
“The largest challenge by far was getting my credits to transfer,” said Beyer. “I was lucky in that about two-thirds of them did, but it was definitely a hassle trying to translate grades and credit units across countries, as Scotland and the U.S. use very different systems.”
Beyer also ran into an issue with her student loan lender, which almost pushed her loans into default.
“My lender and the University of Minnesota had some communication issues about where I was enrolled, so my loans were actually accruing interest while I was a full-time student, and I almost defaulted on them once, even while I was still enrolled,” Beyer said.
Fortunately, she was able to save her loans from default just in time, while also gaining additional scholarships from the University of Minnesota.
Even if you’re transferring between schools in the U.S., your student loans could be impacted. Make sure Federal Student Aid knows where to disburse your aid, and find out if you need to return any aid that no longer applies to your new institution.
By staying on top of your student loans, you can hopefully prevent any problems before they occur.
Transferring colleges can be a smart decision if your current school isn’t offering the academic, professional or social experience you’re looking for. Likewise, spending a year or two at a community college before switching to a four-year school could be a wise way to save money on tuition.
But there are a lot of moving parts involved with transferring, and you need to stay on top of your course credits, prerequisites, financial aid and student loans. So make sure to communicate with your financial aid office, as well as find out about any important deadlines you need to meet.
Although the process might be complicated at first, it will be worth it if you find the best school for you.