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From Transfer Student to President: Five Ways to Succeed when Changing Schools

Barack Obama blazed a new path in becoming President of the United States, but he is not a pioneer in reaching the nation’s highest office as a former college transfer student. Six other presidents have made that journey before him, underscoring that changing schools is not only commonplace, but can also be a path for success. However, there are several keys to making it work.

As college transfers become more frequent, some schools are making special efforts to accommodate transfer students. Ultimately though, making the process successful depends on actions the student takes, both before and after changing schools.

Factors in Transferring
Statistically, only 65.7 percent of first-year college students attend a second year at the same institution. Some drop out all together, but many elect to try a different school. In total, some 30 percent of students transfer at some point during their college careers.

The following are some of the factors which have made college transfers so common:

Two-plus-two programs. Many junior colleges actively promote the idea of using their two-year programs as a springboard to completing a degree at a four-year school. The appeal is that these two-year programs tend to be less expensive than four-year schools, and often are available nearby or online so the student can continue to live at home. 

Academic reasons. For better or worse, students tend to find their true academic level once they attend college. For some this means they need to downshift to a less demanding program, while others realize they can benefit by transferring to a more challenging institution.

Changing circumstances. From family issues to finances, there are many things that can change over the course of four years. For example, with the deepening economic recession, expect to see more students forced to find cheaper alternatives to their current schools.

Change of heart. The choice of college is often the first really big decision a young person makes, and as a result they may learn something about themselves which points them toward making a change.

Making a Successful Transfer
If you are looking to change schools, here are five things you can do to make the process successful:

1. Check into academic credits as early as possible. Don’t show up at your new school assuming all your previous academic credits will be accepted. Schools have very subjective standards about this, and it’s best to check with any potential new school about how much of your college credit they will accept before you make a commitment. In fact, if you are embarking on a two-plus-two program, you may want to research how widely accepted the first school’s credits are before you even start. Also, after transferring, beware of inadvertently taking courses that are considered duplicates of those you took at your prior school, because you may not get full credit if you do.
2. Make sure affordable housing can be arranged. Don’t assume finding suitable housing, either on- or off-campus, is a given. Try not to commit to a transfer until you are sure you have lined up a housing arrangement you can live with.
3. Target colleges that are accommodating to transfers. Some colleges rarely accept transfers, and many make no special effort to integrate them into their new surroundings. Look for schools with programs like special orientation sessions for transfers.
4. Identify your reasons for transferring. Before you decide to change, write down your reasons for wanting to transfer. This can help you come to terms with whether the current school is the real problem, and it can also help you choose a school that represents a meaningful difference.
5. Commit. It’s perfectly fine to make a change, but once you do, commit to making it work. If you start hopping from college to college every year or so, you may find the path to a degree getting longer and more twisted. You also might find out that the schools aren’t the real problem.

The Daily Iowan
The Daily Orange
National Center for Education Statistics
US News & World Report


Publish date: February 6, 2009