How to Pick Transfer Schools

This time of year, we get a lot of messages from students who know they want to transfer but aren’t sure where they want to apply. Here are our four steps to making your transfer list:

(And if you’re still wondering how to transfer in the first place, check out our post!)

Understand Your Why

Before you do anything else, you need to nail down why it is that you want to transfer. Wishy-washy ‘it just doesn’t feel right’ won’t do; you need to get specific. Sit down and make a list of all the things you want that you don’t currently have, and all the things you like and would like to still have access to wherever you go next.

For example, maybe you love the semi-urban location of your school, but you don’t like how big your classes are and feel detached from your professors. Or maybe the school you’re at simply doesn’t offer what you’ve decided you’d like to pursue, but you love the raucous social life.

Gaining a better understanding of why you want to transfer and what you want to retain once you do will help heaps when it comes to narrowing down schools.

Take the Safety Belt Off

When you first applied to college, you probably arranged your list into three groups: reaches, targets, and safety schools. It’s a system that makes sense when you’re in high school and need to get in somewhere, but you already have your safety—it’s the college you’re currently at.

Your transfer list should only consist of schools of an equal or higher caliber when compared to where you are now, and every single school should be one that you would be excited to switch to.

Do Some Self-Evaluation

While every school should be a step up, be realistic about what your qualifications are. Getting straight A’s your first semester of freshman year does not a Harvard transfer make. Despite the “transferring is a backdoor” myths, it’s generally harder to transfer into a school than to get in as a regular freshman. Take some time to map out your grades and your scores (both high school and college), and what you’re up to outside of class so you can get a good idea of your profile as an applicant.

Be Program Obsessed

Colleges accept transfers to fill gaps in their classes. If 25 kids leave after their freshman year, a college is very motivated to fill those spots. However, that doesn’t make them less strategic or discerning. Colleges strive for distribution in their classes: distribution of interests, distribution of backgrounds, and distribution of majors. So you need to pick schools that offer the program you want, and then center your application around that program. If you aren’t sure, act sure.

Need help creating your list? We’re pros at it.