5 Keys to a Successful January College Transfer

High school academic performance can be a significant factor in January transfer student admissions.

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It’s not uncommon for a student to decide to transfer to a college that better fits his or her personal and academic needs.
It’s not uncommon for a student to decide to transfer to a college that better fits his or her personal and academic needs.

Don't fret if early into your freshman year you've already found yourself regretting your choice in college and wishing you had gone somewhere else. Many college students end up transferring schools at some point before they graduate, so considering going this route does not make you an outlier.

If you figure out very early that you made the wrong decision and want to transfer for January enrollment of your freshman year, try a few of the following tips to make your transfer a success. 

1. Analyze what you don't like about the college you chose: Reflect on exactly why you aren't enjoying your experience. Is the college too big? Too small? Too urban? Too rural and isolated? Are you regretting having moved too far away from home? 

Perhaps you're regretting not moving far enough from home. Have you switched majors and discovered that your school does not have a strong program in that field? 

Prior to starting your new college search, you must figure out what it is about your current one that makes you unhappy. Otherwise, you run the risk of making the same mistake twice. 

[Follow these 10 steps for picking the right school.] 

2. Be realistic about your options: If you are looking to transfer for January enrollment of your freshman year, remember that your college academic profile will be very thin, as you will not have earned any final grades yet. Therefore, the quality of your high school performance will be a significant factor in determining your potential acceptance elsewhere. 

As such, you'll probably need to focus on schools that you either were already accepted into during your senior year of high school or would have likely been accepted into had you applied to them. Before you decide to transfer, make sure you are comfortable with the alternative options. If not, it may be a good idea to stick around a little longer to build up your academic profile. 

[Find out about scholarship resources for transfer students.] 

3. Allow enough time for the transition: If you want to transfer for January enrollment, you can't decide in December – it will be far too late. In order to successfully transfer at this point in the year, you'll need to make the decision relatively early in the fall so you have ample time to get the necessary documents completed and ready to go. 

For instance, even if you haven't been at your current school for very long, it would still be useful to garner at least one recommendation from a professor who is at least somewhat familiar with how you handle college-level work instead of just relying on your high school recommendations

4. Write a great transfer essay: Be positive, and write about the specific reasons that this college would be a great place for you to transfer to in order to better learn and grow as a person. Do not spend the majority of your transfer essay enumerating the reasons you are leaving your current college. Frame your transfer as an opportunity to move to an institution that is a terrific fit for you – not to simply correct a mistake. 

[Get more tips to simplify the college transfer process.] 

5. Do your research on transferring credits: Every university has different rules and requirements governing which course credits can transfer over and which cannot. For example, some put a cap on the amount that can be transferred, and many require a minimum grade of a C for a course to be eligible. 

Research the policies of the universities to which you want to apply before you decide to take the plunge. You would hate to transfer to a new school only to find out that none of your courses will transfer over, or that all those "core" classes you took at your original college will now only count as electives. 

Get in touch with transfer counselors at your potential institutions before applying and meet with them as soon as possible to hash over the details – you'll want to make sure you can get as much credit as possible for the work you've already done.

Bradford Holmes is a professional SAT and Latin tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his master's degree from the University of Southern California.