Transferring – Reasons for Your Students to Consider it as an Option

I know we’re all tired of constantly being reminded just how different 2020 has been, but think about just HOW different it has been for college freshmen. They visited colleges, researched a variety of schools, made their final lists, they wrote their essays on why they wanted to attend each school, they jumped for joy when the acceptances rolled in and adjusted to the tough news of a rejection.  And then, they made a decision on where they were going to spend the next four years of their lives. Covid was supposed to go away over the summer and then their fall semester was going to be everything they dreamt about. They anticipated attending sporting events, going to parties, making new friends from their dorms and their classes, participating in Greek life, etc. We all know none, or very little of that actually happened. What an unfortunate disappointment for them.

Many students have spent the fall semester at home learning remotely and while it works for some, it clearly is not as rewarding or engaging as being in a classroom with a fascinating professor and stimulating discussions. For some freshmen, it just isn’t worth the price tag and they are reconsidering their options for next year.

What happens when you and your child determine that it is either Covid’s fault or they chose their college for many, if not, all the wrong reasons? They’re unhappy. You’ve tried talking it through, you’ve tried tough love, it just isn’t a good fit and they want to leave.

Good Reasons to Consider Transferring

  • Financial Necessity – “Why do you want to pay for me to be unhappy?” It is a tough argument to refute when you could be paying as much as $25,000 a semester. The economic plea will resonate with parents, especially as we are coping with the unpredictability of the timing of a vaccine.
  • A “Major” Discovery – Many students enter college undecided about their majors, then they take an interesting course and get hooked. But their college doesn’t offer their new passion as a major and they want to transfer. Far more common however is the student that said they “knew” they wanted to be a biomedical engineer, is eking through introductory engineering course and now says “What was I thinking?” If your student has genuinely become passionate about Environmental Management, or some other specialized major, and they’ve researched colleges with strong departments and you believe their decision is rational versus emotional, this could be a very good reason to transfer.
  • Academic Upgrade – If your student isn’t being sufficiently challenged and is beginning to lose interest in their academics, transferring to a more competitive college could be the answer. It is important to note though that being a star performer at any college will have its own rewards including research opportunities, stellar letters of recommendation, strong graduate school admissions and career recruitment.
  • Recognition of Needs – Often students from small high schools will select large colleges and universities declaring that they “want something different”. Most students adjust quite well. However, some students who are accustomed to a degree of hand-holding; from their parents and/or their high schools are jarred by their newfound independence. They often feel that the university is too big and impersonal and want a more intimate learning environment.
  • Culture Clash – Sometimes the party scene at colleges can be too intense. It also happens, although not as frequently, that students feel that there isn’t enough of a social atmosphere at their college. In both cases, these could be temporary situations. Before targeting transferring as a solution, be sure to discuss the issues and recommend other options.
  • Family Obligations – Some family situations will be aided by having your son or daughter closer to home. If you can anticipate that the crisis is short-term it might be better to consider a “leave of absence” from college.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;