Nontraditional Students Applying For Transfer Part 1: Choosing Colleges

Well, here you are. You have completed around 40-60 something units (maybe more, maybe less) and you have now decided to transfer to a 4 year college. Your counselor has given you the green light and it’s time to move on! You may or may not have an Associates degree, but you know you want to get that Bachelors! Transferring to a 4 year university can be both exciting and scary but before you can transfer you need to apply! But where do you start: what colleges, what majors, what in the world? Having spoken and assisted a few students with the transfer process (and being a transfer student), I know that it is a new experience and can feel overwhelming. So, for part 1 I want to cover the very first steps of the application process.

Choosing colleges to apply to:

1. Location, location, location. Because you are not the average student in terms of mobility, you need to consider location. It is very likely that you can’t just pick up and move your entire family in order to attend a college on the opposite side of the country. So the first step is researching colleges within a 30 mile radius of your home. You want a college that is accessible from where you live now which saves you a large amount of stress and money in the end. Can you go further away? Sure, but be prepared to deal with that transition!

2. Majors matter. Not every college will have your major available. Of course, certain majors like math and English are everywhere. But one of my friends is applying for a Bachelor’s in Communicative Disorders and had a bit of a struggle finding colleges near her that offered that degree. It is a great major and field to get in to, but not as popular in terms of availability. So the next step is finding a college that has your major…and a back up major in the event that your major is completely impacted and you don’t get in anywhere else! I don’t want to be “Debbie Downer” but it can happen! You want to be prepared and have a back up plan.

3. Course transferability. One of the reasons I did not choose to accept my admittance to USC is because they only wanted to accept 40 of my 73 units. Now I don’t know about you, but that just isn’t enough for me. Had it been my dream college I might have thought harder about it, but it wasn’t so I didn’t. If you do the math, I would basically have done two semesters (almost three) of course work that would not have counted. So research the courses you are taking and plan to take (if you still have some areas to cover) and speak to your counselor about that issue.

4. Student Support. Under this section there are many things to consider. First, is there a daycare center? If you have really young children this may be a necessity for you. Many colleges do have child care available and usually free for those under a certain income bracket. If they do, research them. Second, transfer center or transfer support in general. Having a good support system on campus can truly help you transition. I don’t think that 4 year universities are more difficult than the 2 year, but I do believe that it is a different atmosphere. Having support from staff as well as a place to connect with other students really will help. 

5. Cost. Not just cost of attendance and the subsequent financial aid packages, but also the cost to apply. Many schools offer a fee waiver for certain groups of students. Low income is usually one of those groups, but you need to either find out ahead of time of be prepared to pay. If you are a California student or are looking at the Cal State system, you are allowed for fee waivers – I am sure other schools are the same. And more importantly as I stated is the cost of attendance and the availability of good financial aid packages. Seek out their school grants and scholarships because the last thing you want is a small portion covered by grants and a large portion covered by loans. As a parent you are likely strapped for cash anyway, the last thing you need is to accrue more student loan debt than is necessary.

That is it for now! The next installment will cover the college application essay/statement and what professors and advisers think about them!  Until then, here is a short video by Isa Adney the author of the blog and book Community College Success. Keep her last statement in your mind as your search for your transfer college! )

One thought on “Nontraditional Students Applying For Transfer Part 1: Choosing Colleges

  1. bizigal says:

    For me, I ended up doing an online degree program at a state university. Many private colleges will not accept all the credits in an AA or Associates. But, many state colleges or universities will have an articulation agreement. They took all my 66 as opposed to a private college only wanting to take 34.
    Good column. Thanks.

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