There are dozens of reasons a student might want to transfer, and you may find yourself feeling you’re in the wrong place and wanting to make a move. If you’re planning to transfer – now or in the future – you’ll want to pay attention to your courses to set yourself up for a successful transfer process.
In general, when applying as a transfer student, the further away you are from high school, the less important your high school work and your SAT or ACT scores become. So if you had a weaker academic record in high school, you’ll want to show the colleges you apply to at least a full semester of strong college coursework, but preferably a full year or more. In fact, many colleges want you to attend your initial college for 2 years, if possible. It’s a delicate balance, but generally, you should plan to transfer after your freshman or sophomore year of college.
If you are considering a transfer and wondering what courses to take, you need to examine your reasons for transferring, and the type of school you want to transfer to. Both your motivation to transfer and the type of school you want to attend should inform your course selection.
Transferring for a change of major. Many students want to transfer because, over the course of their first year or two in college, they realize that they are interested in a different major than they initially intended. If the college they currently attend does not have a strong program in that major (or doesn’t offer the major at all), they may wish to transfer to a school with a stronger program. When you are planning which courses to take, make a point of taking courses that relate to your major area of interest, if they’re available. That way, when you do apply to transfer, your application will show that you have a history of academic interest and experience in that area. For instance, if you apply to transfer to a school with a great biology program because you are interested in biology – but haven’t taken any biology courses – your application will appear inconsistent.
Transferring to a different type of school. You may want to transfer because you thought you wanted to attend a large research university, but now realize you would be happier at a small liberal arts college. In this case, you should plan to take courses that are more closely aligned with the mission of a liberal arts college. In other words, try to take courses that are primarily traditional liberal arts and science courses in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and sciences. If you take too many courses that are overly pre-professional, vocational, or technical, the school you are applying to may question your interest in a liberal arts and science education.
Transferring for more of a challenge. If you want to be at a more challenging or competitive school than the one you currently attend, make sure you are challenging yourself in college, much in the same way you hopefully did in high school. You want to demonstrate through your course selection that you are interested in pursuing a challenging college education. Some ways you can do this are by taking more intensive courses for your general education requirements. Take calculus instead of statistics. Take a lab science instead of nutritional science. Aim for intensive reading and writing courses instead of “lighter” humanities or social science courses. That way, even though your college may not be as competitive as you would like, you can at least show that you are seeking the most rigorous education available to you. And of course, you must do very well in your courses.
Transferring between colleges may seem even more mysterious than applying as a first-year, but some advance planning of your college course selection can go a long way toward strengthening your application.