Thinking of Transferring? Think Fast

If your student came home for the holidays unenthusiastic about their school and considering transferring, your first impulse might be to tell them to tough it out for the year and reconsider come summer. While that’s probably good parenting advice, it might not be good financial advice. In fact, students who are thinking of transferring are usually best off making the decision sooner rather than later.

Why? Because most schools offer substantially larger financial aid packages to incoming freshmen than to transfer students, and only those with less than a set number of post-high school credits qualify as incoming freshmen. Furthermore, once students have accumulated a certain number of college credits, their transfer application is based on their college GPA, not high school. A student who did well in high school but then underperformed in college will probably want their high school GPA to be the basis of an admissions decision.

The differences can be huge. For example, the highest merit award for incoming freshmen at the University of Oregon is $15,000 annually (a student receiving the Summit and Presidential award), and those scholarships renew automatically for four years. Transfer students, on the other hand, are eligible for a maximum of $3,000 in merit aid and must reapply every year. Similarly, the University of Florida offers up to $10,000 in merit aid to freshmen; as for transfer students, “While the Office of Admissions does not offer scholarship opportunities for transfer students, there are two scholarships offered by the Office of Undergraduate Affairs dedicated to Florida College Transfers.” These are a maximum of $4,000 and offered to a total of 12 students, with only two receiving the maximum $4,000 award.

If your student is thinking of transferring, they should research transfer vs freshman requirements and financial aid eligibility at the school they’d like to transfer to ASAP because this is one instance where a quick decision is often the best decision.

2 thoughts on “Thinking of Transferring? Think Fast

  1. Are you suggesting that a transfer student apply as a freshman student to maximize aid? Please clarify what strategy you recommend for strong transfer candidates seeking aid. It is disappointing that there is less money for transfer students, especially those who’ve put a lot of effort into undergraduate careers. Identifying schools that offer strong aid for transfer candidates is challenging.

    1. I am suggesting that someone who might be considering transferring early in their college career should do so as soon as possible to maximize the likelihood that they’re still eligible for incoming freshman aid packages. Typically a student earns enough credit after 2 quarters or 1 semester to be a transfer student, so if they wait to finish out their freshman year at their first school, they will not be a freshman at the new school. And yes, I agree 100% that it’s disappointing to see how little aid is available for transfer students. It’s also frustrating that it varies so much from school to school.

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