Transferring Colleges Mid-Year

Thinking about transferring colleges mid-year?

Did the fall semester at your current school leave you at a breaking point? Are you thinking about transferring mid-year to a different college or university? There are certainly good reasons for transferring after a single semester, but in many cases there are compelling reasons to wait it out for at least one more term to avoid transferring colleges mid-year.

Transferring is a big decision with a lot of steps, and there are extra considerations in the middle of the academic year. You need to make sure you are fully informed before you set the process in motion. Compare the pros and the cons honestly and objectively to determine whether you should change now, change later, or stay put.

At a minimum, you’ll need to learn both your current school’s policies for leaving and your intended school’s transfer process. Both can be complex. When you add the issues of limited time, transfer credit complications, and additional costs, careful planning is of utmost importance.

Transferring Colleges Mid-Year: Points to Consider

This is a time to be brutally honest with yourself. College is a big change. You need to seriously consider why you wish to leave, because the transfer process can be complicated and expensive.  Can you make changes to address your reasons while remaining where you are? Is your wish to transfer elsewhere rational, or is it emotional? It’s very common to feel out-of-place, experience roommate trouble, or find yourself dealing with lower grades than you’ve ever had. Do you just feel like you made the wrong choice? All of these are valid issues, of course — but this is not the time for a knee-jerk reaction. Explore ways you can improve your situation where you are while you make a detailed, well-considered plan.

RELATED: Roommate Checkup Time – Dealing with Roommate Conflict

What is the transfer timeline at your intended school?

The timing of transferring is different from freshman admission. Requirements and deadlines are different, too, so get on your future college’s admissions web site and start putting a plan in place now. Note that some colleges are at capacity for first-year students and do not consider mid-year transfers.


You need to take stock of credits you may lose in transfer, and whether your intended college has equivalent courses to what you’re currently taking. Know that course sequences, content, and credit vary from college to college. If you are not only planning to change colleges, but majors, too, there is a very real possibility you will be adding at least one more semester to your college time (which means an additional semester of tuition, fees, room and board).


It may be a surprise to hear, but you are not likely to receive a great deal of transfer help from your current college. They don’t want to lose students to other colleges. For transfer information, you need to work with the school you wish to attend. Also, you have to make sure you are keeping with the rules and regulations of your current institution.

Learn How to Leave

At your current college, research the process for notifying them that you’re leaving. (If you don’t, they’ll assume you plan to remain enrolled and bills will be sent like clockwork.) Departments such as student accounts, registrar, financial aid, and housing all have a stake, and they may all require separate notification. You will definitely want to figure out how to be sure you don’t get billed for tuition and room & board upon withdrawing. Some colleges will grant a leave of absence (in case you want to come back).


Different colleges have different financial aid and scholarship resources and policies. If you are currently receiving institutional grants, those go away when you leave that institution. Not all colleges distribute their aid the same. There is no guarantee that you will get the grant you currently received at another school. Most of the available financial aid funds at your intended college may have already been given out for the current year.


Very often a desire to leave includes a component of academic trouble, and this is completely understandable (and not at all uncommon). This can, however, impact the success of your transfer application. If you wish to enroll in a competitive program elsewhere, you are not likely to be granted admission with low grades. You may need to put your plans on hold to give yourself time to get your grades up. Again, check with your intended college.

Transferring Colleges Mid-Year: To-Do List

Make a plan right now.

The earlier you start planning your transfer, the better. While it may seem ridiculous, the best time to plan your transfer is before you register for classes at your first college. Obviously this is not generally possible, but bear in mind that current course choice impacts transfer credits and timing.

Take stock of your current courses.

If you intend to transfer mid-year, watch out for any multi-semester courses you’ve started. It may be better to stay and finish up the full sequence before you change. The course may not seamlessly transfer, or seats in the second half at your intended college may already be filled. You may need to re-take something you thought you got out of the way already. If you are leaving a liberal arts college to attend an engineering school, just as one example, bear in mind that you may have to start a new sequence of math to meet their requirements.

Make a big list (and — yes — check it twice).

No matter how you organize yourself, get it all down and keep track of deadlines and credits for the various agencies, departments, and divisions. A missed deadline could mean you have to wait for the next term or worse, you have to pay for a term you didn’t intend to attend. Get on the registrar’s website for your intended new school and start looking at degree requirements. Compare what you’re taking right now and project how long it’s likely to take you to catch up. A designated transfer officer at your intended school is the only person qualified to give you solid transfer advice.

Start a relationship with the transfer office at your intended school right away.

Call and find out your transfer contact, and get going. A designated transfer officer at your intended school is the only person qualified to give you solid advice, on your likelihood of admission and transfer credit. Well-meaning individuals who do not oversee transfers do not have the training or knowledge to give you official transfer advice.

“Forewarned is Forearmed”

While it may seem overwhelming, know that transferring is entirely possible with good planning and good reason. While transferring colleges mid-year may not be the ideal solution, it is still possible. And if it is not advisable, a transfer after a full year can often be an even better solution.  Your best bet is to gather all of the information you possibly can. Be flexible enough to adjust along the way.

Related: Having roommate trouble? Try the tips in our College Roommate Checkup Time article.

Updated February 12, 2020

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