The unfaithful scholar

By JESS MCCONNELL  |  October 23, 2006

There are endless explanations as to why you may want to leave: maybe you hate every person on campus or every person on campus hates you. Perhaps the school’s programs don’t mesh with your interests, or classes are too difficult or not challenging enough. In any case, if a big piece of the puzzle is missing, it may be too difficult for you to work around.

Know the odds
Depending on your target school, your chances of being accepted as a transfer may be lower than your chances of being accepted as a freshman. The admission rate for transfer students at MIT, for example, is lower than the school’s already-minuscule 13-percent admission rate for freshmen applicants.

But there’s hope. At Tufts, odds vary from semester to semester, according to Matthew Hyde, assistant director of admissions. And at BU, transfer and freshman admission rates are about equal. Heck, Emerson may even like you better as a temerarious transfer (freshmen admitted: 46 percent versus transfers: 53 percent). Overall, your odds will depend a lot on where you’re looking to go, how it compares to your current school, and the size of your class at the school where you want to transfer.

Count your change
Even if you’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with a new school, you need to take into account whether bank officers will be banging on your door after you graduate. After all, love without money sure ain’t funny, honey. Nationwide, annual tuition, fees, room, and board at post-secondary schools hit a hair-raising average of $24,636 in 2004.

That said, you may want to consider transferring sooner rather than later — not only will have more time at your new school, but you will also have fewer credits to petition for in the new system. Keep in mind that some schools allot less financial-aid funding for transfer students. Although Federal student aid in the form of Pell grants and Perkins and Stafford loans works at any school, it is generally designed for four years of continuous enrollment. So time off between schools or problems with transferring credits can create financial headaches.

To help make the switch as smooth as possible, save your syllabi and talk to counselors at both schools. Emerson’s assistant director of admissions, Amy Flynn, says she advises students to take general courses if they plan to transfer, as those credits are more likely to be accepted by the next school.

Talk it up
After collecting solid data, talk to someone you trust. Tell your parents; tell your friends. “I learned a lot from talking to older students (hearing many of them say they wished they’d transferred but now felt stuck there, too late to transfer),” writes McKissick.

Spread yourself around
You may feel sleazy running game on another school while still enrolled in the first, but wipe that shame away and approach lots of colleges — the way Lyle Lovett might if he were hitting on a bar full of women.

“You just can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” says MIT’s associate director of admissions Joanne Cummings. Schools often have two application deadlines — one in the fall and one in the spring — so you may have several opportunities to research and apply to a college.

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