Switching Gears

Often we realize that the course of study we have chosen is not the one we would like to continue – for multiple reasons.

Thinking of switching from your engineering course to business studies or from liberal arts to medicine? Unhappy with the current university or identified a better school for undergraduate education? Well then, a transfer option might be worth considering for you. In the US college parlance, transfer relates to the move form one school to another within a university or a move from one university to another. A transfer option provides students with another opportunity to reassess their educational and career goals and thus select the optimal platform to study.

The reasons to transfer could be several and differ from person to person. However, some of the more common reasons include (1) seeking admission into a more selective or reputed university, (2) change of a chosen major or stream. (3) Change of location i.e. from east coast to west coast or from cold and harsh weather to more temperate weather or (4) family considerations.

Transfer timing

The transfer option is available to students who have begun their undergraduate coursework at a university whether it is in the US, India or any other country. Students generally consider the transfer option in the freshman or sophomore years (i.e. first years or second year) as most US universities require students to complete at least two years of study at the University issuing the degree.

The transfer admission procedure is generally different for intra and inters university transfers. Intra university transfers are relatively simple and admissions are based on the student’s academic performance to date at the university. On the other hand the procedure for inter university is similar to that of a freshman. While SAT and TOEFL, scores and high school or junior college transcripts are required more emphasis is placed on the students academic record during his underground tenure.

The application deadlines for transfer student generally differ from that for a freshman student.

Students who have not done well academically in their high school or junior college or have not performed well in the standardized test have another chance. As long as the students have maintained a good grade point average (GPA), his /her application will be looked upon favorably for transfer In addition, the transfer option can be used to reduce the total cost of education in the US. Given that the duration of undergraduate education is four years. The costs can add up quite significantly. A student can go to a relatively inexpensive university for the first two years and then transfer to the university that will provide a stronger a stepping stone for long term career prospects.


While the transfer’s option may sound appealing at the outset the biggest drawback is that a student may not receive credit for all coursework he /she has completed at the current university. Thus, the students might take longer to complete the undergraduate degree if he /she were to go far a transfer. This is particularly true for students transferring to a US university from another country like India.

There is no uniform policy amongst universities with respect to credits awarded for course completed. However, the general rule adopted by most universities is that as long as an accredited institution by US educational standards and the course taken is similar in nature tot that offered by the new institutions, the student should receive credit. Some institutions have a central department to evaluate transfer credits while other institutions require students to contact the relevant departments to obtain credit for the courses taken. Therefore, it is recommended that in case one is planning to exercise the transfer option, they should keep the syllabus in order to receive full credit for the courses taken.

While there exist other short term qualitative drawbacks such as adjusting to anew environment, the advantages of the transfer option out weigh most of them. It could not only potentially enhance student’s credentials but also help him /her establish the optimal launch pad for a great career.