Transferring Colleges: A Guided Overview

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Transferring colleges can be a valuable opportunity if you know that a new school could offer you the experience you aren’t getting at your current college. It may feel strange to be switching colleges, but you aren’t alone. Roughly a third of undergraduate students transfer colleges before they finish their degree program.1 This guide can walk you through what transferring colleges looks like and how to begin the process. 

In This Guide:

Reasons To Transfer Colleges

College is a personal experience unique to you, and sometimes your first choice doesn’t end up being the best fit. There may be many reasons to transfer colleges and you should do proper research on each new campus you are interested in attending. 

Strong Degree Program

One reason to consider transferring colleges is to make sure you are getting the most out of your degree program. If you aren’t happy with the quality of your current program, transferring to a different university may help you find the kind of education you are looking for. If you aren’t set on your current major, switching colleges may be an excellent opportunity to switch majors and potentially find something you are passionate about studying at a different university. Keep in mind, however, that switching majors can possibly extend your time in college. College is an investment in yourself and your future, so it is important that you are satisfied with your education.

Research tip: Make sure you check to see whether the colleges you are interested in transferring to actually offer your major or degree program. They may have a similar program listed under a different name or a comparable program offering. 

Campus Community and Belonging

Another reason many students decide to transfer colleges is to find a community where they feel like they belong. Your campus community is likely where you spend the majority of your time during college and may be where you meet most of your friends, discover your interests and try new things. Your campus community can play a significant role in shaping your experience. It is important to be someplace where you feel you belong. 

Transferring colleges in search of a different kind of campus community can help you find the best environment to grow to your potential. GCU strongly emphasizes helping students feel a sense of community and togetherness while pursuing their education.

Why GCU?

Grand Canyon University offers students a private, affordable and Christian-oriented education in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. GCU’s traditional, on-campus students may find enjoyment and comfort in our on-campus residence halls and apartments. Amenities like recreational pools, various dining options, fitness centers and a walkable campus means plenty of space to study, relax or hang out with friends. GCU also offers online classes for on-campus students and online degrees for students seeking the flexibility of a virtual undergraduate or graduate education.

How Does Transferring Colleges Work?

You may be familiar with applying to colleges as a first-year student but may wonder how transferring colleges works. The process of transferring colleges often begins with simply applying. Most universities have online resources for transfers to begin their application process because the process may differ from when you applied for your first year.

Research tip: Check the admissions requirements for the universities you are interested in so you can prepare your application. After applying, and pending acceptance, you will register with the university, develop your academic plan and begin to select your courses. 

Transferring colleges may require transferring credits that you have already completed. Transferring credits may look different for every university. Obtain a copy of your transcripts and speak to a university counselor to determine what credits you have completed that may transfer over to your new program.

When Can You Transfer Colleges?

Generally, transferring colleges may work best at the start of a new academic year or at the beginning of the semester. You can start a fresh academic year along with an incoming class of other new students.

Transferring schools may be as intimidating and difficult as beginning college for the first time. Part of transferring is adjusting to a new campus, making new friends and finding your way around. GCU’s Department of Welcome Programs can help new students acclimate to GCU, whether it is your first year in college or just your first year at GCU. Taking advantage of first-year resources can make your adjustment to a new campus less lonely. 

When Can You Transfer Colleges as an Online Student?

As an online student, you may find your transfer process easier because it involves no physical moving and possibly more flexible start dates. Without the worry of planning your move to a new campus, you may have more options for when you can transfer colleges. Once you complete an online course, you could transfer to a new college and begin online courses as soon as available.

If you are currently attending community college online or in person, the best time for you to transfer may be after you complete prerequisites toward your desired undergraduate degree program or after you have completed an associate degree.

Credits Can Affect When You Can Transfer Colleges

Credits do matter in the transfer process. Certain schools may not accept you as a transfer student if you have too few or too many credits. For some schools, transferring after two academic years is standard, but the number of credits you have completed can impact your transfer process and your graduation date. GCU will accept transfer students with any number of credits up to 90. You can utilize the GCU Lopes Unofficial Credit Evaluation tool to help you plan when to transfer. 

Research tip: Check both the academic calendars for quarter dates and the credit transfer policies for the universities you are interested in transferring to.

Alternatively, if you are at all interested in switching majors or are ready to declare a major, this would be a good time to consider a transfer. This may help alleviate certain issues that might arise with credit transferring.

Financial Considerations

Your current financial needs can play a part in your transfer decisions. Finding a program that fits your budget can help ensure that you are able to attain your degree and can be an important consideration to include when thinking about transferring colleges. Look at what the tuition and other costs are at the schools you are looking at and compare those to your current costs.

Research tip: Make sure to check the financial aid policies at the schools you are interested in. If you utilize federal financial aid, make sure to update your FAFSA if you change universities. 

GCU is a transfer-friendly campus with ten colleges, and more than 335 academic program offerings as of September 2023, and as a private university, GCU's in-state and out-of-state tuition are the same. Visit GCU’s transfer center to review frequently asked questions and seek the help of university counselors to help you with transferring credits and starting your application. 

Transferring colleges can be a great opportunity to experience academic and campus life someplace else and can offer a change of scenery. Your reasons for transferring colleges should be personal and important to you. Although it may seem intricate, the process can be truly rewarding if it leads to discovering a better fit at a new college. If you are ready to begin the transfer process and think GCU is a good fit, begin the transfer application process with us online. You can also fill out the form on this page to learn more about our program offerings. 

1 Best Colleges. (2023). Top 12 reasons students transfer colleges. Retrieved Nov. 2, 2023.

Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU Marketing on Nov. 20, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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