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Transferring from a State School to a Private School (and Vice Versa)

Some students (and parents) automatically assume that private schools are better than their public counterparts because they cost more and have higher name recognition. Where did this theory come from? Your guess is as good as ours; what we do know is that there are pros and cons to both public and private schools and the decision to transfer from one to the other should be made on a case-by-case basis. It doesn’t matter if it was the right choice for your roommate’s sister’s cousin; unless their situation mirrors yours exactly, you have some serious research ahead. One thing is certain, though: If you’re not getting the education you feel you need to succeed in your field of choice, transferring is a great way to change that.

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Transferring between public schools is generally an easier task because their course catalogs are closely related, meaning determining what credits can be used toward a degree at another school is almost done for you. When you’re switching from a private school to a public one, however, problems can arise; you could have earned 60 credits at a private college but all may not be recognized by a public university because the schools weigh the classes differently or if you received a C or below, you may need to retake a class entirely after you transfer in order to get credit. Also, keep in mind you may have to adopt new study skills to succeed at a new school; if you’re used to a private school’s limited class sizes, the 400-person lecture halls of a state school may be overwhelming and if you’ve grown accustomed to flying under the radar on a state school’s large campus, you’re going to need to work on the class participation skills necessary for smaller group learning favored by private schools. If you are uncomfortable with doing an educational 180 but still feel as though your current school isn’t giving you what you need, consider transferring to a similar school (private to private, public to public) that has a better program in place for your major.

When you’ve selected your course of action, begin by obtaining a transfer application to your school of choice and requesting copies of your official transcript from your current institution. You may be required to meet with a counselor at one or both schools to discuss your decision as well as meet with an admissions representative from your potential new school for a brief interview. Deadlines vary from school to school and semester to semester but generally, you should start the application process in January if you want to start in the fall semester and in October if you want to start in the spring. Like transferring from a community college, don’t discount the importance of attending orientation at your new school. Many institutions have orientation sessions specifically for transfer students where they share tips on adjusting to a different campus; after going through all the trouble of transferring, missing such a vital piece of the puzzle is just silly…not to mention potentially detrimental to future success at your new college.

The transfer process is tedious but if you remain organized and level-headed, it will go by faster than you think. Having a metaphorical machete at the ready to slash through the red tape doesn’t hurt, either.

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