What is a Transfer Student?

January 25, 2022

The United States sees over two million college transfers every year. Though reasons for doing so will vary, the process is becoming easier and more accessible each semester.

Whether you’re a high school student or have recently enrolled in college, it’s important to be aware of what options are available throughout your academic journey.

Below, we’ve outlined the different reasons students transfer, how the transfer process works, and the different types of transfer students.

What are College Transfer Students?

College Transfer Student

Each school defines transfer students differently, but in general, this demographic refers to anyone who has attended a college or university before enrolling at a new institution. College credits can be carried over from one school and applied towards another.

Reasons to Transfer to a New College

We’ve outlined the four most common reasons why students transfer below:

1. You Want to Attend a Four-Year Institution

This type of transfer mainly applies to students transferring from two-year colleges to four-year colleges to attain a bachelor’s degree or other higher degrees.

2. Personal Reasons

Students also transfer colleges for a variety of personal reasons, be it social, residential, economic, or academic. In some cases, students may find that their current school isn’t a good fit for them. Other times, students transfer simply because they are looking for a different “college experience” in a new environment.

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3. Better Opportunities

Finding better opportunities usually applies to students who are unhappy with their current program and have found a new school with more expertise surrounding their chosen major.

4. More Affordable Tuition

There is no denying that college is extremely expensive. Transferring to a different college can often save you and/or your family money in the long run.


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Types of Transfer Students

Students interested in transferring colleges typically fall into four main categories:

Vertical Transfer

A vertical transfer is a solution for students who have begun their education at a community college but plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the future.

This is a common move for students on a budget, who choose to gain general education credits at more affordable schools which they can later carry over to four-year institutions.

Lateral Transfer

A lateral transfer is a transfer from one institution to a similar institution. There are many reasons to make a lateral transfer. Examples include better classes, better degrees, or a change in career goals.

Reverse Transfer

A reverse transfer refers to moving from a four-year institution to a two-year institution. There are many reasons students do a reverse transfer. A freshman applicant may not be ready to be so far from home, others may have a difficult time adjusting to life at a major university. They may also find it more cost-effective to earn an associate’s degree instead of a bachelor’s.

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A reverse transfer may even find another four-year institution they’d like to apply to, but don’t have the grades or application requirements necessary and will rely on a two-year institution to become eligible.

Concurrent Enrollment

Concurrent enrollment refers to instances in which a student is taking classes at an external institution while at the same time enrolled in classes at another. Concurrent enrollment also provides high school students opportunities to earn college credits before graduation.

Important Considerations for Transfer Students

Considerations for Transfer Students

You Have Different Applications and Deadlines

Transfer students must understand and honor admission deadlines at their prospective colleges. These dates may differ from those that apply to the general student population. Though some institutions offer rolling deadlines, others limit enrollment opportunities for transfer students to certain semesters.

Once accepted, students must start thinking about move-in dates and make the necessary arrangements.

Standardized Test Scores Aren’t as Important

Most colleges weigh standardized test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, less heavily for transfer applicants than they do for freshmen applicants. They do this because transfer students have already proven their ability to succeed in college and can demonstrate their achievements with official transcripts from their current school.

You’ll Need Your College Transcripts

College transcripts give the school you are applying to a better idea of your performance, track record, and future potential than a test score does.

You Might Need to Apply Directly to a Major

 If you’ve completed an associate’s degree or most of your general education requirements at another institution, you’ll need to inquire about policies for applying directly to a major at your new school.

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You’ll Need to Explain Why You’re Transferring

An admissions counselor at the school you are applying to will likely want to know the reason for the transfer. This helps the school understand the students’ needs and ability to perform well in their new environment. It also provides important context for the school regarding student priorities and motivations.


Though the transfer process may seem overwhelming, it is becoming an increasingly popular option for students interested in attending another institution. Thanks to the high number of transfer students received each year, schools are refining their processes and making it easier than ever to enroll.

The New England Institute of Technology is happy to accept transfer credits from another post-secondary institution, regionally accredited by an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

You can submit your application through the Common Application or NEIT’s application portal along with your college transcripts. Though not required, letters of recommendation and an open-topic essay are strongly encouraged.

You can earn your associate’s in as little as 18 months or your bachelor’s in as little as 3 years. Whether you’re interested in nursing, automotive technology, or interior design, NEIT can prepare you for a fulfilling career in your chosen field!


Earn your degree in less than two years from NEIT and begin your new career path today!





What makes you a transfer student?

Transfer students can be defined as anyone attending a post-secondary institution that is now looking to continue their education at a different school.

Is it better to apply as a freshman or transfer student?

Though the acceptance rate for transfer applicants is generally lower than for freshmen, it may be a better option for students whose academic performance has improved since high school.

What does transfer mean in school?

To transfer simply means continuing your education at a different school or institution. Certain schools will honor most or all of your credits while other schools may pick and choose the credits they allow you to apply to your degree.

Is a transfer student an undergraduate or graduate?

Technically, a transfer student can be either. People mainly think of undergraduates when it comes to transfer applicants, but you could certainly transfer between business, law, or other graduate programs.