Written By - Derick de Souza

Edited By Gabriel D.

Review & Contribution By Tracy C. Eidson

Over 33% of undergraduate students transfer schools at least once over six years[1], which is a fact that many students are aware of. But although around 835,000 graduate students are anticipated to complete their master’s degrees in the U.S. during the 2021–2022 academic year, according to Statista[2], switching graduate schools does not appear to garner the same attention. This can make understanding graduate-level transfer procedures a little confusing.  Fortunately, you are not confined to a course of study that is unsuitable for you; changing graduate programs is definitely an option. Transferring as a master’s or Ph.D. student has its own unique requirements. Students can effectively transfer schools or programs throughout their graduate studies with some planning and professional insight, or they can find alternatives to moving that better suit their needs. Continue reading to learn how to transfer to grad school and some tips for doing so.

Transferring Graduate Schools

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Can you transfer grad schools?

Transferring between graduate programs has become a pretty common practice these days. Perhaps you started your master’s degree program, but a significant life event interfered with your progress. Going to a different school that may better suit your needs is a typical way to get back on track. With careful planning and adequate preparation, it is possible for students to transfer grad schools. Doing so might fulfill one’s needs or meet one’s career goals. For example, you may choose to transfer schools to obtain a degree from a more prominent university. Your current school might not meet your needs or budget, so you could just wish to switch programs. Your objectives or interests may have changed, causing you to want to transfer to a different program. Whatever the reason, it is possible to transfer graduate coursework from one university to another in most situations.

Why would I want to transfer grad schools?

You researched several graduate schools, selected the master’s program of your choice, and applied for admission. What happens, though, if you do not like the teaching approach at your new institution? What if your objectives change and this program is no longer the most suitable one for your future career? More factors could motivate a graduate school transfer. Whatever your motivation, you can transfer without having to start over and waste all the time you have already invested. Here are the top 5 reasons why students would want to transfer grad schools:

  1. Change in objectives and interests
    Typically, graduate students enter their programs with a very clear concept of what they want to study. Still, occasionally, they discover that the program is not what they anticipated and that another field may be more suited to their interests. If the graduate programs in question are closely connected, students may be able to transfer between them within the same institution, increasing the likelihood that credits would transfer.
  2. Poor performance and grades
    Students occasionally do not perform as well in graduate programs as they had hoped. Some may even receive failing marks and may be expelled or already expelled from the program, resulting in the necessity to transfer. If a student gets dismissed from their program due to their overall GPA but has maintained a B or above in a handful of their classes, they might be allowed to transfer those specific credits to another graduate program.
  3. Financial constraints
    Cost is one of the main factors why graduate students transfer. After enrolling in graduate school, students could discover that they cannot continue their studies due to financial constraints. They may need to hunt for an alternative graduate program to complete their degree, whether due to unforeseen circumstances involving financial aid, a change in their employment status, the inability to meet costs at the current institution, or something else.
  4. Family or job-related issues
    Graduate students frequently shift schools due to their families and jobs. A student may leave a program for a while after deciding that their work or family obligations conflict with the program.
  5. Mismatch in research interests
    Graduate students, particularly Ph.D. candidates, may carry out considerable research as a requirement for their degrees. Students frequently base their decision to attend graduate school on their research preferences and how well those preferences match their department’s areas of specialization. Unfortunately, in some instances, they start their research only to discover that their advisor has different interests from their own, preventing them from conducting the research they had hoped to. Changing universities may give such students a greater chance to conduct research that satisfies their interests and objectives.
  6. Relocation of advisors
    Ph.D. students conduct research and create their theses in close collaboration with their supervisors. Occasionally, an advisor will change institutions or relocate to another city or country, forcing students to make a challenging choice. Students may formally follow their advisor to their new institution for research purposes or choose to locate a new advisor elsewhere.

Can You Easily Transfer Graduate School Credits?

How hard is it to transfer grad school credits? Grad school transfers are not the same as transfers at the undergraduate level. Undergraduate general education requirements are frequently equivalent, and many schools have relationships, understandings, and arrangements that make transferring between them simple. Schools are often receptive to your credits from other universities because the main objective at the undergraduate level is to demonstrate knowledge. But in graduate school, leadership, knowledge application, and problem-solving are the main priorities. Each college may use a different method for assessing these factors, which results in less latitude in the number of credits they accept from other institutions.

Typically, a committee will be chosen to assess your prior academic achievements and determine whether they can transfer and satisfy an equivalent degree requirement. Among their considerations are the following:

  • Whether the accreditation for your previous program is correct.
  • The program’s curriculum and how closely it resembles what their school offers.
  • How long has it been since you completed your course(s)?
  • Your transfer application’s quality and compliance with transfer regulations.

Transferring Grad Schools in 6 Easy Steps

The more information you have about your prior coursework, the simpler it will be to transfer your graduate credits. The most crucial advice when applying for graduate school credit transfer is to have as much information as possible about your prior study. Even though the procedure can take some time, the credits should transfer if you follow all the instructions. Here are the most critical steps to make the task seamless:

1. Understand your needs and do a self-assessment

Transferring is occasionally a student’s only choice, but they must consider why they want to shift institutions while they are graduate students. Students can decide whether or not to transfer by conducting a self-evaluation.

Before changing graduate schools, think about your reasons for choosing the program at the new college, the time a transfer will add to your graduation date, and whether the problems that led you to leave your initial program will pose problems in the future when deciding to transfer. A self-assessment is best to figure out whether a transfer is really what you want. 

If transferring to another school may be your sole option for finishing your graduate degree, you must comprehend your requirements and motivations. Do not forget that you must be ready to put in the required effort to finish your program the second time.

2. Check the school’s transfer requirements

Once you are certain that you want to transfer to a graduate school, make sure you pick the appropriate institution to transfer to and contact that institution for further information on the requirements for graduate school transfer. The procedure to transfer may differ depending on the institution, so it is best to check about your needs by visiting the school’s website and reading the policies for graduate transfer students or talking over the phone or in person with the transfer office. Check the prerequisites for your chosen program and ensure that you meet all the expected requirements before beginning the application process.

Also, completing your master’s degree is not as easy as simply transferring to another university. Spend time investigating several graduate programs to discover the best fit for you. After all, you do not want to enroll in a new school only to run into the same issues. 

3. Compile all the required documents

The next step is to obtain an authentic transcript from your previous school to show what curriculum you have already covered. Your new school will want proof of your completed courses before you can begin transferring your graduate credits. You can transfer graduate credits even if you are not actively enrolled. Most credits from accredited institutions do not have an expiration date, albeit this depends on the topic of study. Some schools might not accept transcripts older than ten years. Therefore, you must check to see whether you can transfer your credits, even if you left graduate school over five years ago.

There are usually restrictions on the number of credits that can be transferred, and some colleges will not accept any. The number of credit hours you can receive from the university where you will transfer may be capped. Credit is more likely to transfer if you stay in the same field of study; switching to a completely different discipline will make things more difficult. For example, if you are pursuing a similar degree, such as switching from one accredited MBA to another, you can often transfer more credits; however, if you are switching to a different master’s degree, your options will be more constrained.

4. Prepare a compelling personal statement defending your decision to transfer

Depending on the organization, you will typically need to follow the standard application procedures when changing graduate schools. You could be required to prepare a personal statement when applying in which you discuss your educational objectives and your motivation for attending the institution in question. 

Spend a lot of time and effort when drafting your personal statement as a transfer student because it will allow you to truly stand out as an individual. Emphasize your professional background, why you are passionate about your field of study, etc. It is also critical to address why you are considering changing institutions. Your new school might be worried that you are not committed or have had conflicts with your advisors or professors in the past. Tell the truth about why you are transferring. You can express your hopes and expectations for what the new school might provide you by being transparent, which will always be appreciated. Every institution seeks out pupils who will persevere and develop into assets to the institution. Therefore, writing a compelling statement or appearing before the selection committee in person to discuss your desire to transfer is crucial.

5. Request recommendation letters from faculty and mentors

Even though they may not always be necessary, your former professors or academic advisors may need to submit recommendations on your behalf to the new institution as part of your application. Your chances of being chosen for the program are increased by strong recommendation letters. To obtain them, you should speak with your instructors or advisors from the department where you completed your coursework. Although asking for recommendations from a school you intend to leave can be awkward, a sincere and honest approach can help your transfer go smoothly. Attaching at least two transcripts, even if the new school does not ask for one, is a good idea to demonstrate your effort at the previous university. It is noteworthy that your new school may waive some entrance requirements, like the GMAT or GRE if you have a stellar record at your current university.

For Ph.D. programs, it could be a good idea to ask advisers and mentors for recommendation letters in cases where students need to explain their transfer decision. A strong set of recommendations may assist your transition into Ph.D. programs, which often have few seats and many candidates.

6. Submit your application with all additional documents

Typically, your new institution will require a transfer credit request form. The school will give you this form once your supporting documentation is ready. To explain how your coursework satisfies the standards of your new school, you will typically need to detail the coursework and specify the credits you wish to transfer. Normally, you will include a brief justification for transferring a specific credit in your essay. Describe the courses you completed for each and how it complies with the standards of the new school.

Ensure you have your official academic transcripts, winning personal statements, recommendation letters, and everything else ready. Once you have all these components and have filled out the transfer credit request form, you can put them together and send the documents to your new school. You will then need to plan for transferring your graduate school credits to your new college. You should transfer as many credits as possible to ensure your diligent work counts toward your degree.

Wait for approval

Once you have applied, wait for the approval of your application. There is no guarantee that your new school will accept all your credits. Consider other colleges or staying in your current program if the school does not accept all your graduate credits.

7 Tips for Transferring Graduate School

For many students, deciding to switch graduate programs is an important step in successfully completing their graduate studies. With the aid of these tips and suggestions, the changeover process can be made as easy and stress-free as feasible:

1. Think about it 

Changing schools may not be the best or the only option for graduate students. It is vital to consider whether transferring will help you with your problems. Determine what you hope to improve by changing graduate programs. You might find your coursework tedious or lose interest in pursuing an academic career. If possible, try to work out a solution with your present adviser so you can finish your graduate degree without losing any credits. It is crucial to give this significant thought before deciding since transferring to another school will be for nothing if your new institution does not fit your needs.

On the other hand, transferring can be the best option for you if your precise interests have changed, your possible advisor has left, or you are now a more competitive applicant than you were when you originally applied to graduate school. In the end, students can make the best choice for their academic, career, and personal lives by carefully considering their reasons for wanting to transfer and other feasible ways to achieve that goal.

2. Talk to your advisors 

Before transferring, speak with your advisor/s and seek their help and advice to finish your program. If you cannot resolve the problem forcing you to transfer, you should take precautions to avoid having the same difficulty in your new school. Make sure the program at the new school is a good fit for you by speaking with an advisor at the new school you are considering.

3. Start Early and Plan Well 

Starting early can help you ensure you complete all program criteria and have enough time to fill any gaps. Many graduate institutions make transferring simple and seamless. One month before the start of the semester, learning that you must take several exams and collect reference letters from previous professors can be a significant setback that is best avoided. Therefore, gather all the necessary information in time to make the application and subsequent transfer less rushed and stressful.

4. Factor in your credits 

It is always essential to factor in the credits you would lose during the transfer procedure, and the additional time it might take to finish your program at a different university. In certain situations, there is a risk that none of your credits will transfer, and you will have to start over. Therefore, before applying to a new graduate school, check to see if you can get transfer credit evaluations at other universities.

5. Make use of the program you are now in 

If you have decided to submit your transfer application, you have already taken a step toward leaving your present program. Even if it could seem like you are merely passing the time, that is only true to the extent that you let it be. Your time is valuable and should not be squandered whether or not you decide to leave your current program. Make use of this chance to:

  • Choose an elective instead of a challenging core requirement that might not transfer to a new degree.
  • Reduce the number of courses you are taking and gain some experience as an adjunct at a local community college.
  • Send a journal or conference one of your writing samples.

6. Do not sever ties with your former school. 

You may think poorly of your present graduate program. It should go without saying, but when people ask about your departure, you should be kind. Do not go into great detail about your motivations for doing something. This is crucial if you are currently enrolled in a program that will be worthwhile to complete, even if you decide not to transfer to another one.

7. Before transferring, learn from your errors. 

What went wrong with your initial graduate school application? Did you submit applications to courses that were appealing online without getting enough information from people who had taken them? Did your lack of organization cause you to miss deadlines? Did you fail to see that the program or its courses did not align with your interests and objectives? Make every effort to enhance the variables within your control, as a large portion of the graduate school application process is out of your control.

What Are the Alternatives To Transferring Graduate Schools?

Even though switching graduate programs is not as challenging as it might seem, not all students will find it the best course of action. Given one’s circumstances and objectives, one should carefully analyze one’s motivations for transferring and determine whether better options exist. Here are a few alternatives to transferring to grad school:

  1. Consider a terminal master’s program
    You may be eligible to transfer out and get a terminal master’s degree if you persevere through your Ph.D. program for at least two years. After that, you can continue with your master’s degree or change to another Ph.D. program.
  2. Take online courses
    Instead of transferring to a new program, think about doing some of your course requirements online. This will be an excellent option if family, employment, or other commitments make attending classes at the same time problematic. It may be possible to complete some classes online even if you are initially enrolled in an on-campus program because more and more schools are now providing online classes (hybrid model).
  3. Check to see if your school will still grant you a degree if you transfer.
    In some circumstances, a student might be allowed to finish a few credits in a new program and then transfer them to finish a degree in their original program. If you need to transfer near the conclusion of your studies, you may be at a significant loss because schools cap the number of credits that can be transferred. If such is the constraint, it may be possible for you to complete the final few courses required at a different university and then transfer back to your original program to earn your degree.
  4. Sync up with other schools
    If you are a Ph.D. student and are still finishing your courses at your present university but have advisor-related problems, such as different research aims, you may be allowed to work with students and professors from other universities. Likewise, even if your adviser relocates or moves to another institution, you might still be able to research with your advisor without formally enrolling in their new institution.
  5. Seek credits for professional certifications and experience
    You might be able to get credit from some colleges for any professional certification you have obtained throughout your career. The college might also consider that if professional on-the-job training was extensive and quantitative. Showing high responsibility and competence may also help obtain credit for your work experience.
  6. Begin again
    Starting over might often be more economical and practical than transferring a few older credits and running the risk of not completing a program on time. This is especially true if not all your credits transfer after a long break, and you realize how little time you have left to finish your program. The costs and time investment may not warrant a transfer in such situations; it would be prudent to start afresh.

Frequently Asked Questions About Transferring Graduate Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you transfer to a master’s degree at another university? 

Yes, even though it occasionally resembles the first-year students’ application procedure. Students typically apply to a school and then ask for their previously acquired credits to be considered for the transfer. Certain credits could not be accepted since some master’s programs include curriculum and research unique to a university and differ by school and program of study.

Can you transfer to Ph.D. programs?

Can you transfer credits from one master’s degree to another?

How many credits can I transfer for grad school?

Can you transfer credits from a non-degree program?

How old can graduate transfer credits be?

Will my GPA be considered for transfer? Is there a minimum GPA for admission?

Is the GRE or GMAT required for transferring to grad school?

Can the program’s admission requirements be waived because of my experience?

How long will I have to transfer graduate credits from one school to another?

Can you transfer from an online graduate program to a campus program? And can you transfer from a campus program to an online program?

Wrap Up

For a variety of good reasons, you can decide to switch master’s programs in the middle of your degree. Perhaps you find that another graduate program seems to be a better fit for your job. This new master’s program could include a better course selection, flexible schedule, fewer credit hours, or reduced price. It may even provide a better degree of certification than the master’s program you are currently enrolled in. Nobody wants to spend years learning a subject that is expensive to learn, that they despise, or receive a degree that is useless in the workplace.

A graduate school transfer might be challenging, but with enough research and the appropriate strategy, you can transfer without too much trouble and locate the best graduate school for transfer students. Do not feel obligated to stick with your initial selection, but think before you leap.

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