The idea of transferring from one college to another has always been on students’ minds, and chances are it always will. Students who are just starting their first college year think, “Well, if things don’t work out at the college I have chosen, I can always transfer.” And students who are in their second, third or later years of college think of transferring too, for many reasons. Some would like to transfer to a college that offers stronger instruction in their chosen major. Others transfer for financial reasons. The list of reasons is a large and as varied as students are.

And now, enter the pandemic, which has increased the number of reasons why students are thinking of transferring college. Students who are living at home instead of living on campus can now enroll at a larger number of colleges – if they’re learning on their computers anyway, the choice of a college can seem less critical. Some students are reducing the number of courses they are taking overall, while others are ramping up. Suddenly, all the traditional rules that applied to transferring have changed.

What Do Transfer Statistics Tell Us?

Here are some statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse report, “Covid-19 Transfer, Mobility and Progress,”published December 21, 2020:

  • Fall transfer student enrollment fell 8.1 percent over last year, more than triple the drop in non-transfer students this fall (-2.4%).
  • Four-year colleges experienced relatively smaller declines in transfer enrollment as well as overall enrollment during the pandemic.
  • Male student mobility declined sharply during the pandemic, regardless of age.
  • Student mobility fell in all transfer pathways. Reverse transfers decreased the most, 19.4 percent, followed by lateral transfers (-12.6%) and upward transfers (-0.7%).
  • While fewer students re-enrolled this fall after a break, more opted for primarily online institutions this fall than they did pre-pandemic.

Source:  “Covid-19 Transfer, Mobility and Progress,” National Student Clearinghouse, December 21, 2020.

So, Should Students Transfer Colleges this Year?

Frankly, we cannot advise you or the students you know on that question. There are too many issues to consider, including family finances and financial aid, potential majors, or majors in process, not to mention what is taking place at colleges that are already being attended.

This could be a time when a college counselor’s expertise is needed more than ever before, and in new ways. The question that is growing more important today is, “Am I in the right school” instead of “How can I get accepted by the school I want to attend.”

Times are changing in so many ways. And where education is at issue, this is only one of them.

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