In recent years, the demand for grad school places has increased significantly, especially with more companies looking to hire applicants with a master’s degree.
According to Statista, around 835,000 grad students are expected to earn their masters in the US in the 2021-2022 academic year.
You researched grad schools, chose your desired master’s program, and got admitted to the institution. Congratulations! However, what if you do not like the learning style at your new school? Or what if your goals shift and this is no longer the best program for your future career?
Luckily you’re not stuck in a program that doesn’t suit you — it’s definitely possible to transfer grad schools. Read on to discover the seven key steps on how to transfer grad school.
Can You Transfer Graduate Schools?
These days, it’s actually pretty common to transfer grad schools. You may want to transfer schools to get a degree from a more prestigious institution so that it’s easier to find a job once you’ve finished your master’s. Or, you may simply want to switch programs because your current school doesn’t fit your needs or budget. You may want to transfer to a different program because your goals or interests have shifted.
The question is “can you transfer grad schools”? How long does the transition take? And, what impact does it have on your grad credits? The answer to the first question is yes, absolutely! To fully answer the other questions, let’s take a closer look at transferring grad schools and how to make the process as smooth as possible.
How to Transfer Grad School: 7 Easy Steps
1. Understand Your Needs
Transferring grad schools may be your only option to complete your graduate degree, but it’s important that you understand your needs and why you want to switch schools. A self-assessment is the best way to figure out whether a transfer is really what you want.
There are other things to consider before transferring graduate schools. You’ll want to think about how much time the transition will take and whether this will delay your graduation.
It’s also important to critically assess whether transferring will resolve your issues. If feasible, try to resolve your issues with the current advisor so that you can complete your grad program without losing any credits. Your graduate school transfer will be pointless if your new school doesn’t meet your needs, so it’s important to consider this carefully before you make a decision.
2. Check the School’s Requirements
Once you’re sure that you want to transfer grad school, you need to check with the institution you want to transfer to for detailed information on the grad school transfer eligibility criteria. It is not as simple as just switching schools to complete your master’s. Graduation programs are generally more complex than undergraduate courses, so it’s important to keep a few things in mind, which we’ll cover below.
However, before you even get this far, make sure you chose the right school to transfer to. You don’t want to get admitted to a new school only to face the same problems. Take the time to research different grad schools to find the best fit.
Check the grad school transfer students page on the school’s website and read their guidelines. The steps may vary depending on the institution, so it is best to check their website and discuss your requirements with the transfer office over the phone or in person. They will give you a general idea of what you need to do to get your transfer request approved.
3. Pull Together Your Transcripts
The next thing you’ll need to do is get an official transcript from your old school. Before you can start transferring your graduate credits, your new school will need to see evidence of the courses you’ve completed. Get onto this as quickly as you can, as official transcripts can take up to several weeks to order.
Note that you don’t need to be currently enrolled in order to transfer graduate credits. Although it depends on the field of study, most credits do not have an expiration date if they are from a nationally accredited institution. So even if you dropped out of grad school five years ago you may be able to transfer your credits — it’s definitely worth a shot.
However, you may not be able to transfer all of your credits when transferring schools. This will depend on the school’s policies, and these vary widely. Most schools place a limit on the number of credits that can be transferred, and some institutions do not accept any transfer credits.
Usually, you will be able to transfer more credits if seeking a similar degree, for example if transferring from one AACSB-accredited MBA to another, but will be more limited if switching to a different master’s degree.
You should always check the institution’s own rules and requirements before applying for a transfer.
4. Write a Strong Statement
It will depend on the institution, but when transferring graduate schools you will usually need to go through the normal process to apply to your new school. This often includes writing a personal statement that outlines your experience and qualifications, and explains your motivations.
As a transfer student, it’s important to address the elephant in the room when writing your personal statement, that is, why are you looking to transfer schools. Your new school may be concerned that you are undedicated or have had problems working with your professors or advisors. All institutions look for students who will stay the course and become a credit to the school. So it’s important to prepare a strong statement or meet the selection committee in person to explain why you want a transfer.
5. Get Recommendation Letters
In the same way, you may be required to submit recommendation letters as part of your application. Strong recommendation letters are critical and increase your chances of being selected for the program. Request a recommendation letter from your professors and advisors.
Even if recommendation letters are not required, it is a good idea to present two or three to help your chances. If you have a strong track record at your current institution, your new school may waive certain admission requirements, such as the GMAT/GRE.
6. Submit Your Application
Once you have all these elements in place, you can pull together and submit your application to your new school. This is when you’ll need to arrange for your grad school credits to be transferred to your new institution. You want to make sure to transfer as many credits as possible, to make sure as much of your hard work as possible is counted towards your degree.
Generally, your new school will need you to fill out a transfer credit request form. This may be called a “Transfer of Graduate Credit” or something else — ask the school’s graduate admission office. You’ll usually need to specify the credits you want to transfer, and detail the coursework to show how it meets your new school’s requirements.
Complete the transfer credit request form and be sure to attach your official academic transcript, then submit everything along with the recommendation letters and your winning personal statement.
7. Wait for Approval
Once you’ve put in your application, the only thing left to do is wait! Remember that there is no guarantee that your new school will accept all your credits, so wait for the green light before proceeding. If the school doesn’t accept all your graduate credits, you may want to consider other institutions, or stick with your current program instead.
Graduate School Transfer FAQs
Will my new school accept my credits for a master’s program?
You can submit a request for your previously earned credits to be considered for your new master’s program. In many cases, your new school will accept some, if not all of your credits. However, there is no guarantee. Most institutions accept only the credits earned from reputable, nationally-accredited schools, while others have a policy not to accept transfer credits at all.
Do they consider my undergraduate GPA?
This will depend on the graduate school, and how strict their entry requirements are. If they assess your application like any other applicant, the institution will almost certainly consider your undergraduate GPA. However, having a strong academic transcript from your graduate program and excellent recommendation letters will help to offset a problematic undergraduate GPA.
Will I need to sit an Entrance Exam like the GRE/GMT?
You may need to take an entrance test so that the selection committee can decide whether you are eligible for the program. GRE and GMAT are the most popular entrance tests for transfer students. An entrance test may or may not be required, depending on the school you pick and your academic and professional record.
A graduate school transfer can be tricky, but with a bit of research and the right approach, you’ll soon find the best graduate school for transfer students and be able to transfer without too much hassle.
Follow the steps outlined above and you’ll soon be studying your chosen program at your preferred institution.
Don’t let your uncertainty about how to transfer grad school get in the way of pursuing your dreams!
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.