2015 Youth Achievement Award

Transferring Colleges: The Right Reasons to Make a Move for Students with LD

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By Marcia Brown Rubinstien, MA, CEP

While the arduous process of selecting a college might seem like reason enough to stay at one place until graduation, almost 30% of college students transfer to different schools. Making the decision to leave one college for another can be difficult, but most students will be able to facilitate a successful move if they fully understand their reasons for wanting to transfer.

There are essentially two valid reasons for initiating the transfer process: Academic fit and social/emotional adjustment.

Academic Fit

When based on academic reasons, the decision to transfer practically makes itself. Valid motives include the following:

  • Unavailable course of study
    Many students enter college without knowing where their studies will lead them. Time, maturation, and exposure to new people and ideas help students decide what they want to learn.

    Transfer is warranted if a student decides on pre-professional training not offered at the current school, or if a departmental major does not support an academic interest. The student whose passion for marine biology has been ignited is justified in considering coastal campuses over landlocked learning.

  • Academic rigor
    When students find themselves overwhelmed by academic demands, it’s time to look for less rigorous requirements. Similarly, students who do not feel challenged should seek an academic environment that excites and stimulates them.
  • Learning support
    Students entitled to learning support sometimes find that academic arrangements in college are difficult to enact, troublesome to access, and erratic to maintain. Students with LD and their families often underestimate the amount of support that is necessary for academic success. Conversely, some students attending colleges with comprehensive support systems feel stifled by services they consider intrusive and extraneous.

    Support programs at colleges are often dependent on specific personnel. Core providers who guaranteed services when a student interviewed may no longer be available. In some cases, learning support systems on which a student based the decision to enroll are completely revamped before a student arrives.

    Students with diagnosed LD should be extremely aware of the accommodations to which they are entitled. Many students learn the hard way that individual professors do not acknowledge, accept, or abide by established guidelines. If advocacy and perseverance do not generate support, it is time to transfer.

    Some students depend on assistive technology to facilitate learning. There is a huge range of technological assistance from college to college. Students who have achieved success with specific systems can be undermined by limited offerings, inconsistent tech support, or lack of validation by professors and peers for the methodology they embrace.

    At some colleges, there is still a stigma associated with accessing support for learning differences. Students who do not feel comfortable with the attitude surrounding accommodations are justified in seeking other campus communities.

Social/Emotional Adjustment

Keep in Mind

When considering why it might be wise to transfer, evaluate the bad reasons as seriously as the good ones. Students who don’t understand the factors that drive the transfer decision are doomed to repeat the problems in the second setting.

Don’t assume that physics professors at a new school will be generous and accommodating. Examine the requirements before you expect a departmental major with an intriguing name to offer you clear passage to a productive professional pathway. Don’t expect the learning supports to solve all your academic problems if you didn’t complete your work, skipped class, or put parties before Poli Sci.

Admission officials expect transfer applicants to be more mature, more self-aware, more directed, and more regulated than freshman candidates. If you can see those qualities in yourself, it may definitely be time to transfer.

When evaluating the social/emotional issues related to college success, students considering a transfer have an edge. The idealistic notions they harbored about college life have been tempered by reality. They know what inspires them and what deflates them.

Dissatisfaction with anything from campus culture to social life, food, housing, or location can prompt a student to consider other colleges, but it’s important to recognize that temporary frustration may not be valid grounds for transferring. Relationship issues, food issues, and activity complaints can usually be remedied with patience and creativity. Students need to understand that similar problems exist on all campuses.

The college transfer process requires even more time, care, energy, and hope than the original application process. In addition, it requires a positive attitude to counteract the disappointment of having ended up at the wrong school originally.

Because colleges don’t have personnel designated to help students leave their institutions, it may be worthwhile to find caring, educated professionals to help keep the transfer process proactive and positive.

For students with learning differences, every juncture on the academic pathway should be marked with care and caution. The special attention paid to learning needs at the time of freshman applications should be enhanced, and not minimized, during the transfer process. One mistake will not derail the college process, but two could curtail it forever.

The author is an educational consultant and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids. Her latest book is Raising NLD Superstars.