Transferring To 4-Year College In The Middle Of The Academic Year (Spring Semester)?
September 7, 2006 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Transferring To 4-Year College In The Middle Of The Academic Year (Spring Semester)?

I am currently attending a community college where I live in New York. I am in the first semester, the fall, obviously, and I'm a freshman who just graduated from high school this past June.

I want to transfer to the University of Central Florida (UCF) for the spring semester (which starts January 8, 2007). I have a few friends down there already so they would really help me in the transition process as far as getting settled in and finding my way around.

My question it generally a bad or good idea to transfer to a different college in the middle of the school year? What are the positives and negatives?

I realize that it seems to be rather hectic to transfer to an out-of-state school half-way through the academic year, but I really want to go away for school. Finishing my 2 years at the community school is not an option as I don't want to wait that long at all. It's either go this spring semester or start next fall. I think the benefits of starting this spring are that I would get to know the place sooner and establish myself there so when I return in the fall of next year I will be better off. The downside, however, is the limited amount of time I'll have in between schools. My current school's semester ends December 20, and UCF starts their spring semester January I'd have very little time for spending Christmas break with my family before I'd have to travel down to Florida and get situated.

The thing is, I just really want to get the whole "going away" experience started A.S.A.P. as I can't stand being stuck home anymore.

Any insight is appreciated!
posted by foreversport to Education (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
is it generally a bad or good idea to transfer to a different college in the middle of the school year?

All other things being equal, it's probably best to avoid it. There is a sense of camaraderie that you get from starting at the same time as others, and you might find it harder to find a social niche. Yeah, you don't get long of a break this time either.

But all other things aren't equal. I think it's best for you to move on, because otherwise it seems like you would be killing time for a semester, and you obviously aren't too happy where you are.
posted by grouse at 2:51 PM on September 7, 2006

Will you be living on campus in a dorm type setting?
posted by catseatcheese at 2:53 PM on September 7, 2006

Semesters are treated pretty much independently at my school. It seems that the only thing you'd really miss out on by not starting in the fall are the freshman orientation stuff (which isn't too important, especially if you aren't a freshman).

In fact, I can't think of any differences -- aside from the weather -- between starting in the Fall or Spring semester. UCF may be different, however.

I'd reccomend talking to a transfer advisor to verify any information you recieve here. They'd also be able to coach you through your move to the school, and answer any questions you may have.
posted by nitsuj at 2:54 PM on September 7, 2006

Semesters are almost always discrete sets of classes, so my guess is that you'll have very little problem transferring in.

The one thing to watch out for is courses in your major that must be taken in sequence - Bio 100 is a pre-req for Bio 101, etc. Often times, these sequences start in the fall semester to accomodate the typical student.

A little planning can work around that, though. I'm sure you have general classes to get out of the way, or can jump into some of the spring classes without prereqs.

Good luck and have fun! 4-year college is a world of difference from community college, and I'm sure you'll have a blast. Take advantage of all the advantages campus life gives you!
posted by chrisamiller at 2:54 PM on September 7, 2006

i did the transfer during the xmas break. the time thing is difficult but the most important thing is make sure you can transfer and that your credits are valid. i would reccomend taking one more semester at the CC due to the cost of attending university. the freshmen level 100 level courses are all generic anyway, much easier to pay half the price at a CC or JC. I toughed it out for a year at WCC before transferring to UofA and found getting all the basic course work out of the way at CC made life much easier. check with an advisor as said above and get the skinny from them. best of luck
posted by dieguido at 3:03 PM on September 7, 2006

Response by poster: @catseatcheese: I would be dorming or in an apartment with a buddy of mine as close to campus as possible.
posted by foreversport at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2006

The best person to ask is an admissions person at the other college that specializes in transfers.

However, I'll share some of my experience, as I became kind of an expert in transfers after doing it four times... I went from community college in Oregon for two years to Oregon State, and then after bombing out of Oregon State because of what I'll detail below, I went back to community college for a quarter before finishing my undergrad at Portland State. It took me six years to get through school, and was way more expensive than it needed to be. Don't do what I did.

There are a metric assload of reasons that you'll wish you stayed home. They may not seem that way at 18, but ... looking back when you're done, you'll wish you'd stayed at high-school-with-ashtrays for a bit longer. At least I did. ;)

'Going Away' isn't all it's cracked up to be as a transfer student. Well, it is if you go through the freshman orientation, the cameraderie of the first year, and you go through all of the balancing of school and social life along with everyone else. If you transfer, not so much. There's a lot of work involved in figuring out how to make enough time for homework while not stifling your social life and your health and everyting else when you don't have your family support structure, you don't know your way around, and you have to do your own laundry and forage for your own food.

When you're going down there, you're going to find that all of the people in your classes all know each other, and they know how to game the system, and you know almost nothing. You'll waste a lot of time that you don't have and that they don't spend figuring things out. At the school I went 'away' to, this included the rest of the frosh using this to exclude people that they didn't like or who were new or different. Understandable, as the soph and junior classes just got done doing the same thing to them.

But that aside, there's several serious logistical challenges that will probably end up putting you a year behind everyone else. First, you need to make sure that your credits will transfer straight across. To do this, you NEED to speak to an admissions counselor that specializes in transfers AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Seriously, don't think about the florida babes, the beaches, or disneyland for one second longer until you speak to an admissions counselor. What I bet you'll find is that there's a class offered in Fall semester only that's required to move from frosh to soph year, and so you'll only be changing grade levels at spring semester NEXT year. Which locks you out of taking the full-year sophomore required classes that start in fall and run through fall and spring until you're theoretically supposed to be a junior. See what I mean? The admissions counselors will specifically say that doesn't happen, but it does. I now work for a big 'away' school and manage a few student workers, and man, it sure as hell does happen.

Dude, I would do almost anything except transfer into a big 'away' semi-party school halfway through the year. In fact, I'd probably work full-time until you do go away, go in as a freshman with the rest of the freshmen, and save every red cent so that you can live comfortably down there and buy lots of booze while underage for all the bikini babes. ;)

Not that I'd condone that kind of thing, of course. I mean, really.
posted by SpecialK at 3:16 PM on September 7, 2006

I did this my freshman year. It worked out fine. I did feel a little out of the loop at first, but soon felt like I'd always been there. I third (or fourth) the advisor thing.

I actually ended up at my 3rd choice school as the other two wouldn't take someone after 1 semester.
posted by jdl at 3:17 PM on September 7, 2006

Oh, and the reason that Admissions people will tell you that grade-level lockout doesn't happen is that they offer Bio 100 in Spring as well as Fall, and then Bio 101 in Fall as well as Spring.

In reality, those classes are for people that flunked them the first time around, so you not only get a 8:00 am class full of hung-over dipshits and a professor who KNOWS he's lecturing to hung-over dipshits, but the class is filled almost immediately because people with more credit hours have priority at registration at many schools and the likelihood that you, without knowing any of the registration loopholes, will get in... is slim at best.
posted by SpecialK at 3:19 PM on September 7, 2006

The reason I asked where you would be living was that I feel it has a lot to do with how you will fare socially. I knew some people who had a similar situation. They all came to school after being at a community college and decided to live in a house. They had a hard time finding any "new" friends because they could just hang out with the friends that they already had. I would advise living in a dorm so that you will be able to meet new people. I think you will do fine as far as class schedules are concerned. Most schools I know of offer freshman level courses every semester.
posted by catseatcheese at 3:44 PM on September 7, 2006

Have you already been admitted?
It might be harder to get in as a transfer for second semester than for the fall; worth checking into.

If you're admitted, it should be fine.

Coursewise you should be okay; speak to someone at the school about what credits will transfer, what you can test out of, etc. They should have their course catalogue online, so you can look for yourself and see what the requirements are, and when the required classes are offered.

Moneywise, it might make more sense to stay home longer, but on the other hand if you move maybe you can establish residency sooner and get a lower tuition? I know nothing about the school you're looking at, so don't know how much this matters.

Social-situation-wise, I agree with everyone else who says be sure you have some way of making friends other than the people you already know down there. You won't have a natural social group of fellow incoming students, and you'll be even more isolated if you live not in a dorm. People change a lot at this age, and you may find that your current friends develop a whole new set of friends that you don't like (etc) over this first semester. If you do move, and live with your buddy, try to get involved in some campus groups -- intramural frisbee or soccer, a frat, setting up the lights for the theater department, singing with the Christian group, whatever floats your boat -- so you start making some connections other than your current friends. (You can think of it as: more connections = more possible people, friends of friends, to date.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:22 PM on September 7, 2006

I really don't see any reason to delay transferring to the new school.

It's not like high school where you take a course for the whole year and get final grades at the end of the year. Your first semester of college is over, you got the credits for courses A, B, C, D and E and that's the end of it. The fact that you, for example, took freshman comp and got a "B" will not change -- if you transfer now or transfer later.

Furthermore, taking all your core courses at the college where you plan to get your degree may be beneficial. Sometimes the material covered in a course may differ a bit from college to college.

Just go to Florida in January, assuming that they'll admit you then. It's not as big a deal as you think. Stop worrying and enjoy your new college experience. :) Good luck!
posted by bim at 5:36 PM on September 7, 2006

f you want to transfer, go for it -- but fall is much better. Financial aid is a finite resource, which often has been fully allocated by mid-spring (for the following academic year!). So for this spring, you'd be getting less than the full aid package you're eligible for. You'd be taking out extra loan money this spring to buy units that a grant might have paid for if you transfer for fall instead.

Schools really are setup for fall start/transfer. No matter how many assurances they and your friends give that you'll get assistance, the resources just are much fewer and more obscure than in the fall. The orientation is sort of half-assed, counselors aren't sure where your records landed, the classes you wanted are already filled because you were required to wait until everyone else in the universe got their priority registration period slot first. And you have a good chance of spending all four years being a semester out of step with nearly all your peers.

If the transfer school is in a "college town", housing may also be a real challenge. Often the rental market will be used to turning over every May and August, with very few vacancies in between. Arriving in January, expect to be stuck with something less than ideal; pad your budget for a second move within 6 months. And don't underestimate how much effect all the Aug/Sept 'back to school' sales have -- when you move away from home, there's a metric assload of things you suddenly need to buy.

Spring transfer isn't terrible, but the world expects you to start in the fall and tends to make things a lot less convenient for those who defy that expectation.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:03 PM on September 7, 2006

I transferred colleges in the spring *and* my father teaches at UCF, so I feel uniquely qualified to answer your question!

Academically, transferring in the spring wasn't a problem for me and I think it works well for most people. Starting in the spring may make it difficult to register for classes (by the time you get to choose your courses, the entire school will have registered already) but you'd have a similar issue in the fall. At a school as large as UCF, this usually isn't a huge problem anyway. You will have to hit the ground running-- there will be very little time to talk to an advisor or arrange work-study or just generally get oriented. If you're prepared for that, great; if you're academically shaky or you tend to take a long time to acclimate to a new place, strongly consider waiting until the fall.

The social aspect is another story. You will miss out on being part of a large transfer/ new student community, since spring orientation is usually much smaller and often less thorough than fall orientation. If you're really proactive about meeting people-- you'll join a lot of clubs, maybe get an on-campus job, talk to people in your classes-- you can counteract the isolating effects of transferring in the spring. UCF has long been a commuter school with little on-campus community, but that's changed a *lot* in the last 6 or so years. This means that it's a much easier to meet other students now, so I suspect that you'll do okay.

Definitely make sure you get the housing thing straightened out early. There's a bit of a housing crunch in the area around UCF. Apartment complexes offer all of their move-in specials in the fall, but you'd probably be able to find a place in the spring. Key tip: use Apartment Hunters. It's free and it's infinitely easier than flipping through listings.

Another option for you to consider is starting in the summer. There are far fewer students on campus then, which will make it easier for you to meet with an advisor and take classes that are similar in size to those at a community college. Starting in the summer probably won't help you socially, but it will mean that you're settled in academically so that you can devote more energy to meeting people when the campus gets hopping again in the fall. Also, moving almost 1,000 miles to start a new life between December 20th and January 8th is rather daunting... presumably you'd have more time between the end of your school's spring term and the beginning of UCF's second summer term.
posted by chickletworks at 8:45 PM on September 7, 2006

Response by poster: @chickletworks: I see what you mean about the "hit the ground running" thing. I have always done well in school so I'm not concerned about the academics as much as I am with acclimating to a new place so quickly. But a buddy of mine is already down there and he can definetly help with that.

About the social said that the spring transfers is smaller and I'll be missing out in comparison to what the fall transfer orientation is like. This is true even if I transferred at the beginning of next fall and entered UCF as a sophomore? I always thought that the freshmen in the fall semester go through the whole new student community thing together, not the transfers. This is very important to me and if transferring in the fall is much better socially, like you say, then that could weigh my decision heavily.

About the housing...I would prefer to dorm on-campus. Is that usually a problem for spring transfers?

Thanks a lot for your help, I appreciate it.
posted by foreversport at 11:20 PM on September 7, 2006

My question it generally a bad or good idea to transfer to a different college in the middle of the school year? What are the positives and negatives?

There will be other midyear transfer. I'm a transfer student myself, and in the beginning mostly made friends with the people who entered my school the same time as me (Fall 2005 semester). There were about 150 of us. Another 50 or so came second semester, and they were a group for awhile too. My school only has about 5,000 undergrads and I'm going to assume that UCF has a lot more than that. If they allow midyear transfers, I bet a lot of people will be doing it. You'll be fine.

Definitely try to live in a dorm. Here housing is guaranteed for transfers, but I don't know how that would work at UCF. Talk to the transfer people at the admissions office. Anyway, I say go for it -- transferring is kind of awkward for the first month or so but everyone adapted pretty quickly.

I always thought that the freshmen in the fall semester go through the whole new student community thing together, not the transfers.

This was definitely the case for us. Even as fall semester transfers, our orientation sucked. We didn't go to any of the freshman events. We could have if we wanted, but no one was going to come with us or force us to or anything, so nobody went. Freshman were generally very separate from us, and officially welcoming transfers along with the new class was an afterthought.

Anyway -- talk to someone at the school! There is no standard transfer procedure. And email if you want. I'm all about transferring.
posted by puffin at 4:21 AM on September 8, 2006

I started college the summer before my senior year of high school, went to both concurrently part-time for my senior/freshman year, stayed at that school for one full-time year, then transferred in the summer to another school to finish, so I never started anything in some large group. Both were large-ish state schools where "class of 'XX" doesn't really mean anything - some people will go summers and some won't, some people will take 12 hours every semester and some will take 18. Some of us will double-major because we're in no hurry to leave, and other people will drop out and never finish or transfer on to other schools.

You'll make your friends through friends, in classes, in student organizations, standing in line, playing Ultimate Frisbee, whatever. You're not restricted to the people who just happened to start school the day you did. I did make a friend at summer transfer orientation and we were tight for a semester before she moved back home, but I had a social circle within 5 days of arriving.

From my experience working on campus, I would highly recommend a non-Fall transfer. The administration offices won't be nearly as swamped with both transfers and incoming freshmen, so if you have a paperwork snag or need some kind of attention, you're not as likely to sit in a hallway waiting for hours like you might at the end of August.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:01 AM on September 8, 2006

I think that you'll be fine either way as long as you're really proactive about joining things and making friends. As others have said above, I would definitely start thinking now about what sorts of activities you might like to join, etc. Especially at a big, decentralized school, activities will probably be the key to meeting people you'll really click with.

My strategy for starting at a new school (and it's one I've recommended to many others with universally positive results) is to sign up for every activity that sounds even remotely interesting to you. Don't be afraid to sign up for 25 different things if they strike your fancy, even if they're not activities you've ever really considered before. Most school will have some sort of club listing or club fair where you can sign up for email lists that will tell you when meetings are. Then, in the first few weeks of school, go to at least one meeting of every club you've signed up for. Meet the people involved and evaluate what the activity is actually like. From that, you'll be able to pick the few activities where you really like the people and are passionate about it, and that's where your closest friends will come from.

I signed up for the debate team my freshman year of college even though I was terrified of public speaking, because I figured what the hell. I ended up loving it and ditching all my other activities to debate every weekend, Several years after graduation, most of my closest friends are still people from my college debate league. Take chances and join things, and I can almost guarantee you that you'll find something you really like.

I would NOT go there planning to hang out with your existing friends from high school. I think you'll be better off the more you act as if you're starting over on your own. As someone said above, your old friends likely to have changed a lot in ways that you may not anticipate. But more importantly, it seems like your reasons for wanting to go away to school are all about wanting to be independent, and the best way to do that is to actually go it alone. It'll be tough, but I think that in the long run, you'll find it a lot more rewarding if you make your own friends and really establish an independent life for yourself.

I'm not saying don't hang out with your old friends if you like them and like their new friends. I'm just saying that if you go into this thinking that you have them to fall back on, you'll miss out on a lot of the valuable growing up-type experiences that really make going away to college such a transformative life event.
posted by Amy Phillips at 9:24 AM on September 8, 2006

I worked in the community college system in Miami and attended both in it and the Florida public university system over the course of my life. I can't speak specifically to UCF but I attended FIU which was also a very commuter-centric school.

I doubt you'll see the slightest difference starting in Jan vs Sep. There's -so- many students going half-time or less, coming and going as money and/or time is available to them, that there's very little cadre-building among people in the same year.

Your profile doesn't say where you're coming from, but if it's Florida then the one thing you SHOULD consider strongly is the 2+2 system. If you get an AA from a Florida community college then you're guaranteed admission into any public Florida university, but not necessarily a specific program. Probably not a big deal to you.

The bigger concern is that if you transfer before that point you're going to have to contend with course equivalence - UCF could very well decide that the GYF101 class you took in conflict management isn't an appropriate substitute for their MMD101 Bronson ultimatum phrases and you're going to have to take MMD101.

This is unavoidable in the classes for your major, however if they're core frosh & soph classes then you won't have to worry about it coming in with the AA.

Given that, you may be better off coming in sooner if you won't stick it out at the CC for your AA. On the other hand it may not matter - when I stopped working for the CC system in the mid-90s there was a big push to better equalize the differences at the CC and Uni level and these may not be an issue anymore.

One thing I will say as a former CC employee is this - consider that you may have a better group of teachers at your CC, depending on where it is. Everyone teaching in the CC system is a degreed professional, usually with a master's. At the Uni for your first two years you may be saddled with some grad student who has little to no experience teaching who is doing it only because they have to. CC profs usually made the decision that they wanted to teach.
posted by phearlez at 10:04 AM on September 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice guys, keep it coming!

Another thing is, it's not like I have a bunch of friends already down there. I only have one friend from high school who's been down there since August, so he's really knew at the whole thing, too.

I'm from New York, and I've heard of the Florida AA thing, but unfortunately that won't apply for me. All I'm taking right now at the CC is basic courses - Honors Intro to Literature, Honors Western Civilization I, Intro to Human Communications, and Algebra II. I would think those classes wouldn't have too much trouble transferring their credits over, no?
posted by foreversport at 11:49 AM on September 8, 2006

I'd be very, very careful about assuming that your credits will transfer, even if the classes are very general. I couldn't find anything on the UCF website about transfer credits, but many schools are very strict about giving credit for courses at other schools, and some don't allow transfer credits at all. Some schools only allow credits from other accredited 4-year colleges. Some will let you transfer the credits, but still require you to take additional classes in the same subjects before you can take higher level classes. Policies vary widely by school.

You should definitely talk to someone at the university to find out what their policy is and which of your classes will transfer. You should do this immediately, because I assume that whether or not your credits will transfer will be a signficant factor in deciding whether to do another semester of community college.
posted by Amy Phillips at 2:55 PM on September 8, 2006

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