I dropped out of college in my first semester and now I'm planning to go back, but should I apply as a new student or a transfer student?
October 1, 2007 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I dropped out of college in my first semester and now I'm planning to go back, but should I apply as a new student or a transfer student?

I'm going back to school after six years, and this time I want to do it right. I went to the local state university right out of high school, quickly lost interest, and stopped going to classes. Unfortunately, I didn't drop out early enough to officially 'withdraw' from my courses, so there's probably transcript full of bad scores waiting for me. But I never received it, because the state school in question has a policy of locking students' records if they haven't submitted their full immunization history. We had trouble finding them when I started and the school never got the full history.

Fast forward to now. I'm going to be sending out applications this month to some of the colleges and universities I found in my school research. I want to apply as a new student and not have to worry about a full semester of F's pulling down my GPA. But I'm worried they'll somehow find the grades at my old school and toss my application. And if I apply as a transfer student, I don't even know if my old school will release my transcript. In any case, I would really appreciate any help or advice from anyone who knows how the system works or has dealt with a similar situation. Thanks!
posted by gigabyte to Education (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can apply as a new student. Since it has been such a long time, they probably would not accept your transcript anyway.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 10:53 AM on October 1, 2007

I've transferred to two schools1, and your transfer grades don't actually affect your GPA (at least where I went.) They just affect what credits transfer. If you don't have any credits to transfer, apply as new.

1Failed out of Polytechinc University in Brooklyn, transferred to Community College of Philadelphia,a nd from there to Temple University, where I am now.
Writing this in class...

posted by SansPoint at 10:55 AM on October 1, 2007

I did the exact same thing - flunked out of school and went to a different school as a new student 6 years later. I never told them about the prior university, and they never asked. I was accepted with no issue whatsoever. Both were state schools, but different states.
posted by desjardins at 11:15 AM on October 1, 2007

New student. You don't have to be a transfer, that's your choice.
posted by letahl at 11:42 AM on October 1, 2007

My situation was slightly different – failed out of state (had a great time though), moved 1600 miles and came back 4 years later.

My new school in New England had a program for adults returning to the workplace that accepted almost every credit I had taken previously and as a “returning student” there were no out of state fees. It worked perfect in my situation.

I did have the option to “start over” but since I had 3½ years under my belt I just wanted to get out ASAP. Obviously you have less credits but the returning program I was in really let you tailor your degree – again another perk.

I would see if any of your schools have similar programs before submitting. I ended up graduating with honors after getting all the partying out of my system and buckling down. Good Luck!
posted by doorsfan at 11:58 AM on October 1, 2007

My school also accepted a bunch of C's and D's credits but it didn't affect my GPA and I even graduated with honors! Why take those classes again - even if you can get one "free" class, I would transfer.
posted by thilmony at 12:14 PM on October 1, 2007

The GPA issue is handled differently by different unis. I managed to catch the worst of both worlds when I screwed up at one and transfered to a new one (where I was working at the time). The school I came into used transfer points and bam, instant academic probation.

Years later I transfered back out of that school and to the original one after consistently stellar grades. First day in, bam, they say I'm on probation. What? My grades are great! Nope - we don't transfer in grades so we're going with what you did here years ago.

It all worked out in the end and is darkly comic so many years later but at the time is sure felt like getting beat with both ends of the same stick. Point being: you can't be sure how your new school will handle it until you ask.

All that said, if you really want to keep your old attendance a secret odds are in your favor it'll never be found out. The big question is, what happens if you lose on those odds and they do find out? You could very well be looking at an honor code (or whatever your uni calls it) violation and some ugly consequences.
posted by phearlez at 1:51 PM on October 1, 2007

Thank you sincerely for all of your answers. I think the general consensus is to apply as a new student unless I want to transfer credit, which of course I don't because I don't have any. I feel better knowing that... Sometimes it seems the college application process isn't designed for those who aren't coming straight from high school. Thanks for your help!
posted by gigabyte at 3:30 PM on October 1, 2007

Gigabyte, as a former undergraduate academic counselor I can confirm that you've received good advice here. Your abortive half-semester of college six years ago will be of zero consequence to the admissions officers this time around.

So don't lie about it -- but don't worry about being asked about it, either. They're going to look at your high school transcript, your standardized exam scores, and the interesting stuff you've been doing for the last six years. The last part you can define in your entrance exam and by getting recent supervisors/colleagues/collaborators to write recommendation letters, not just high school teachers who barely remember you. At most colleges, a crashed semester followed by five and a half years of adult adventuring makes you a more attractive applicant than you were the first time.

Finally: You're going to get in and do great. But do yourself a huge favor and find the counselor types at one or more of the colleges to which you're applying who can help do away with the mystery and anxiety of the process. You can even do this before you're accepted: Call a department that interests you and ask to talk about the program with an advisor. If you don't get the perfect person the first time, persevere until you find someone who knows the anwers to your questions and will be there next month to answer more.
posted by gum at 4:53 PM on October 1, 2007

Check with your new school, but generally they will have something like "transfer students are students who have completed n or more credits at a college or university". Usually n is 16, or thereabouts, but sometimes as high as 32 (two semesters). If your n is less than their n, this is a complete non-issue for you.
posted by anaelith at 5:04 PM on October 1, 2007

True anaelith, but usually universities will still want *all* transcripts.
posted by Monday at 6:13 PM on October 1, 2007

Actually if you are re-applying to your old school you might have some edge there as a dropout. They believe "you left, grew up, and then loved us enough to come back". Such cases helps their dropout rate.

When I took 2 years off in the middle of being an undergraduate the college was quite concerned that I come back.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:23 PM on October 1, 2007

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