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Articles / Applying to College / Do Three Weeks at College Make a Student a Transfer?

Oct. 2, 2019

Do Three Weeks at College Make a Student a Transfer?

Do Three Weeks at College Make a Student a Transfer?

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My son picked a great university to attend, where he enrolled in a BA program. However after only three weeks, he realized that he needed a BFA program, and as this school does not offer the program, he withdrew from the school. He is now applying to schools to start in August of 2020. He did not do any tests or exams during the three weeks he was there. Does he apply as a freshman or as a transfer student even though he was only there for three weeks?


Your son must disclose his fleeting attendance at his first college to all of his transfer schools, but — because he earned no grades or credits there — "The Dean" can't think of any college that would treat him as a transfer. However, The Dean can't think of every college. So your son needs to query each of his prospective transfer institutions about how to proceed, just to confirm that none of them has an anomalous policy. This potentially tedious process, however, could offer a silver lining.

Your son should begin by identifying his admissions representative at all of his current BFA schools. Ordinarily, this rep is the admissions official who oversees applicants from a student's high school, and the contact information can be found on the college website or via a quick phone call to the admissions receptionist. At this point, your son should assume that he will still fall under the purview of the staff member who handles his former high school. (If a college wants to assign him elsewhere, they'll let him know.) He should email this rep, explain his situation, and ask if he will be viewed as a freshman. This is an excellent way for him to make contact with an individual who may be playing a key role in his admission decision and to demonstrate interest in the school. If your son has additional questions, this is an appropriate time and place to ask them (but he should first make sure that the answers can't be easily found online).

Although it may be tempting for your son to want his initial, aborted enrollment to simply vanish, he must report it or the omission could be viewed as dishonesty down the road and thus lead to serious consequences. However, there is really no downside to your son disclosing his false start, as long as he uses his applications (and other correspondence with admission folks) to make a convincing case for why he's getting it right this time around.

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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