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Articles / Applying to College / Early Decision Then Transfer?

Feb. 11, 2004

Early Decision Then Transfer?

Question: I am a high school senior and am wondering if, in applying early decision, there are any terms that prohibit transferring to a different college for the second semester. If you apply early decision are you making a commiment to attend your university for four years or just for one semester?

There's no rule that we know of that prevents an early-decision applicant from transferring out after one semester, however doing so could be stressful and probably even costly (e.g, new application fees, possible moving expenses). It seems that, while no one can guarantee that a student/school match will bring true love, you should not apply ED without the conviction that the college in question is right for you. (Since you indicate that you're a senior, we wonder if you've already been admitted ED and are now questioning your choice. This happens sometimes, and, if so, you should focus on the pluses of this place that initially attracted you. Perhaps an overnight on campus will help get you psyched.)


Moreover, transferring as a second-semester freshman can be tricky. If space is available, you can usually get admitted to a college that is less selective than the one you're already in (or possibly on the same level). You won't, however, be able to "trade up" to an institution that wouldn't have admitted you straight from high school. In order to make that sort of move, you'll need to spend at least a year--and possibly two--proving yourself at your first college. In addition, if you're applying for financial aid, some colleges have little or no money for mid-year transfers. Always ask about that well in advance.

If, however, your ED uncertainty is linked to financial fears (i.e., your ED college didn't give you the kind of aid you feel you require), contact the financial aid folks there and share your concerns and also speak to your guidance counselor immediately about what other options may still be open to you.

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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