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Articles / Applying to College / Enrolling in a New College Despite Debt to a Previous One

Enrolling in a New College Despite Debt to a Previous One

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 6, 2010

Question: I was a university student and I owe $4500 to my school. Now I can't register for a semester at another college until this amount is paid. I tried to sign up at a community college and was asked for a transcript before I could be qualified for financial aid. But my old college won't release my transcript until I pay my debt. What can I do?

Colleges tend to stick together when it comes to requiring a transcript from a previous institution before being able to enroll in a new one. If you cannot afford to pay your debt to your first university, you might try to speak to university officials about setting up a long-term payment plan. In that case, they may release your transcript or at least provide a letter for your new college that explains your circumstances.

Do you feel that you were misled or treated unfairly by your first university after you matriculated there? For instance, did this university not offer classes that were promised or, in some other way, did it fail to meet the standards that were advertised before you enrolled? If so, you can try writing a letter of explanation to both this university and to your prospective transfer school to see if they can make some sort of exception for you.

You can also try explaining your situation in person to an admissions official at your transfer college, but don't be surprised if your plight doesn't fall on sympathetic ears. As I said above, colleges do tend to frown on candidates who owe a debt to other institutions. But if there are extenuating circumstances or if the school you owe the money to is a disreputable one, you may be able to convince the new admission official to consider your application anyway. But I'm not optimistic about this, so your best bet may be to do what you can to square your bill with your first college.

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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