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Articles / Applying to College / Am I a Freshman or a Transfer?
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 3, 2016

Am I a Freshman or a Transfer?

Question: I've withdrawn from college during my freshman first semester. I'm taking a gap year now and thinking of reapplying to other colleges. Can I apply as a freshman?

If you have not earned any credits for the classes you took so far this fall, then you can apply as a freshman. If you HAVE earned some credits already (e.g., by starting out in a summer session or attending a college on the quarter system where the first quarter was over before you withdrew), then you have to contact your target colleges individually to ask whether you will be viewed as a freshman or transfer. Policies vary from college to college, and some will allow applicants who have accrued a minimal number of post-high-school credits to be considered prospective freshmen, if they so choose.


However, when asked on your applications about previous colleges attended, you DO have to be honest and list the college you attended briefly this year. If you try to pretend that you went straight to your gap year after your high school graduation but then admission officials find out that you actually enrolled elsewhere, this dishonesty could keep you out of college entirely OR, if if comes to light after you have already matriculated, it MIGHT cause you to be expelled (probably not but you don't want to run that risk).

College admission officials are accustomed to applicants who made “false starts" … i.e.., those who attended the wrong college and/or at the wrong time. So your best bet is to explain why you changed your mind and what you've learned from the experience.

Warning: If you withdrew due to a mental health issue such as depression, then there are pros and cons to including this information. On one hand, it can be helpful to be forthcoming about your situation, knowing that any college that admits you is accepting you for who you are. BUT … with a growing number of colleges grappling with spiraling student mental health concerns and even suicides, it's possible that a student with such issues may be denied admission in spite of an otherwise strong record (although the college folks would never concede this).

So, as you prepare your statement for your applications that discloses your change in plans, do approach it with an understanding of this possibility. Be forthcoming about the fact that you began college then left, but perhaps tread cautiously when you explain why.

Good luck 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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