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In the best of worlds you compile a list of colleges, find the most compatible one, and are accepted. Then you have a great time, graduate, and head off to a budding career.

But sometimes that’s not always the case. You might come to the conclusion that you can’t stand being where you are — for whatever reason. The courses don’t match your interests. You don’t feel comfortable on campus. Or maybe you’ve been at a community college for two years and want to move to a four-year college to complete your degree.

Transfer students have many reasons for making a change

Circumstances shift, people change, and realistically speaking, it’s not all that uncommon to transfer. The most common transfers are students who move from a two- to a four-year college or the person who opts for a career change midstream. However, the reasons why students opt for a transfer program run the gamut.

“There are a zillion reasons why college students decide they don’t want to be at an institution,” says Dr. Rose Rothmeier, Director of Student Services and Counseling at Austin College in Sherman, TX. She has probably encountered every transfer situation there is. In fact, she began a pilot program to mentor incoming transfer students at her school, matching them their first semester with settled transfers. The project was a success and indicated a real need for efforts to reduce the problems that transfers run into.

Consider transfer requirements before you go

People sometimes choose a college for arbitrary reasons, says Rothmeier. For that reason, admission departments try to ensure a good match between the student and campus before enrollment. Sometimes, however, students don’t realize they’ve made a mistake until it’s too late.

If this is the case for you, transferring might be the solution, but extensively research the possibilities before making the move. Meet some students, talk to the admission office, and try to learn as much as you can about the school. Keep transfer requirements in mind to make sure you don’t miss anything you need to take care of.

Also, consider the impact on your academics. You’ll likely need to transfer credit from one school to another. Depending on if your credits are accepted or not and what the academic requirements are at your new school, it may take longer to get your degree.

Be prepared to question your decision

Transfer students tend to be very goal directed. Don’t be. This is the time to question the decisions you’re making about your life. “It doesn’t have to be catastrophic to think you might want to experience something else,” Rothmeier advises.

Don’t focus too much on those college credits

While academics is important, you also want to have time for campus life, which is an important step in smoothing out the bumpy adjustment process to a new school.

Transfers tend to be very academically focused, but in their fervor to crank out the grades and make up college credits, they can become reclusive. Many colleges that accept a lot of transfers offer special receptions and gatherings. Get out and meet people. Join clubs. Participate in campus activities.

Make a plan before leaping into a transfer program

Rothmeier spotlights the need to be an intentional transfer. That means you need to map out a plan based on information about yourself, your current college, and the one you want to attend. By putting in the time on the front end, you can ensure a happy and successful switch.