“Help! My College Freshman Wants To Transfer But She Has A Scholarship”

Woman opening her wallet and money is flying away

“Help! My College Freshman Wants To Transfer But She Has A Scholarship”

Published February 9, 2024

Woman opening her wallet and money is flying away

Recently a mom in our Paying for College 101 Facebook Group, Christine, shared the following quandary about her daughter who wants to switch schools midway through freshmen year at a university where she has close to a full ride. Like many students her age, she has a history of changing her mind again and again, which is just one of her parents’ top concerns. The other, of course, is the financial implication. Watching your child walk away from a nearly full ride to a good university is a bitter pill for any parent to swallow. But what if it’s best for your student — and how do you know?

Below is Christine’s story followed by just a few of the hundreds of responses we received from parents, many of whom had experienced similar situations with their children. 

Students Have A Tendency To Change Their Minds — A Lot

My daughter is a college freshman with a presidential scholarship that covers the majority of her school costs. She had an existential crisis over winter break and decided she wanted out of her competitive-to-get-into program to utterly change direction and colleges.

Now, my husband and I are in an existential crisis, too.

She feels down to her soul that she needs to change, and we understand and support that. But since the money trees in our backyard died in the last winter freeze, we have to do this the smart way — aka the affordable way.

One of our concerns is that she has a self-acknowledged habit of starting something and then wanting to pivot. She also has a very big personality with very big feelings and tends to be all or nothing. This child also has a drawer full of regrets for some of her past pivots. 

Switching Gears So Soon Can Have Major Financial Implications

We supported the low-stakes pivots because we believe you have to try things to find your place and path. These are no longer low stakes; these are high, expensive stakes! Hence we have concerns about leaping into a completely unknown situation, about money, and the future. 

We have a lot of concerns. 

My spouse is committed to the idea that she should complete her sophomore year at her current university — albeit out of their current program, though there would be no going back. This would allow her to finish all the lower division courses while in a familiar environment, where she’s built a community and has a scholarship that covers the costs. 

Forcing Students To Do Something They Don’t Want To Do Can Backfire

I like this plan, but I am not new here, and I know this child. If this child goes back to someplace under duress, I worry about the outcome.

Our daughter will have enough credits at the end of this freshman year to qualify for transfer to most programs she has looked at. There is not enough time between now and the application for transfer deadlines for her to get any classes or experience in the newly desired major. She is motivated enough to have applied for internships for the summer, where she can try to experience this major in the real world.

So, what is the smartest way forward considering limited financial resources?

We understand this may not be the right path for her, but we want to focus on what is the most logical, and neither of us has any experience or knowledge about transferring universities.

We are willing to put our foot down to do the best thing, and we did tell her that she may have to decide how to compromise to get where she ultimately wants to go.

That might mean staying at her current school in a different program with different classes for another year, it might mean taking a gap semester, it might mean taking local classes, or it might mean something we don’t know about yet.

To conclude this novel, we need advice about college students transferring universities and changing majors — and how we pay for it. — Christine

Below, parents give reasons why the student should stick it out — and why they shouldn’t.

Sometimes Credits Don’t Transfer And It Can Take Longer To Graduate

I got married young and transferred twice following my husband around (but refusing to quit). It took six years to get a four-year degree. All three schools were public state schools, but many of the classes did not transfer and I had to appeal, showing the syllabus and the nature of the work done in the class. Schools can be snotty and say that their classes are more demanding, so they are not “equivalent.” They also may have different prerequisites and graduation requirements. — Susan K.C. 

Meet Your Student Halfway 

A few years ago my highly-focused daughter was fixated on one school and major. She even completed a summer program before senior year, then applied by the early decision deadline and was accepted. The first semester she called nearly every day crying that it was too much. She wanted to come home, a six-hour drive away. She had graduated number eight in her high school class of 350, but she only earned OK grades during her first semester at college. I told her I was open to her coming home to our local community college as long as she stayed at least another semester, preferably the first year. Then I was OK with whatever her choice was. It was a bit of a struggle but by the end of her first year, she found her place at the same school. She graduated in four years with a double major and made the Dean’s List….I guess in our case, I gave her a strong, supportive ‘out’ option. That gave her the feeling she had control. I think my putting an ‘honest effort’ clause in our agreement resonated with her since she insisted on this school and major. I was open to options but with limits, and handing over a big part of the effort to her to figure out is a good strategy. It’s a big learning year that first year away and reality can be different from the big dream of what it was supposed to be. — Patricia H.

Take Summer Classes In New Major, But Keep The Scholarship

I would suggest that she stay registered as is and take summer classes at a university near home in her new major interest to see if it sticks (even if they have to be online some). I’d insist the student go all the way through the sophomore year under the scholarship program. She could also talk to an advisor to ask about a sabbatical from the program without formally withdrawing, explaining possible interest in another field of study. — Amanda D. R.

Explore Other Options But Stay Put Until She’s At Least Completed the Internship

Apply now for the transfer, but have her stay where she is and complete the internship, then reassess the financials at the end of the summer. Make the decision then, so she can make sure she’s all in and willing to pay the difference herself. Also, have her do all the applications on her own. If this is what she wants, she needs to spearhead it, especially with her known propensity to do this kind of thing. — Elisa G. 

Now Is The Best Time To Transfer

Not all of her courses may transfer, and the new school might have requirements that won’t be fulfilled yet, so staying at the current school for another year is a gamble, and potentially a waste of money. If she’s going to transfer, the most efficient way would be to do it now. — Martha B.

Sometimes A Student’s Mental Health Is More Important

I would suggest community college in the fall and a little time to figure it out. As a parent and high school teacher, unhappy kids are less productive and it could affect mental health. — Jessica L.

Set Boundaries And Stick To Them

Simply set the parameters and let them do the work — i.e., you need to graduate in four years, with this amount of money each year, with a major that will provide a lucrative career. Then your student can apply to transfer, apply for scholarships, and do most of the problem-solving on her own, with you as a sounding board when needed. — Jody P.B.

Try To Pinpoint What The Real Problem Is

If staying at this school is truly affecting her mental health, then she should take a break and work on the issues before moving to a different school. If she doesn’t address what is the root cause of the problem, she can transfer to another school and still have the same problems. — Rozalle E.

Give It Time — She May Change Her Mind, Again

Let her apply to transfer — I wouldn’t particularly help, but I wouldn’t hinder, either. By the time she has to pull the trigger, she will have had time to think. Also, once the reality of what she is giving up is in black and white, it might make her think twice. I would also be very clear about what you are prepared to contribute. I have a feeling when she realizes the practicality, she will be happy staying where she is. — Sarah H.

What advice would you give this family? Join our Paying for College 101 Facebook Group for free to join this discussion and many others with parents just like you.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Transferring from College to Another: What You Need to Know

When the Grass Looks Greener: The Ins and Outs of Being a Transfer Student

Community College Changed My Life




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