As a high school student, Ai My Thai enrolled in Green River College in Washington, spent three years at Community College and earned his high school diploma and two associate degrees in science and engineering. The Vietnamese student was then transferred to Georgia Institute of Technology.
International students may consider transferring a school for reasons ranging from cost to whether they are not yet prepared for a four-year university or a school is not a good fit for them.
Thai, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in December 2019 in aerospace engineeringsays that his educational journey in the United States gave him “more time to get used to the culture, how the American school works and how to communicate in English.”
Before considering any transfer option, experts suggest international students take English proficiency tests, such as the TOEFL, and all required college entrance exams. Students should check with the institution to which they plan to transfer for their specific requirements.
Here are three transfer options international students can consider:
- Transfer from a university in the country of origin.
- Transfer of a two-year stay in the United States community college.
- Transfer from a four-year American university to another American school.
Transferring from a university to the country of origin
Prospective international students may feel more comfortable first taking classes at a school in their home country and then transferring to the United States. college or university.
“If you are considering transferring from a university in your home country to an American university, it is important to begin the process as early as possible because you will likely need to obtain an evaluation of the courses you took in your country,” explains Christina Khan, director of UCF Global at University of Central Florida.
Khan says course evaluations can take several weeks, so it’s important to start early to avoid missing admissions deadlines. And she says that due to differences in academic systems, “some credits may or may not transfer to your new school in the United States and your GPA may be calculated differently.”
Experts recommend applying months in advance to ensure students have enough time to complete application requirements and also be aware that deadlines may be different than for first-year applicants. They suggest international students contact individual universities they are considering applying to for their transfer policy.
Transfer from a two-year American community college
Prospective international students who are not yet ready for a four-year university or who need time to work on their GPA may consider starting at a U.S. community college and then transferring to a university, usually to begin their freshman year .
“Students looking to attend an American university are best served by starting at a community college,” says Heidi Russell-Kalkofen, a counselor at Montgomery College in Maryland and previously worked as the school’s international student coordinator.
She says attending a community college first is a strategic decision that can help preserve funds, give students a better initial classroom experience and solidify relationships with a community. Community colleges also “specialize in helping new immigrants transition to living and working in the United States,” she says.
Experts advise students to take courses that transfer and meet regularly with their advisor to help them stay on track to meet transfer requirements.
A community college can provide access to more competitive four-year institutions as a third-year transfer student.
Russell-Kalkofen says that when students leave a community college, they have already proven themselves in American higher education. “In Maryland, for example, most institutions do not require standardized test scores from a student who has completed a associate degree from a community college in Maryland,” she said.
Thai says that aspect of transferring from a community college appealed to him. “Georgia Tech did not require an SAT score or essays from transfer applicants,” she says.
Students who attend a community college take the same general education courses required as part of a bachelor’s degree, but at a lower cost than at a four-year institution. For example, tuition and fees for international students at Coastal Community College in Washington cost on average 50 to 70 percent less than those at public and private universities, according to the school’s website.
“Open admissions policies, strong English programs and attractive transfer agreements make the US baccalaureate suddenly accessible through US Community College for more international students,” says Stacy Bustillos, associate director of services to international students and awareness of Northern Virginia Community College .
For spring 2023, NOVA has enrolled approximately 700 F-1 students from 104 countries across the school’s six campuses. Many of these students will likely continue their college education for four years.
Once the concept of community college is understood, usually by word of mouth through friends and family already in the United States, Bustillos says international students who thought an American education was out scope “are quickly encouraged to seize the opportunity by taking the alternative route of community college.” community college offerings.
Transferring from a four-year US university to another US school
International students who find that the American school they chose to attend is not quite what they expected have the opportunity to transfer to another American university that is a better fit for them.
“It is important to understand that there are two transfer processes: the academic transfer, which includes admission and an evaluation of the credits that will transfer to your new school, and the immigration transfer of your file from the immigration system information about students and exchange visitors to your new school,” says Khan. The U.S. government uses SEVIS to maintain information about international students.
Khan says academic transfer needs to happen first. Once a student is admitted to the new school, he or she can request that the current school transfer the SEVIS record so that the new school can issue an I-20, a form that certifies that the student is eligible for the program academic student F-1 or M. -1 professional student status.
“International students typically work with the International Student Services office to finalize their immigration transfer,” says Khan, especially with the designated school officialor DSO, which helps them maintain their legal status to study in the United States
The transfer release date is the date the student’s SEVIS record is electronically transmitted to the new school. “It is important that international students choose their requested SEVIS release date carefully and work with their school’s designated official if they are unsure which date to choose. If transferring mid-semester, students should continue to attend classes at the time of transfer. at school until the SEVIS exit date,” Khan says.
She says students continue to maintain their legal immigration status during the transfer process and should be sure to follow their DSO’s instructions at the transfer school for timely issuance of their I-20.
Having chosen to transfer from an American community college to a four-year school, Thai believes she made the right choice. She graduated from Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Analytics program in May 2023 and works as data scientist in an aeronautical company based in California.
The transfer option, she says, “gave me a leg up on others in terms of time and allowed me to better experience different fields.”