What Happens to Financial Aid for Transfer Students?

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, about 33% of students choose to transfer schools at least once within their collegiate career. While transferring schools may make you happier in the long run, it’s no easy task, and shouldn’t be done lightly. In fact, a big consideration transfer students might forget about in the shuffle is financial aid. So that leads to the question: “What will happen to my financial aid if I transfer?”

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What Happens to My Financial Aid if I Decide to Transfer?

The answer to this question really depends on the type of financial aid you have: college aid, federal, or private. Here’s a quick rundown of what will happen to your financial aid and what you can do if it’s transferable.

College Aid

If you’re hoping that the financial aid will transfer along with you, don’t hold your breath. 

Prior to applying (and any subsequent years after), you likely filled out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is almost always required to receive financial aid from the college as they use it to determine just how much money you qualify for. 

Every college and university in the country has different endowment programs. Some schools tend to cover large portions of tuition for a large number of students. Other colleges have little to no programs and cannot afford to cover tuition. 

College financial aid is unique to the college you’re attending. While you’re welcome to apply to financial aid programs at your new school, there is no guarantee that the package will be the same. In fact, you may even want to compare packages at various schools to see how they stack up against one another.

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Federal Aid

In many cases, federal student aid can transfer with you, such as loans or the Pell Grant. However, it’s not guaranteed that all of your federal aid will transfer with you. For example, if you were eligible for a work study program at your first school, but if your second college does not have one, you won’t be able to take advantage. And even if your new school does have one, you will still have to apply again to be eligible. 

It’s also important to note that federal aid does not transfer automatically. Students need to get in touch with the Department of Education to start the process.

Private Aid

If you have any private scholarships and grants, they likely won’t be affected by a transfer. It’s still a good idea, though, to get into contact with the provider if it’s a multi-year award or if you’re transferring mid-semester. Some lenders may also want to ask questions about your transfer before switching the money over, so make sure you keep them in the loop about your plans.

Grants and Scholarships

Certain grants and scholarships are only good within a certain area, in a specific state, or at one school. If you are transferring away from the local area or even out of state, your grants and scholarships are unlikely to go with you. Some grants also require you to be majoring in a particular subject to prepare you for a specific career (such as teaching), and if you’re changing majors as well as schools, you might just have to repay that money you received.

Always reach out to the programs to be sure the money transfers over successfully without any issues, too.

What if Your Financial Aid Won’t Transfer With You?

If affording your transfer school is going to be difficult because of financial aid woes, you have a few options:

Complete Your FAFSA

No matter what you decide to do, you should always complete your FAFSA as soon as it becomes available on October 1st of each year. You want to be sure you’re among the first to apply as college aid can and does run out for students. The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll be eligible for things like grants, scholarships, aid, work study, and more through the federal government and your new college.

Apply for Other Scholarships and Grants

Whether you have financial aid problems or not, you should always be applying for scholarships and grants. It’s free money that doesn’t have to be paid back (as long as you stick to the guidelines). If there is a gap between what you have and what you need, these awards can be the bridge that will help you afford your education.

Take Out More Loans

This may be necessary if you have a large change in college grants. If your first school was more generous than your second, you may have to take out loans to cover any remaining expenses. This could be federal and/or private depending on what’s available to you.

Consider Staying at Your Current School

While you may not exactly love your current school, if the numbers just won’t work or you’re receiving a generous financial aid package from the college already, you may want to seriously consider sticking it out. There are reasons you may have to transfer. Things such as a change in a major where the area of study is not offered at your current school, but other reasons may not be as pressing. This is especially true if you only have a year or two left of your education.

Weighing whether or not transferring colleges is right for you is no easy equation. The financial aspect of your education has to be considered in order to make an educated decision for now and in the future. Taking a look at all of your options though can help make your transfer an affordable reality.

If you’re transferring schools but haven’t quite decided on which college you’ll be attending yet, you’ll need to compare financial aid package offers. This will help you identify the best award offers for your education. Plus, you have a real idea of just how much your college experience will cost you. Our Financial Aid Offer Comparison Tool helps you cut through the confusion to give you real details about your packages. Get started for free here.


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