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The Biggest Mistakes Transfer Students Make

02/05/2014 11:06 am ET | Updated Apr 07, 2014

Choosing which college to attend is a huge decision, and not everyone gets it right on the first try. In fact, one-third of all college students transfer schools at least once during their college career. At the University of Texas at Arlington alone, more than 8,000 transfer students enrolled in fall 2012, according to U.S. News.

With that many students transferring colleges, you would think that the process would be a simpler one -- but it's not. It's far too easy to miss a deadline or to forget to send a document, causing you to lose your spot at your dream school. The following tips can help students to avoid transfer credit fails, financial aid missteps, and new-school shell shock.

Mistake #1: Not talking to schools on both ends of the process.

"There are academic advisers and faculty at colleges to help students make decisions, but no one is perfect and mistakes can happen," Michele Ramsey, an associate professor at Penn State Berks, says. If a student relies only on the information they receive on one end and doesn't check it against the other school (or schools), they may end up with an incorrect or incomplete picture.

So do your own homework -- literally and figuratively. While college advisors and career centers are there to help you navigate the transfer process, don't rely on them or anyone else to give you all of the answers. Advisors are a great source of advice and information, but they can't possibly know every detail about every college's requirements. So make sure you do your own research, and then use advisors and faculty members at your current school and prospective schools to fill in any remaining gaps.

Learning to navigate and compare colleges yourself will pay off in the long run. "Not only will you help make sure that you don't make mistakes that cost you when you transfer, but you'll have a better overall understanding of your program and its requirements," Ramsey says.

Mistake #2: Losing transfer credits.

All too often, students wait until too late in their college careers to ask why a certain class didn't transfer. Even if you don't need the credit right away, you may need it in the future. So ask transfer credit questions as soon as possible, says Aimee Viggiani, associate director of transfer admissions at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

It's also usually the case that schools require students to take a certain number of classes in their major at their graduating institution; so if you take too many at your first college, they may not all transfer.

To avoid this, students can use a college credit transfer tool. This tool, which is available on most colleges' websites, allows students to enter courses that they have taken or plan to take to see how the credits match up to their intended transfer school's requirements. If a school doesn't have an electronic version, they will often have one in paper format. With all that being said, don't get too hung up on lost credits, Viggiani advises. "Losing 3 credits is probably not the end of the world in the long run if it gets you to your first choice school, and eventually the career you are looking for," she says.

Mistake #3: Missing a school's financial aid deadline.

A school's financial aid deadline is not necessarily the same as its admissions deadline. To avoid missing out on scholarships for transfer students, apply for both aid and admission as early as possible. "Once you receive your award letter, make sure to discuss it with someone in the financial aid department, as they may be aware of additional scholarships available to students in your major," Viggiani says.

Keep in mind that your financial aid package will probably change when you transfer schools, so fill out your FAFSA early to make sure that you can afford to attend the school of your choice.