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How to Transfer High Schools: A Complete Guide


Are you transferring high schools or will be transferring soon? Are you wondering how this will affect your high school transcripts, when you'll graduate, and how schools view your college applications? Then this guide is for you!

Read on to learn how to transfer high schools, what it means for your future, and the steps you can take in order to make this process as smooth and easy as possible.


What Does It Mean to Transfer High Schools? How Do You Start the Process?

When someone says they are transferring schools, what does that actually mean? When you transfer high schools, that means you are un-enrolling in one high school and enrolling in a different one. This does not include graduating from middle school and then starting high school, which is a regular academic progression and not categorized as transferring.

Transferring is typically done over the summer, but it can also take place during the school year. Different schools and states have different processes for transferring, and the amount of work you need to do can vary depending on if you're staying in the same school district or transferring to a completely new one.

Your parents and people at both your old and new schools will likely help guide you through the transfer process, but it typically begins with submitting an application to the school you would like to attend. If you are younger than 18 years old, you will need your parent/guardian to submit your transfer request. Transfer applications will typically ask for some identifying information, proof of residency, medical forms, and transcripts from your current high school.

If you request a transfer because you are moving or because of a serious issue, such as bullying, it will likely be accepted, but not every transfer request is approved. Typically, it's easier to transfer schools if you are an underclassman rather than an upperclassman.


What Happens After You Get Approval to Transfer?

Transferring does not happen immediately, and you often have to apply a few weeks or months before you want to switch schools. You will be required to attend your current school until your transfer request is approved and you start at your new school.

Once you are approved to attend a new school, you may take placement tests so that you are placed in the classes best suited for you. Either before or right when you start classes at your new school, you will meet with an academic adviser who will help plan your schedule for you.

Many schools have informal gatherings for new students to help transfer students meet new people and learn more about the school. As soon as your application is approved at your new school, you are a full-fledged student there, and you can join or try out for different sports and clubs. It's highly recommended that you do this since participating in extracurriculars is a great way to meet new people and feel more connected to your new school.




Why Do People Transfer High Schools?

What causes students to transfer to a new high school? Below are the three most common reasons to transfer high schools.


Reason #1: They Move to a New Area

This is, by far, the most common reason people transfer high schools. When your parents move to a different place, you often can't continue studying at your current school.

This can be a move across the country, or simply a move to the neighboring town. Because moving out of the area can make it impossible to attend your current school and it's something high school students don't have much control over, these transfer requests are basically always approved.

If the move is sudden, many schools can make accommodations so that you can begin attending classes right away (lucky you!); however, it's best to get this process started early if you know you will be moving in the future.


Reason #2: They Find a Particular School They Want to Attend

Sometimes, you aren't moving, but you find a new high school you prefer to your current one and want to transfer to it. The new school could have better academics, extracurriculars, or an alternative teaching method you prefer. You may also have gotten accepted into a selective high school where you had to apply for admission.

Be aware that, if you are trying to move from one school in your district to another, your district may have certain policies in regards to what reasons are acceptable for transferring. Your transfer request may not always be approved.


Reason #3: They Don't Like Their Current School

In other cases, you don't want to transfer to go to a great school you've already chosen, you simply don't want to attend your current school anymore. This can happen if a student is feeling bullied, has had trouble making friends, or doesn't learn well from the school's teaching style. In rare occasions, a student may also be forced to leave a school for disciplinary reasons.


Common Questions Students Have When They Transfer High Schools

Once your transfer request is approved, that doesn't mean all the work is over! Transferring can cause some wrinkles in your high school plans, but if you are aware of potential challenges and start planning early for how you'll deal with them, you'll minimize unpleasant surprises and frustrations down the road. Below are three of the most common questions about how to transfer high schools, and for each one advice is given for how you can minimize problems.


Question 1: Will All My Old Credits Transfer to My New School?

If you are transferring from one public school to another within the same state, you likely won't have an issue with this. However, if you are moving to a new state or switching from a public school to a private school (or vice versa), not all of your credits may transfer over.

In the majority of cases, all or most of your classes will transfer just fine, but occasionally your new school will not accept credit for one or more of your classes. This will typically happen because those classes do not meet certain requirements your new school has, such as covering certain topics, meeting for the required number of hours, or including certain exams.

If this happens to you, your new school will not award you credit for that class, it won't show up on your new transcript, and it will appear (to your new school) as if you never took that class. If enough of your classes don't transfer over, this may cause your graduation date to be delayed because you'll have to take extra classes to make up for the credits that didn't transfer.


How to Minimize Problems

This can be a frustrating situation because you aren't getting credit for classes you've taken and passed. However, this isn't a problem for most students and, even if it is, you will likely have enough other credits that you won't need to take summer classes or delay your graduation.

Talk to your new academic adviser right after you start your new school to learn if any of your old credits didn't transfer and, if so, how that will affect you. If you think you should get credit for a certain class, discuss that will your adviser. Often schools can be flexible about which classes they accept.


Question 2: Will My GPA Stay the Same?

Many students who transfer high schools are understandably concerned about what happens to their GPA when they switch schools. Will they keep their current GPA? Will it be completely erased when they start at a new school?

The short answer is that it depends on your new school; every school has its own policy for how it handles the GPAs of transfer students. However, in most cases one of two things will happen: either you'll keep your current GPA and it will only change when you get new grades at your new school, or your new school will recalculate your current GPA so it fits with their grading patterns. For example, if your old school gave pluses and minuses on your transcript but your new school doesn't, your new school may recalculate your GPA without those pluses and minuses so it matches the GPA grading patterns of the rest of the students. Even if this happens, it likely won't change your GPA significantly, so try not to worry about it too much.


How to Minimize Problems

The best thing to do here is to talk to your new guidance counselor and learn if and how your GPA will be affected by transferring. Do this as soon as possible so that everyone is on the same page and you aren't surprised in a semester when grades come out and your GPA isn't what you expected.




Question 3: Will Transferring High Schools Affect My College Applications?

Sometimes students are worried that transferring schools and having two transcripts will negatively affect their college applications. The good news is that, on its own, transferring high schools won't have any negative impact on your college applications. Colleges understand that transferring schools is a common occurrence, and many times the student doesn't have control over if it happens (such as if your parents decide to move).

You will typically have to submit transcripts from each of the high schools you attended but, again, colleges are used to this and will be fine with it. The only time transferring high schools will have a negative impact on your college applications is if your grades dropped significantly or you transferred due to behavioral or disciplinary reasons.


How to Minimize Problems

In most cases, transferring high schools will give you nothing to worry about when applying to colleges. However, if your grades dropped a lot before and/or after you transferred, or you were expelled or had similar serious discipline issues, colleges may be wary of accepting you.

The best way to combat this is to be open about the issue and explain it. You can do this in your personal statement, or many schools have a space in their applications for students to explain any additional information they'd like the school to have. When you explain, be honest about what happened and give specific examples of how you've improved since then.


Question 4: What New Graduation Requirements Do I Need to Meet?

You may find that your new school has different graduation requirements than your previous school did. This is especially likely to happen if your new high school is in a different state since high school graduation requirements are often determined by state.

Sometimes meeting these new graduation requirements means your schedule looks a little odd. For example, I went to high school in Illinois, and every person who graduates high school in Illinois has to take a driver's education class (the driving part is not required if you don't plan on getting your license). In my class, there were two 18 year-old guys who had transferred here from another state that didn't require driver's ed. As a result, these students, who had had their licenses and been driving for two years, were stuck taking a basic driving class.


How to Minimize Problems

Again, talk to your academic adviser right away to learn what your new school's graduation requirements are. Work with your adviser to plan out your class schedule for each semester until you graduate. If you need to take extra classes, see if it's possible to take them over the summer so that you graduate on time. You may also be able to fulfill certain requirements, such as health or typing, by taking an online class. Figuring this out early will help you stay on track and avoid any surprises when it comes time to graduate.



Stay aware of your graduation requirements so you can graduate on time like this guy.



Transferring high schools can seem stressful and challenging, but it doesn't have to be! Once your transfer request has been approved, start researching how the transfer will affect different academic areas such as your transcript, course credits, and graduation requirements.

Early on, work with your adviser and teachers at your new school to develop class schedules, so you know which classes you need to take and when you will graduate. If you are prepared and know what to expect, chances are transferring high schools will be a smooth process.


What's Next?

Considering doing some online classes to complete your graduation requirements? Check out our guide to see if online high school is the right choice for you.

Sometimes taking an independent study can help you get required classes out of the way. Check out our guide on how to set up an independent study.

Want to know what your course options are in high school? We have a complete list of high school classes for you to look through!



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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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