The Costs Associated with Transferring from College

[GUIDE] Costs of Transferring From College

You invest so much time and money into your children’s sports interests when they are young in order for them to achieve their dreams of playing college sports. You pay for them to play on travel teams. You drive them to and from practices and competitions, sometimes over an hour or two each way. You miss work and sacrifice other things so your child can be in the running for an opportunity to play collegiately.

It is easy to be enamored with the college or university that sends the first letter, or makes the first call or offer, to your child. You see your child smile with satisfaction and get excited because a school is noticing them for athletic skill.

However, playing college sports takes a lot of work, and finding the right college is crucial to your child graduating from the college they choose first.

Finding the right college fit takes an immense amount of work and a commitment from the family to get it right the first time. It means choosing the college that best suits the needs and desires of your son or daughter, as well as sports ability. If your child chooses a college that does not fit, the chances of him or her wanting to transfer increases significantly.

The college transfer rates are higher than ever. According to a 2018 study by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), 13% of the current college student athletes in Division I transferred from another school. In Division II, the percentage of transfers was even higher: 18%.

Why is there so much transferring? The answer is that athletes, and their families, are not doing enough work to find the school that is right for them academically, culturally and athletically from the get-go. Finding a good college fit takes work, time and patience, which are all worth it for your child to find a college to stay in for their whole college career.

Of course, there may be circumstances that make transferring sensible. Aside from these, it will save time, money and life disruption if you and your child can avoid it with a well-thought-out choice the first time.

Here are some of the costs associated with transferring to a new school and new sports program.

Female sitting on floor of locker room with hands on knees looking sad

Emotional Costs

The emotional toll from learning that a college and athletic program are not a fit, and then having to start the recruiting process all over again, is no small thing. As your child begins to figure out that he/she is unhappy with the college choice, the anguish begins to grow.

Many thoughts and questions follow. What to do next? Who to talk to? When to do it? What are the consequences? How to do it?

Your child begins to withdraw mentally, and sometimes physically, from the team, practices and competitions. Your child may become injured from not taking care of him or herself with the athletic and academic workload that is demanded from athletes. Grades may even fall. It’s not a fun process.

There are many reasons your child is unhappy:

  • not fitting in with the team or coaching staff
  • not getting enough playing time
  • not able to keep up with the workload of academics and athletics
  • not enjoying the campus community
  • not enjoying the courses
  • finding it all too difficult

When your child makes the decision to leave the college, she or he will have to tell the team and coaches. This can be emotionally tough. It’s very difficult to tell members of the team, whom you have practiced and trained with for hours, that you want to leave.  It’s not easy to tell the coaches who invested time and money to recruit you, who may have given you financial aid, that you are not coming back.

Helping your child through this time may be difficult for you as well. Your child is unhappy, and you may feel helpless, angry or sometimes even responsible. You may not know how to help him or her.

The emotional costs continue into the next college situation. When your child arrives at the new college, he or she is, in effect, starting over again. Building relationships with new teammates and coaches will take time. Understanding new team rules and college policies will also take time.

He or she will have to find new college buildings, classes and best ways to get around campus. There will be new athletic facilities to navigate.

There will be new paperwork to submit for the new athletic and admissions departments.

Woman looking at computer with pen in hand wearing black shirt

Costs of Starting the Recruiting Process Again

The recruiting process begins all over again when your child decides to transfer. This requires another investment for you. There is more research to do. Everything you had to find out about the college, coaches and community for the first college has to begin again.

New research, new visits, new phone calls to new people, new questions for coaches and more time and money are back again.  Your commitment begins all over again. It’s hard to know where to begin and how to begin another time.

You begin to break it down. You’re in a position where things have to be done quickly. It is usually the end of a semester, or end of a year, when the transferring happens, so rushed visits and decisions have to be made. Rushed deadlines have to be met. You hope it works out the second time.

With that said, much of this new “re-search” lies in the hands of the student athlete. From the experience, your child becomes more aware of what he/she really wants, likes and dislikes. Your child can now see what his or her future college should look like.

This self awareness and realization of what is important to the student athlete is what Find My Team helps student athletes learn BEFORE beginning the college recruiting process, as opposed to AFTER.

Academic Costs

When your son or daughter decides to transfer, the sports activities cease with the team and coaches, but the academics continue. Your child has to finish the semester or year in hopes that the majority, or some portion, of the class credits will transfer to the new school. You should not assume that all the credits will transfer.

If the new college accepts many of the credits from the old college, the student athlete can stay on track for graduation. However, oftentimes, the new college will not accept all of the previous credits, and, therefore, it adds to the time your child will be in college. Based on my experience, when a student athlete transfers, he/she will have to add another year of college to graduate.

Woman with glasses and blue shirt punching numbers in calculator and holding paper

Financial Costs

There are new financial obligations even if your child receives another scholarship. Sometimes, the new college doesn’t offer what your child received in aid from the previous school. In this case, you may have to make up the difference.

The cost of moving your child to the new location, finding a new apartment and co-signing another lease or rental agreement are some examples of new costs. Having to take more classes because they all didn’t transfer from the previous college, living in a more expensive city or higher rent in a new apartment could also become additional costs.

If the new college is further away, there may be added flight and hotel costs during the move and for visits later, as well as taking more time away from work.

Female team huddle with backs to camera wearing white jerseys

Cost to the Program at the Previous College

There is also the cost to the program that your child leaves. Even though your child is leaving and may not care about the previous program anymore, it is worth noting this to understand the effects on others when someone transfers. It affects everyone in both the previous program and the new one.

The team is often mentally and emotionally affected when someone leaves the program. The connection between team members becomes stronger over time, but it is hard to lose people in the middle of the journey when the team has learned to depend on each other. There is a hole, even if the player who left did not play much.

The coaches have to find a new player for the position lost, perhaps quickly. They will spend more time and money traveling to watch new players at new tournaments or high school games. Their process starts over again, too, for the position vacated.

How to Avoid the Cost of Transferring

The best way to avoid having to transfer is to make the right college and athletic choice the first time. Doing this is not easy; it takes a lot of work.

You can help your child balance the thrill of being recruited by colleges with thinking about which college would be a place where he/she can be happy and productive. It should be a place where the college wants him/her for the athletic program, but also where he/she can pursue academic and cultural interests.

If you need more help with the college recruiting process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can help. Set up a free appointment so we can help you get started.


  1. NCAA 

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