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Why do people Transfer?
People decide to transfer for all manner of reasons; some do it because the course does not match their expectations and some because of personal considerations such as family illness and the need to be closer to home. Others simply don't enjoy themselves where they are or want to "upgrade" to a university they consider to be better. Whatever the reason, many people do transfer each year and it is not as difficult or time consuming as many people assume it to be.
However, it also isn't an easy option and there is absolutely no guarantee that you will be able to transfer at all, let alone to the university you want to transfer to. It is important you are making the decision for the right reasons and, in many instances, taking a gap year is probably a better option if you are already considering a transfer before you have even begun your course. You should not make any plans that are dependent on you definitely being able to make X transfer because you could very well end up disappointed.
However, it should be noted that you can also apply for first year entry to other courses while at university and in that case you may well be in a stronger position than many applicants as you will have university experience, hopefully more knowledge and possibly the expectation of achieving a Certificate/Diploma of Higher Education or certainly the corresponding amount of credits.
First Steps and Initial Correspondence
Initially, before beginning a formal application, you will want to contact the universities you are interested in applying to to ask them whether or not they will formally consider your application. This is because a variety of things may impede your progress before you even begin. Some examples include the fact that not all departments, and indeed universities, accept transfer applicants and that the course you wish to apply for may already be full up which is more likely to be the case if you are applying later in the academic year long after the standard UCAS cycle.
There are two strategies with your initial message and I suggest the latter personally because it may well save you time, gives the impression you have done some research about the process and ultimately has no negative implications that can reasonably be attributed to it.
One: Simply email asking broadly about the prospect of applying for X course. The reply, if positive, will often ask you for some if not all of the things listed below.
Two: Send an email to the admission office, possibly a department specific one, providing the following information:
- Your name and current university course - The university you are currently studying at - The course you are interested in transferring to - Your academic history, specifically your A levels (or equivalent) and the grades you achieved. - The official module names and descriptions (and codes for their easy reference) of every module you are studying that year and the grades you have achieved so far.
The UCAS Application
If one or more of the universities you contact inform you that they will formally consider your application based on the information you have provided then you will need to submit a UCAS application in much the same way as you have previously. The difference being that, when you enter the course choice, you need to state that it is for entry point 2 (or 3 if that is the case) if that is the year you will be entering at.
You will still need to pay for the processing of the application and the same rules apply as for all other applicants with regards to adding choices, changing choices and how much you have to pay. You will still receive decisions via track and will still have to accept or decline them as before with regard to what the offer is, although we cover that a little later.
What about a Reference?
While some universities will accept a reference from an old school teacher, much the same as your original application, many wont and those that do will still prefer something far more recent. The guidance from university admissions staff is that the reference should be made by somebody who is an academic member of staff at the university you attend and that the more senior their position the better. You of course need to strike a balance between this and ensuring the reference is representative of your abilities and, as such, many people choose to provide a reference from a class teacher rather than a senior lecturer, for example, which may ostensibly seem the better choice.
It is possible that the member of staff will never have had to write such a reference before so you need to be prepared to offer them guidance on this if they request it (although in my experience they will request it from the university they are providing he reference to). Much the same as your original reference it should outline how you are as a student and highlight your academic strengths and why they recommend you for study on your proposed course.
Here is where having a personable demeanor and having made good impressions on staff will serve you well. You should be aware that it can take quite a long time for a reference to be provided, especially if it is being provided by somebody with a great many commitments, so it is important to get the ball rolling on this swiftly.
What about a Personal Statement?
You will need to provide a personal statement with your application and ultimately it has the same requirements as for other applicants. Some people do choose to include information about why they want to make the switch here although this will often be asked by admissions staff and passed on to the relevant person(s) separately.
This is your chance to show them that you have used your year well and to communicate to them that you are the kind of person they want at their university. Different people employ different strategies here with some people targeting the university specifically if they are only applying to one and talking about why the specifics of that course interest them and some simply relay their interests and motivations and treat it the same as other PSs written for the standard UCAS application. There is no right or wrong answer, but the aim remains constant - to present a case for you being worth an offer.
What will my offer be contingent upon?
Essentially, anything they want it to be contingent upon.
Firstly, it is often - although not always - the case that your A levels must be at least reasonably similar to those of other students on the proposed course and policy on that will vary. Of course, a slight deficiency here can possibly be mitigated by improved attainment, evidenced in this case by the grades you are achieving at university currently.
Secondly, your offer will almost always (I say almost because, although I've never seen this not be the case, It would be inappropriate for me to say it with complete certainty) be contingent on obtaining a certain grade for the stage of study you are currently at. This may range simply from needing to pass the year, to having to achieve X percentage (often a 2:1) or to having to achieve a certain result in specific modules as well as meeting other conditions such as the aforementioned.
The onus will be on you to provide proof that you meet any conditions asked of you before your offer becomes unconditional and this will include providing A level documents (they often accept scans) and proof of your university results. You should be mindful of any deadlines for proving this poof and be proactive in providing it!
Other actions and considerations
Obvious though it may seem, you have to remember to inform student finance about the change of circumstance and, dependent on the specifics, this may involve beginning a new application for finance which, if you are applying late in the day, may mean resubmitting financial information and other documents they require. Of course you should consult them about this but it is definitely something you need to consider.
As well as all of the above it is perfectly possible that you may have a phone conversation with staff at the university you have applied to in which you are asked about the course so you should not enter into the process without having done enough research to be able to provide a cogent, convincing case for why you have made the decision should it be required of you.
Transferring courses within the same university
While this thread is primarily concerned with transferring to a university other than the one you attend, it is common for questions to be asked about this so I thought I should include it. University policy, indeed departmental policy, will vary but generally the following is true. There are two main times you can transfer internally without having to restart the year.
At the beginning of the year
The exact window will vary, as will the availability and ease of the option as some universities offer this as a promulgated matter of course and others simply make provision for it if a student presents a case for it. Generally, your academic attainment prior to university - A Levels etc - will be the determining factor of whether or not the switch is approved but thee may also be a discussion akin to an informal interview with somebody relevant beforehand.
At the end of the year
Most universities (perhaps all) allow this, but you usually have to meet the same module prerequisites with regards to core modules as other students. For example, if you study course X and choose elective module Y which happens to be the only core module for course Z then in most cases you will be allowed to switch. Most common is people switching from joint honors to one of the two constituent subjects alone as they always satisfy the progression prerequisites with regard to module choice.
Practice may vary massively at some universities and it is always better to call or email them and ask in advance of any binding decisions as obviously the advice your university provides is of far more use to you.