Impact of Transferring High Schools


A slight detour from my pontification about admissions myths (with apologies to my editor who is trying mightily to keep me on track).

After many years in admissions, reading thousands of applications, and answering tens of thousands of questions, I’m still always finding new issues. The latest was raised by a student at an amazing event here at Mason this summer, the Washington Journalism and Media Conference. The student is transferring high schools in her senior year, wonders how colleges will interpret her records, and whether she needs to do anything different in her application process.

This issue actually comes up all the time, generally caused by students moving or finding that a particular high school wasn’t a good fit. The difference is that now a number of students are changing schools in their senior year largely due to the economic downturn – some moving districts for parents’ work or more reasonably price housing, others switching from private to public schools (or just to less expensive private schools).

Fortunately, this is an easy issue to address. Colleges and universities are VERY experienced in reading transcripts that include multiple high schools, and your new school will work with you to make sure your records are appropriately transferred so they can all be included. As a result, transferring schools doesn’t place you at any particular disadvantage or advantage from the college standpoint. High schools that provide rank in class have various ways of calculating the rank for transfers – some advantage them, some disadvantage them, while many just leave transfers out of the rank calculation, especially if coming to the school as late as senior year. In any event, we’re used to seeing all of that as well, so I wouldn’t worry about it the minimal, if any, impact.

Some students will choose to make the transfer a topic of their essay. I find that works best when the student is making the change for academic reasons – finding a high school that, for whatever reason, allows the student to perform better, but I caution that this essay only works if supported by an upswing in academic performance. If the reason you are transferring is social or monetary, it may merit some explanation, but I would make that an addition to your record, rather than the focus of your essay. You should also know that your financial status is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS, and it’s entirely up to you how much you share. You may want to and/or be required to submit your financial records to the financial aid office (and at some sneakier schools the admissions offices have full access to those records), but in general admissions officers don’t need any of them.

So, sleep well with the comforting thought that transferring high schools is very unlikely to have impact on your admission process…now you can focus on the more important issue of getting a date by homecoming. Next time I promise to try to get back to the myths of college admissions – if nothing else that should make my editor happy. Be seeing you.

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3 Responses

  1. I just recently discovered this website, and as Mason is my #1 pick, I was hoping you could answer a few quick questions for me. 1) When does Mason begin accepting applications each year? 2) Does Mason’s essay question change every year, or is it always the same?

    See- I meant it when I said quick 😉

    • You demonstrate exceptional taste in schools!

      The application should be live on August 1 (he said hpoefully watching his computer elves swarm over the new system). We’ve been tweaking our essay a bit from year to year, particularly the essay for scholarship/honors consideration, but it has stayed pretty similar…

  2. hello dean flagel. I met you over the summer at the WJMC and as a matter of fact, I proposed this original question to you! (i’m not sure if you remember, but I felt special saying so, so I threw it in! ). I sincerely appreciate you writing this blog. It has been an incredible help, and while my adjustment to my new school has been somewhat rough, I am doing quite well academically.
    once again, I thank you for this blog and for doing so much for the school because i am definitely looking into mason as the school for me. Hopefully, other students are responding to your great advice, and how valuable it is.
    take care!
    -ashley b.

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