Changing your mind about the school you are attending can happen any time, including the middle of the school year. There is no need to wait until summer to transfer. However, transferring between semesters means there is less time to get everything in order before classes start at your new school. It is crucial that you stay on top of the financial aid process, as it is up to you to make the transition smooth.
Financial Aid Doesn’t Transfer
While you can transfer schools, your financial aid can’t. This doesn’t mean you won’t be offered similar financial aid – it just means that your specific aid package doesn’t transfer from one school to another. Each school uses the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine how much to award you. While the amount of federal funding will likely be the same no matter where you go as long as you have a need, institutional funds vary. Do not be surprised if your award letter at the new school is different than it was at the old school.
Updating Your FAFSA
To receive financial aid at the new school, you must add the new school's information to your FAFSA. Ask for the new school code. Then go to the FAFSA website and log in -- you will need your name, social security number and FAFSA pin. Changes can be made by phone by calling (800) 4FED-AID. You can select multiple schools on the FAFSA -- the schools you list all receive a copy of your Student Aid Report. The FAFSA can take a few days to process, but it may take the school several weeks or longer to calculate your award. Your new school will request a financial aid transcript from the old school before awarding your federal student aid to make sure the award is in compliance with federal aid limits and policies.
Pay the Right School
If you financial aid has already been awarded and disbursed – as in, the funds are in your pocket – you are expected to attend the school who gave you the money. You cannot use the financial aid proceeds to pay for the costs of attending another college. If you have received your disbursement, you need to contact your old school immediately, let them know that you will be transferring and ask about the procedure for canceling your financial aid. You will need to repay the money you have received. Walking away from the old school does not cancel your classes – be sure to officially withdraw.
You cannot collect financial aid at two institutions at the same time. Your former school has to cancel your financial aid before the new school can award it. If you receive an overpayment or over-borrow as a result of the transfer, it can impact your future financial aid, making it tough or impossible to receive additional funding until you repay it.
- FastWeb: How Do I Transfer Financial Aid from One College to Another?
- Federal Student Aid: Financial Aid Transcript
- Indiana University – Bloomington: Transfer Schools
- Oregon State University: Applying for Aid as a Transfer Student
- Slippery Rock University – Financial Aid: Students Transferring to SRU
- The University of Texas at Dallas: Frequently Asked Questions
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.