What to Consider When Transferring to a Different College

Each year a large number of student-athletes transfer schools. Either from a Junior College to a four-year institute or from a four-year institute to another four-year program. While the transfer process is tricky enough, it’s a more difficult process for student-athletes.

Depending on where student-athletes are transferring to and from, the process can take months or even longer, and there are various factors to consider; how long the athlete has been at the four-year college and what your grades are how many credit hours you have completed. The NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 levels present a difficult challenge as there are many specific rules based on the athlete’s individual circumstances and college background. If you are planning on transferring you will need to go through your school’s compliance office and athletic department to know what these specific rules are.

Below you will find some of the important steps a student-athlete needs to take all dependent from where you are transferring to and from.

Transferring from an NAIA school to an NCAA school

If you are a student-athlete looking at transferring from an NAIA school to an NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 school you will notice a more complex transfer process. Based on the nature of the transfer you will need to work with your current school’s compliance office to make sure you complete all the required boxes. These include but not limited to.

Step 1: Athletes need to make sure that they qualify as a transfer student.

  • Have you been a full-time student at a two or four-year college during a regular season?
  • Have you practiced with a college team?
  • Have you practiced or competed with a college team while enrolled as a part-time student?
  • Have you received athletic-related financial aid while attending summer school?

Step 2: Athletes need to decide which division level they are going to transfer to and get their initial NCAA eligibility status. 

  • Are you eligible to compete and receive a scholarship as an incoming freshman (Qualifier)
  • If you are non-eligible to compete, practice or receive a scholarship as an incoming freshman (Non-Qualifier)
  • If you are seen as eligible to practice and receive an athletic scholarship, but you were not eligible to compete in your freshman year (NCAA Division 1 and 2)

Step 3: The athlete must get a permission-to-contact letter from their athletic department or compliance office. 

  • A letter from the athlete’s current athletic department or compliance office allowing the athlete to start the recruiting process with another coach. This letter is different from the request to release form. Student-Athletes should be sure to clarify with their current program that they wish to remain on the team while they communicate with their potentially new school.
  • An especially important note: At this point once your permission-to-contact letter has been drafted your current coach is in his rights to look at other athletes to take your place and potentially your scholarship.
  • Is the athlete registered on the NCAA transfer portal?

Step 4: The athlete should determine if they qualify for any exceptions. 

  • Most student-athletes are required to sit out one year at your new school (which equates to two semesters of 12 credit hours). This is called an academic year in residence, and it’s designed to allow students to become comfortable at their new school before they start competing in their sport. However, some athletes do qualify to skip the academic year in residence and start competing immediately based on their academics, sport, desired conference, division level and National Letter of Intent (NLI) status.

Transferring from a four-year school to an NAIA school

The NAIA transfer rules are basically the same for student-athletes coming from a four-year NCAA school or from a four-year NAIA school. The main difference to note is that NCAA student-athletes will need to register with the NAIA Eligibility center, while current NAIA athletes should already have an NAIA Eligibility Center status.

One of the first steps in transferring to a NAIA school is your status as a student-athlete;

  • You’ve taken time off between high school graduation and coming to a NAIA school.
  • You’ve attended a two or four-year college as a student-athlete.
  • Student- Athletes who do qualify as transfer students must comply with the following NAIA transfer rules; residency rules, the 24/36-hour rule, the progress rules and the minimum 2.0 GPA.

Residency rules are for student-athletes who have participated in collegiate sports at a four-year school. These rules mandate that the athlete must wait 16 weeks before participating in that sport at an NAIA school unless the athlete;

  • You have a written release from your most recent athletic department.
  • You have a minimum 2.0 GPA

The 24/36-hour rule means you completed at least 12 credits during each of your past two semesters at your previous four-year college to be able to transfer to an NAIA school. Or else you are on an acceptable academic progress route determined by the NAIA.