Can We Change College in Canada?

can we change college in canada

Canada has one of the best post-secondary education systems in the world, with a wide range of college options. Over 135 colleges and technical institutes exist across the country, according to the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). With quality education, strong graduate employment rates, and obtainable tuition costs—attending college in Canada is an excellent choice for many students. Lets find out if we Can We Change College in Canada.

However, there are a lot of reasons why students may consider transferring to a new college during their academic journey. Your career interests might change, the program at your current college might not be the right fit anymore, or you may want to move closer to family.

Luckily, the Canadian college system is quite flexible and allows students to apply as transfer students, even between provinces. But it does require careful planning and research to ensure credits will carry over to the new school.

This article covers everything you need to know about the transfer process in Canada. We’ll discuss how to determine if switching colleges is the right choice, what’s involved in transferring, important factors around carrying credits, as well as key pros and cons to weigh. Let’s explore if changing colleges in Canada is feasible for your situation!

Deciding If You Should Transfer Colleges

The first step is to determine if transferring colleges is in your best interest. There are several key factors to consider when deciding, including:

Assessing Academic Fit

Why are you considering transferring? Is your current program not offering the right knowledge and skills for your desired career path? Have your academic interests shifted? If you are not thriving and engaged in your program courses, this signals an academic misfit.

Carefully research the programs at other colleges that better align with your academic goals. Do they provide stronger curriculum, training, and learning opportunities related to your chosen field? If yes, then transferring may help get your education back on track.

“I originally studied photography but realized I was more passionate about graphic design. My local college didn’t have that program option, so I transferred to another institution better suited to my interests,” says Clara Wu, now a successful graphic designer.

Considering Lifestyle Fit

Another reason to transfer colleges could involve lifestyle factors if you’re unsatisfied with your current student experience. This includes your living situation, proximity to family and friends, access to transportation or student activities that meet your needs.

Is your program very competitive and stressful? Do you wish you lived closer to home? Have a think about what environment would help you thrive as a student. See what alternative college locations can offer this. But make sure to still prioritize academics first before lifestyle changes.

Evaluating Finances and Scholarships

Affordability is a critical component when comparing colleges as an international or out-of-province transfer student. Carefully add up the tuition and living costs between your current and potential new college to calculate the difference.

Some questions to analyze:

  • Will changing institutions mid-degree cost more overall?
  • Does the new college offer better scholarships or financial aid packages to offset costs?
  • Do you have existing scholarships and how will transferring impact eligibility? You usually can’t defer scholarships when switching schools.

“My $5000 entrance scholarship couldn’t carry over when I transferred, so I had to factor that financial loss into my budget,” notes Megan Lee, a dental hygiene student.

Closely comparing total costs is imperative before finalizing any transfer decisions.

Determining If Credits Will Transfer

Arguably the most vital factor is researching whether your existing course credits and certifications will be able to transfer over to the new college. Otherwise, you risk losing previous progress and having to retake classes.

Thoroughly check the transfer policies at your target institutions. In Canada, most colleges have course transfer agreements in place. But the rules differ whether you’re:

  • Switching programs within the same college
  • Transferring to another college in the same province
  • Applying to an out-of-province college

More competitive programs also typically accept fewer transfer students.

“I completed 2 years in a Psychology program but none of the credits transferred over when I switched my major to Nursing,” says Priya Dewan.

Be prepared that changing subjects altogether could mean starting some courses from scratch. But transferring into the same field may carry over more credits.

Either way, you’ll need to submit official transcripts for assessment to find out exactly which credits will carry over. Make sure you feel comfortable with the number of transfer credits possible before committing to a college transfer. Otherwise, you risk spending more time and money than anticipated finishing your degree at the new institution.

The Transfer Process

If you’ve decided transferring colleges makes sense academically and financially, next comes navigating the actual application process. Here are the key steps involved:

Researching Transfer Requirements

Every Canadian college has their own admission and transfer credit policies that must be followed. Thoroughly review requirements on the new college’s website or by contacting the admissions department.

Provide them with details on your current or previous school, program name, credentials earned so far, and completed courses. Inquire about:

  • Application deadlines: When can you submit your transfer application? How long will it take to process?
  • Prerequisites: Do you need certain high school or post-secondary grades/scores to qualify as a transfer applicant?
  • Competitiveness: How many transfer spots exist? Is there space in your desired program?
  • Documents needed: Do you need to provide high school and all post-secondary transcripts? Letters of reference? Write admission essays?

“I didn’t realize my new college needed my high school transcripts too until after I applied and delayed the process,” remarks Aisha Lalani.

Submitting complete, early applications helps streamline the transfer process.

Completing Application and Transcripts

Once you determine all required documents and deadlines, you can go ahead and apply to your new college of choice! This involves:

  • Paying application fees
  • Requesting official transcripts from all previous Canadian or international colleges attended (often takes 2+ weeks)
  • Writing admission essays if needed
  • Submitting any supplemental documents required

Check if you must send materials directly to the college or use recognized third-parties. Follow all formatting rules and include English translations where necessary.

Using transcript request services like Parchment can help digitize gathering international academic records, advises transfer expert Sheila Murphy.

Accuracy and being detail-oriented goes a long way for successful college transfers!

Awaiting Acceptance Decision

After submitting your transfer application package, comes the waiting period for an admission decision. Time varies but often takes 6-12 weeks to process transfer applications since the college must evaluate eligibility plus assess potential credit transfers.

Possible outcomes include:

  1. Full acceptance: You are accepted directly into your program choice as a transfer student. Now await the credit transfer assessment.
  2. Conditional acceptance: You must complete specific bridge courses, upgrades or meet certain grade/scores first and then can continue in your program.
  3. Program waitlist: There’s no more space but you can reapply next semester when a spot opens up.
  4. Rejection: Unfortunately your application was unsuccessful but you can reapply later or consider other colleges as backup options.

Be patient and try not to worry – with proper planning, you’ll hopefully gain acceptance as a transfer student! Monitor application portals closely for updates on decision status.

Transferring Credits

Once accepted to your new college, the next vital step is determining how many course credits you’ll receive for previous studies and which classes you’ll need to retake.

How Credit Transfers Work in Canada

Canada does not have a centralized system and rules differ between colleges when transferring credits earned at another institution. But most colleges follow informal guidelines from Polytechnics Canada and ACCC:

  • 50-75% of a 2-year diploma/associate degree may be transferable
  • Up to 75% for an incomplete bachelor’s degree
  • For technical/vocational college certificates, typically lower credit percentages apply

However, major exceptions occur in regulated fields like healthcare, engineering technology and business degrees where program content vastly differs between colleges. You’ll likely get fewer credits approved for transfer.

Credit assessment also depends whether your previous institution had recognized accreditation plus comparability of course descriptions/hours between the old and new college programs.

So while reciprocity agreements exist, the new institution ultimately decides which credits carry over – not all may be approved depending on compatibility.

Using Transfer Agreements

The most seamless way to transfer college credits is taking advantage of formal arrangements between institutions. Many neighboring colleges develop policies that guide credit recognition.

For example, the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer oversees agreements that:

“Allow students to transfer credits in a given program from one participating college to another participating college and receive recognition for course work completed.”

This includes a Credit Transfer Guide detailing equivalencies between subject areas/levels at different Ontario colleges.

If such transfer pathways exist between your old and new college, follow the published course mappings when registering for classes. Then most credits should readily carry over and apply towards your new degree.

Appealing Credit Transfer Decisions

What if you disagree with the initial credit assessment after transferring colleges? Fortunately, appealing is possible in some cases.

Some tips if looking to get more credits approved:

  • Review the official credit transfer policies at your new college. Is there an appeals process outlined?
  • Prepare additional details on the course content, learning outcomes, assessments etc. to demonstrate sufficient equivalency.
  • Book an appointment with your program advisor/administrators in the Department or Faculty oversight office to discuss getting more credits recognized.

But note appeals seldom overturn decisions if the original college program lacks proper accreditation. Still, gathering all evidence and clearly communicating the merits of your case is worthwhile to potentially gain a more favourable outcome.

Adjusting to a New College Environment

The exciting part about transferring colleges is having the chance to redefine your student experience. But it also requires openness to embracing changes that come with an unfamiliar environment. Here are some key aspects to ease into:

Making New Friends and Getting Involved

Saying goodbye to existing friends is difficult. However, consider transfer transition as a fresh start socially too. Attend orientation events, chat with students sitting nearby in lectures, join relevant clubs to slowly build new friendship circles with shared interests around your program or hobbies.

Also visit the Student Union online or campus offices to browse what associations, events, volunteer groups exist for transfers to connect with others facing similar adjustments.

“I proactively signed up for a formal transfer student mentorship program. Having someone show me around and relate to my emotions as a transfer was invaluable,” recalls Aman Gupta.

Comparing Academics and Professors

Class structures differ so be prepared to adapt your previous learning strategies. Attend professor office hours, research their teaching styles online or reach out via email for guidance about expectations.

Review course outlines closely to stay aware of new grading approaches, textbook/tech requirements per class or small tweaks in your program’s degree roadmap if the college formatted curriculum slightly varied. Planning ahead smoothens the academics transition.

Taking Time to Adjust

Understand that transferring institutes means relearning aspects of navigating assignments, unfamiliar administrative policies, different campus cultures, and more. Go easy on yourself as you determine how best to balance your studies in this new environment. Don’t rush the adjustment period – slowly but steadily find your groove across the first semester.

Reach out for help earlier rather than later if you feel academically overwhelmed. Most colleges offer free tutoring, writing/language development or disability/accessibility resources to support transfer students getting back on track in their courses. Investigate options before issues compound or affect your grades.

Financial Implications of Transferring

How will attending a different Canadian or international college impact your financial situation, loans, future government aid? Before transferring, clarify these key money considerations:

Repaying Loans After Transferring Provinces

If you received government student loans, most provinces have repayment agreements whereby moving elsewhere in Canada doesn’t require you to start repaying right away if enrolled full-time. Ontario lets students study in a new province up to seven years before having loan balances come due.

But confirm the latest rules in case any province-specific grace periods apply. Also check if existing loans get transferred to the new province, stay federal, or need consolidated into one new loan first.

Qualifying for New Scholarships and Aid

When transferring especially between provinces, you lose eligibility for previously awarded scholarships, grants and aid packages from your past college or home region authority.

But research what merits/entrance-based funding your new college offers mid-degree transfer students. Some have dedicated aid set aside to attract skilled transfers with good grades. Federal or new provincial loan/bursary programs may support eligible transferred students too.

Proactively apply for every relevant award possible to offset the lack of previous free funding. Just ensure any new scholarships/loans balance out increased total tuition and living costs in your calculated budget.

Are There Downsides to Transferring Colleges?

To wrap up, it’s important highlighting key risks or drawbacks associated with changing post-secondary institutions, such as:

Losing Hard-Earned Credits

Earlier we discussed using transfer agreements to maximize carrying over credits. But despite best efforts comparing program curriculum, expect to lose at least a few credits regardless unless the colleges confirm everything transfers 100% ahead of time in writing.

Certain courses won’t have equivalencies at the new school or count towards unrelated degree requirements. Electives tend to fall under this category too. It depends how aligned the overall program structures are but anticipate a credit loss.

Paying More Overall in Tuition

Even with transfer scholarships factored in, switching colleges mid-program often lengthens total study time to graduate if retaking courses. This means paying added year(s) of higher international or out-of-province tuition fees.

Carefully determine if the costs outweigh benefits before transferring since loans accumulate more interest too. Installment payment plans help manage cash flow.

Potentially Delaying Graduation

Depending on the timing of transfers, requirements left for your credential, course schedule availability and processing application delays – transferring colleges could extend your anticipated graduation timeline by one semester or more.

Factor this into work plans post-college. If receiving student visas with expiry periods, these delays may cause issues staying/working legally too. Speak to an international advisor beforehand about impacts.

Key Takeaways

Deciding whether transferring colleges makes sense involves extensive planning academically, financially and regarding your visa/legal status. While adjusting to new environments poses challenges, transferring can reinvigorate your education too. Carefully weigh both pros and cons below:

Potential Benefits

  • Find better program fit for your academic/career goals
  • Access specialties not offered at current college
  • Qualify for new scholarships and financial aid
  • Expand professional network with more peers
  • Gain admission to more competitive programs
  • Improve grades with a fresh academic start
  • Adjust lifestyle factors like living location

Risks to Consider

  • Paying higher international student tuition rates
  • Losing certain non-transferrable course credits
  • Potentially delaying graduation timelines
  • Repaying existing loans once transferring provinces
  • No guarantee credits will transfer as expected
  • Going through admissions process again
  • Readapting to new college’s policies, culture and campus

While transferring colleges requires significant commitment, those who utilize transfer pathways and resources often smoothly continue successful studies. Be informed, proactive and realistic when evaluating options. And an exciting new chapter may await you on the other side!


Association of Canadian Community Colleges

Polytechnics Canada Credit Transfer Guidelines

Alberta Government Career Change Guide

Ontario College Transfer Guidelines

Parchment International Transcript Services

Canada Student Loans Repayment Outside Province

OSAP Ontario Loan Repayment Rules