Jorge de la Riva Jr., transferred from the University of Texas at San Antonio to the University of Houston to follow his goal of majoring in chemical engineering. De la Riva has severe hemophilia A. He’s not alone in craving a change. More than 1/3 of first-time students transfer at least once before earning their bachelor’s degrees, according to a 2015 report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Further, almost half of those who transferred did so more than once.
After her grades dropped in high school, Nikole Scappe, who has von Willebrand disease, took time off to figure out her next steps. She then enrolled in community college. Now the native of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, attends La Roche College, a four-year school in Pittsburgh.
Like Scappe, some students transfer from two-year to four-year schools. Others, like de la Riva, change for financial reasons or for a better fit. For any student, doing your homework before starting the transfer process is key. And when you have a bleeding disorder, your research should include academic and nonacademic considerations.
If you’re mulling over an academic move, consider these do’s and don’ts:
DO confirm the new school is accredited. “This is the No. 1 thing students need to know,” says Don Molter, MS Ed, a veteran career counselor at the Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center in Indianapolis. Lack of accreditation is a particular concern with for-profit schools. If these schools close, students’ credits can be useless. “Talk to your social worker at your hemophilia treatment center (HTC) about which schools are accredited,” Molter advises. “That’ll save you tons of money and heartache.”
DON’T end up drowning in loans. If you can’t afford the school of your dreams, reconsider. “Right now, with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you’re only allowed to get a student loan up to $3,500 per year,” says Molter.
If you’re interested in a scholarship, don’t assume your bleeding disorder alone makes you eligible, Molter cautions. “You need a well-rounded résumé,” he says. That means involvement in school activities, volunteering in the community and working or interning in your field.
DO confirm admissions standards. “Most colleges want a full year of credits,” Molter notes. Be aware that those requirements can vary by school. Start the process the semester before you want to transfer, because it takes time to get letters of recommendation from professors and to confirm necessary credits.
DO consider registering as a student with a disability. If you have a severe bleeding disorder, this step may protect you if you miss a class for health reasons or need certain accommodations. “There are a lot of resources that are given to students that we might not need, like priority registration, but that are good to have,” de la Riva says. “I never want to choose between academics and health.”
DON’T forget your medical needs. Consider how far you’ll have to walk between classes at the new school, and whether you’re physically able to do so. If you self-infuse and will live on campus, confirm that you can have a refrigerator for supplies. Find out if supplies can be delivered, if needed. “Know where the nearest HTC is, contact them and get to know the staff on a personal level,” says de la Riva. The HTC staff can help you manage these tasks. Plus, they can assist with the adjustments you’ll need to make. Remember: They’re on your team and you’re never alone.
DO consider disclosing, as appropriate. You don’t need to tell everyone you meet about your health, but consider sharing with close contacts, especially roommates and professors. “Don’t ignore or pretend you don’t have a bleeding disorder,” says Scappe. “I’ve learned your health comes first, then your family, then school.”
Ultimately, when you’re transferring schools, consider how you will manage your hemophilia and your schoolwork. Thinking through your plan ahead of time will help you have a successful transition to your new campus.