The decisions that are made regarding college have a lifelong impact on the student-athlete and his family. This is why the decision doesn’t come easy and should be carefully considered before any commitments are made. The choices can affect the jobs you get, who you decide to start a family with, the area you decide to settle in, and even the friends you keep for life.
Take Your Time and Make the Right Decision
It’s because of these impacts that a knee jerk reaction isn’t warranted. Unfortunately due to pressure, fear, excitement, lack of truth, and a variety of other descriptors describing what many athletes deal with on a yearly basis, these knee jerk reactions are exactly what we see.
It is a common misconception that “If I don’t like it, I will just transfer out.” We hear this a lot and I believe student-athletes and their families need to be informed on the realities around college transferring. It isn’t as easy as some make it out to be.
A Confusing Process
The rules around college transfers are about as confusing as they come. The NCAA tried to make the process a little simpler by creating The NCAA Transfer Guide which I reference several times in this article. The only reason you need to be paying attention to the transfer rules as a student-athlete is if you are determined to be a “transfer student-athlete”. The NCAA Guide refers to this as a person who has been enrolled full time at a two or four-year institution during fall or spring semesters or has ever practiced and/or played with a college team.
Permission to Contact
If you determined yourself as a transfer student-athlete you must approach your instituition’s athletic department to receive what is known as “permission to contact”. This is a letter signed by the athletic director that grants other school’s coaches the ability to start talking to you about being part of their team. Without this letter coaches are generally not willing to speak with you.
Technically, without this letter, you’re still allowed to transfer but are not able to receive any financial aid for one entire school year. For those of you considering transferring from D3 to D3, you don’t need to speak with the athletic director. Instead grant yourself a “self-release”, which you can be learn about at NCAA.org.
Research Your Specific School
While thinking about transferring and whether you need to get permission to contact, you also need to be researching the school’s academic eligibility requirements. Ask yourself a question: “Would you have qualified to enter into this particular school as an incoming freshman?”
Your current academics are not in question–only those from high school. Your current academics do affect your year-to-year eligibility requirements as a student-athlete. Those high school grades and core course selections determine your status as a qualifier, partial qualifier, or non-qualifier.
Are You a Partial Qualifier
Basically, if you are a partial or non-qualifier–you wouldn’t have met admission requirements as a freshman–you must sit out one entire year before you can compete for that particular institution. Even as a qualifier you might still have to sit out.
The transfer rules become even stickier when you factor in that there are more specific rules for those who play basketball, baseball, football, and men’s ice hockey. And even more intricate division level specific rules regarding junior college (JC) to university (2-4) transfers, university to JC to university (4-2-4) transfers, and university to university (4-4) transfers.
The NCAA transfer guide describes each of these and the rules surrounding them in full detail. For most university to university (4-4) transfers a student-athlete should expect to sit out one full year. There are some exceptions to this rule which the NCAA transfer guide discusses but are, again, exceptions and not meant to be the norm.
Try Not to Burn Bridges
To further cloud transferring, there is the great possibility of burning some bridges with the coaching staffs at some institutions. Be tactful when it’s time to tell your coach that you’re leaving his program.
Some coaches take this news positively while others take it as a slap in the face because of the relationship, hard work, time, and investment they have put into the athlete. Most of the time a coach will look to fill your scholarship spot with another athlete, likely a walk-on who has earned it.
Once this happens, your scholarship is gone. If you test the waters and find that no other teams are interested in your services then you’re likely without a scholarship and, possibly, a team. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, transferring isn’t as easy as some make it out to be.
A Risky Proposition
There are many risks student-athletes take when they decide to transfer from one institution to another. When considering this option you need to think about the possible year you might have to sit out. Other considerations include the credits that may or may not transfer over, the possibilities of a scholarship being offered to you or not, the possibility that your coach and athletic department will allow the transfer to happen, and the differences in the tuition that you might or might not have to pay. After thinking about all of these items ask yourself is this a risk worth taking or is your original college decision worth taking more time to properly think out?