At the age of 17, college students are young and inexperienced, which sometimes leads to uninformed or hasty decision about education after 12th standard. But not to worry – even if you have started college in a subject or at an institution that leaves you uninspired, you may still have options abroad as a transfer student.
If you are thinking of continuing your studies in the UK, you will most likely have to enter as a first-year student. The University of Warwick, for example, explains that students cannot transfer and ‘top up’ their remaining courses to earn a degree at Warwick. Instead they have to put in a fresh UCAS application and start the course from the beginning. One exception to the UK’s rigid transfer policies is University of St. Andrew’s where a limited number of transfer places are available for overseas students. There are limitations on which courses accept transfers (e.g. Medicine does not), at what stage you can transfer and how much credit from your previous course will be given. You must check all of these carefully before deciding if it makes sense for you to transfer.
The US and Canada have a very structured, long-standing process for absorbing transfer students into their universities. This system makes transferring a straightforward process for most Indian students as well. In Canada students can transfer from colleges to universities to complete their academic courses. Alternately they can terminate their studies at the college level, and move directly into professional work – the choice will depend on the chosen course and career. Transferring to Canadian programs from abroad is also possible, but the criteria will vary depending on the course and how much college you have completed in India. But unlike the UK, Canadian University courses are structured in such a way that international transfer students can fit into the second or third year.
Similarly the US has a two-tiered higher education system through which some students enter two-year colleges then transfer into four-year universities to complete the final two years (note that two-year colleges in the US are also sometimes referred to as junior colleges or community colleges). The way each college handles international transfer applicants varies however. For example in many highly selective private colleges, students who have completed less than one year of college in India are not considered transfer students and must apply as first-year students. But in many public colleges in the US, no matter how much college you have completed in India, you must apply as a transfer student.
While the ability to transfer is one consideration, you may also want to know how much work you will have to repeat. There is difference between the transferability of credit hours and the transferability of actual courses: i.e. if a student must complete a minimum of 120 credit hours to earn a bachelors degree, some credit from the years you spent at the Indian college may be counted toward that 120. However, you may still be required to complete certain compulsory courses from the US university. So even if you have taken applied math in your first year at engineering college in India, the college you transfer into may require you to take it again if they do not offer transfer credit for that class.
With all these variations, keep in mind that while it is never too late to pursue your goal of studying abroad, you must check the requirements carefully. If in doubt, email the admissions office and to find out what is required for you to apply. They are usually happy to help.