Do you have a feeling that you’re not at the right school and maybe you should consider transferring? You’re not alone. According to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse, more than one-third of college students transferred at least once within six years.

Although transferring schools is a lot more common than you might have thought, it’s not something to be done on a whim. Leaving one school and starting all over at another can be challenging, so you should consider these things before deciding to transfer.

Consider why you want to leave

The decision to transfer should be based on factors that are relevant to your academic success. The first step is to think about what’s motivating your desire for change and make sure you’ve already considered all options to improve your experience at your current school.

The most significant reason to transfer is a college’s academic program. If your major isn’t supported or you’re not challenged academically, it may be time to look elsewhere. But if you are struggling academically, it will follow you. Academic probation, incomplete classes or otherwise poor grades can affect your ability to transfer, so be aware of potential complications.

The social environment can influence your experience too – students may feel like they aren’t a fit for the overall character or location of the school. Affordability is another critical factor for many. Tight finances can create stress for you and your family, so relocating to a college with lower tuition or better financial aid support could improve your situation.

It’s in your best interest to speak with your school’s academic adviser before committing to a move. You may decide to stay if there are resources you haven’t explored yet.

Weigh the pros and cons

The pros of leaving one college for another should outweigh the cons, so create a list for your current and prospective schools to help identify the factors that are important to you.

An academic program that accommodates your intended area of study, a social environment that suits your personality and tuition that leaves you stress-free could all be positives.

But think about the negatives too. You may find a great potential school that doesn’t accept your existing credits which could set you back both academically and financially. A new environment also means leaving current friends behind.

Amy Clark was a theater major at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where she recognized her academic options were limited. At the start of her junior year, she made a transfer to Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas. The school satisfied her foremost pros — they offered the academic program she wanted and tuition was roughly half of Northeastern’s.

While she was happy with her move, she experienced cons too. Northeastern’s quarter system conflicted with TCU’s semester system, and many of her class credits didn’t count. “I lost a lot of credits,” she said, “and that set me back an entire year.”

She also wasn’t prepared for the geographic culture shock and wasn’t able to get campus housing. “I didn’t know anyone who lived there,” Clark said. “I found roommates, but I never lived on campus. It put me at a bit of a disadvantage as far as making friends and feeling connected.”

Plan your next steps

Once you determine potential schools you want to attend, contact each college’s transfer admissions office for more information. Many schools have administrators to facilitate the transfer process — they’ll help you coordinate with admissions and financial aid at your present school and get you started on what you’ll need to move. In many ways, the process is similar to entering as a freshman.

Researching how many academic credits are eligible for transfer is a critical starting point. Requirements vary by school, and as illustrated by Clark, a loss could set you back.

Lots of schools offer financial aid for transfer students, so get details in advance to prepare all necessary documents when applying. Remember to check the conditions of your existing scholarships too, since you could lose them in a transfer.

Give yourself time

Clark knows her move could have been smoother. “The transfer happened really quickly,” she said. “At the time, I figured it would be fine but had I thought about it, I would have done things differently.”

There’s no need to rush the transfer process once you make a final decision. Carefully considering each step of your move will help ensure a positive transition to a school that will satisfy your personal and academic goals.