Q: I'm thinking about transferring from a private to a public school in the middle of my senior year. If I do end up transferring, will this affect the college applications I've already sent? And if so, will this have a heavy impact?

A: The answer is yes! Transferring from one school to another during the high school years is one thing; but transferring in the middle of your senior year is another.

Switching high schools is fairly common. It happens for many reasons: a parent gets a new job, a parent re-marries and moves to another city or state, a family's financial situation changes. I remember reading an application from a young woman in a military family; they moved to a new base annually, and she wrote that one of the reasons she looked forward to college was being in the same place for four consecutive years! But the moving around, in itself, did not hurt her.

When colleges evaluate applications, they look for a pattern, and a general picture of what type of student is applying. The "holistic" approach to reading will make this picture emerge even if the applicant has attended more than one school. Providing letters of recommendation from all schools attended will be extremely helpful.

But very few students make a change in the middle of their senior year. It's tough to leave a social and academic group that you have been part of since beginning high school. If this is a family decision and is based upon a parent's re-assignment, then all you need to do, as far as college is concerned, is write a letter of explanation to the colleges and have it backed up by your two college counselors. Do this NOW.

However, there is sometimes a situation when a student is asked to leave a school. If this happens during senior year, it will, indeed, raise eyebrows at the colleges. First of all, you will not be graduating from the school that sent your transcript. Your final transcript will come from the new school. Admissions readers will notice. You will need to write an even more detailed letter of explanation. Again, do this NOW. You may be asked by some colleges to come in for a personal meeting before they can make a decision. It may take somewhat longer for you to receive decision letters.

The important thing to remember is: tell the complete truth. Do not hide anything or make excuses. Be completely honest. Inconsistencies in application materials will be noticed. Stating untruths in college applications will hurt a student more than stating the truth, even if that truth is unpleasant.