There are many reasons you may decide you want to transfer from your initial college. Perhaps the college is different than what you expected: it might be more social, less social, more academic, less academic. Perhaps you have changed or clarified what’s important to you; you now realize that you do not want to be in an environment dominated by Greek life, or so far from home. Maybe you’d rather be part of a smaller community than a big state school, or realized that your small liberal arts college is too confining.  Perhaps you are now approaching academics in a more engaged manner and want a more academically rigorous environment. Perhaps the school you are attending is too rigorous and you want a more balanced social life.

Each individual who wants to transfer is motivated by different factors. But what you all have in common is that you need to understand and master the transfer admissions process.  How is transfer admissions different from freshman admissions?  What is required? When should you start? How can you make sure that this time, you will end up at a college that is a great fit for you?


What’s different about transfer admissions?

  • You now have a better idea of the features that are important to you, since you now have had the actual experience of attending college.
  • Typically, students apply to fewer colleges for transfer than for freshman admissions because of greater self-awareness of features that are a good fit.
  • Each college has it own unique policy about transfer admissions.  Note that some colleges have a policy of never accepting transfer students, such as Princeton University. In addition, each college’s receptivity to transfers changes each year, depending on how many spots they have open; this fluctuates because it is influenced by factors such as the “yield” of the prior year’s freshman admissions process and the number of students taking a semester or year off for study abroad.  As a result, data about a college’s transfer admissions history must be evaluated carefully every year.
  • Standardized tests, such as the SAT, ACT and Subject Tests, typically have less importance in the transfer admissions process, if you apply as a sophomore.


What is required for transfer?

  • Nearly all colleges require a Transfer Personal Statement.
  • Unlike the freshman admissions Personal Statement, this essay should be chock-full of specifics about the features you are looking for in your transfer college.  There is certainly the opportunity to be creative in your writing, but this essay has a more specific purpose than the Personal Essay you wrote as a high school senior.  It should persuade the admissions officer that you know yourself well – including your strengths and interests –  and that you have done your homework in researching colleges that would be a good fit for your current goals and preferences.
  • While often required, there are many some exceptions; it depends on the college, and on whether you are transferring during sophomore or junior year.  Typically, transfer colleges do not require high school transcripts if you are seeking to transfer during your junior year and have accumulated 24-30 credits.
  • College Transcript:  Always required.  Your college transcript gives transfer colleges the best possible forecast of how you would perform at their college.
  • Midterm Report: Typically required.
  • Course descriptions of your courses: Often required.
  • SAT/ACTs: Required for all academic programs, required only for some programs, or optional.  Often, there is a correspondence between a transfer college’s requirement for the high school transcript and SAT/ACTs.
  • SAT Subject Tests: Typically not required; exceptions include Carnegie Mellon, Franklin & Marshall and MIT.
  • Some colleges have a minimum GPA. This threshold ranges from 2.0 for colleges including Dickinson, UNC and Wake Forest; 2.5 for colleges including American University, Northeastern and Tulane; 3.0 for colleges such as Emory University and Johns Hopkins University; to 3.5 for colleges such as Amherst College, Barnard College, Columbia University and MIT.
  • Colleges usually require a statement from the registrar’s office indicating that a student has a clean record with no academic or behavioral violations.
  • Depending on the college, interviews might be required, required only for certain academic programs, strongly recommended, recommended or not required.
  • Always take advantage of the opportunity if available.
  • Usually colleges require 1-3 letters of recommendations.
  • Colleges suggest that at least one letter be from a professor; others can be from high school teacher/academic advisor, research mentor, employment supervisor, activity advisor


What is the timetable?

  • Typically range from February 15 to August 1 for fall transfer, and October 1 – December 1 for spring transfer.
  • For fall transfer, begin during winter break. For spring transfer, begin in the summer.
  • Transfer applicants are often notified on a rolling basis. The sooner you apply, the better. It is beneficial to submit transfer applications as soon as possible after February 1 for the fall semester, and as soon as possible after October 1 for spring transfer.


If you decide that transferring is the right option for you, begin by reflecting deeply about what features of your current college do and do not match your interests.  Make lists of features that you now seek in a transfer college.

But stay fully engaged in your current college, even though you’re planning to transfer.  You want to perform as well as possible academically in order to be a strong candidate for transfer admissions. And you want to show your transfer college that you are capable of participating fully in the life of a college. Transfer colleges want to admit students who can round out the undergraduates already on campus – the more information you provide about how you will contribute positively to campus life, the better your chances that you’ll have a chance to do so!


Whether you need guidance choosing a college, major, or career, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help.