The Ivy Coach Daily

May 19, 2023

Best Colleges for Transfer Students

The arch in Washington Square Park is seen under a blue sky.
New York University’s transfer admission rate for the 2021-2022 cycle was more than three-times the school’s first-year admission rate for the Class of 2026 (photo credit: Diego Delso).

If you think earning admission as a high schooler to America’s top colleges is difficult, know it can be even more challenging as a transfer applicant. For transfer applicants, not only does everything from high school still count (e.g., coursework, testing, extracurriculars), but college coursework and grades count, too. Yet it’s not impossible to earn admission to America’s most highly selective universities as a transfer student.

Indeed, some of these institutions — like the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, Cornell University, Columbia University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles, Emory University, New York University, the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, the University of Southern California, and the University of Virginia — show more love to transfer applicants than even their first-year applicants by admitting them at a significantly higher rate.

So which of America’s top universities admit the most significant percentage of transfer applicants? It’s time to find out!

Transfer Admission Rates for Top 25 National Universities

Below you’ll find the transfer admission rate at each school ranked in the top 25 by US News & World Report for “Best National Universities.”

College/UniversityUS News 2023 RankTransfer Admission Rate for 2021-2022
Princeton University#11.33%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology#21.67%
Harvard University#30.82%
Stanford University#31.68%
Yale University#30.75%
University of Chicago#613.62%
Johns Hopkins University#76.8%
University of Pennsylvania#74.58%
California Institute of Technology#93.94%
Duke University#104.82%
Northwestern University#1013.05%
Dartmouth College#129.89%
Brown University#133.53%
Vanderbilt University#1317.55%
Rice University#153.75%
Washington University in St. Louis#1520.65%
Cornell University#1715.72%
Columbia University#1814.74%
University of Notre Dame#1825.74%
University of California, Berkeley#2019.69%
University of California, Los Angeles#2019.63%
Carnegie Mellon University#2211.27%
Emory University#2233.74%
Georgetown University#223.24%
New York University#2541.47%
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor#2541.5%
University of Southern California#2522.11%
University of Virginia#2535.91%

Analysis of Transfer Admission Rates for America’s Top Universities

So, transfer admission rates aren’t exactly surging at our nation’s top schools. At most of America’s elite institutions, transfer admission rates are lower than the respective overall admission rates. But it’s not like these numbers offer no hope to students hoping to switch schools.

Top Universities with Higher Transfer Admission Rates Than First-Year Admission Rates

Several elite institutions boast exceedingly high transfer admission rates (relative to their first-year admission rates). Below are the top-ranked institutions whose 2021-2022 transfer admission rates were higher than their first-year admission rates for the Class of 2026:

College / University2023 US News Rank (“Best National Universities”)Class of 2026 Overall Admission Rate2021-2022 Transfer Admission Rate
University of Chicago#67%13.62%
Johns Hopkins University#76%6.8%
Duke University#104.82%6%
Northwestern University#107%13.05%
Dartmouth College#126%9.89%
Vanderbilt University#136%17.55%
Washington University in St. Louis#1510%20.65%
Cornell University#179%15.72%
Columbia University#184%14.74%
University of Notre Dame#1813%25.74%
University of California, Berkeley#2011%19.69%
University of California, Los Angeles#209%19.63%
Carnegie Mellon University#2211%11.27%
Emory University#2211%33.74%
New York University#2512%41.47%
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor#2518%41.5%
University of Southern California#2512%22.11%
University of Virginia#2519%35.91%

Top Universities with Relatively Exceedingly High Transfer Admission Rates

UChicago, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, WashU, Cornell, Columbia, Notre Dame, Cal, UCLA, Emory, NYU, Michigan, USC, and UVA, in particular, boast extraordinarily high transfer admission rates relative to their first-year admission rates.

NYU’s Transfer Admission Rate is Over Three Times Its First-Year Admission Rate

And of all these schools, we draw your attention to NYU — a school whose transfer admission rate for the 2021-2022 cycle was over three times their first-year admission rate for the Class of 2026. Yes, NYU loves its transfer students.

Transfer Applicants Address Institutional Needs for Diversity

But, as you can see, NYU is not alone. After all, many elite universities seek to accept transfer students to add diversity to their student bodies — underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, low-income students, veterans of America’s military, community college students, and more.

These are the students — whose grades and test scores from high school will not count towards or against these institutions’ data reported to US News & World Report (they’re data ghosts!), who will fill out the student bodies to meet institutional needs.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Transfer Admission

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission as a transfer student, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our services for transfer applicants.

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