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The Ivy Coach Daily

June 1, 2023

How to Transfer from a Community College to a Top University

A college class hall from the outside

If you’re a community college student, you may wonder if you have a realistic shot of earning admission to one of America’s top four-year universities, like the Ivy League schools.

After all, it would mark a giant leap to go from studying at a community college to one of America’s preeminent institutions of higher learning. But is it doableYou bet it is! So how can community college transfers go about getting in? Let’s dive in.

Top Universities Love Community College Transfer Students

Community College Students Addresses Institutional Needs

Every highly selective four-year university in America seeks to admit a diverse student body. They want to accept and enroll students of all races, religions, and nationalities from across the socioeconomic spectrum. Admitting community college students as transfer students serves this critical objective since so many meet institutional needs for diversity.

Community College Transfer Students Are Rankings Data Ghosts

Why do America’s top universities admit so many community college students as transfers? Because transfer students are data ghosts. Their grades and test scores don’t count towards or against a school’s data reported to US News & World Report.

And even though America’s top universities like to pretend they don’t care about their annual rankings, it’s a bald-faced lie: these institutions care deeply about their rankings. It’s why Columbia University went to the lengths it did to manipulate those very rankings by misreporting data to the publication.

Community College Transfer Students Are Traditionally Diverse

But since transfer students’ data is not included in the reporting, it’s an opportunity for top universities to meet their institutional needs for diversity. Community college transfer students, after all, are often first-generation college students. They’re often from low or middle-income families. They’re often racially diverse. And, as a bonus, many are even veterans of America’s military who have proudly served their nation in uniform.

5 Steps for Community College Students to Transfer to Top Universities

So how should community college students navigate the transfer admissions process to optimize their cases for admission to America’s top universities? Here are five steps to streamline the process:

  1. Earn top grades in community college courses. Even if a community college transfer applicant didn’t do so well in high school (and everything from high school still counts), admissions officers at top universities will see the improvement. They’ll see the maturity. And for students who are several years out of high school, as veterans often are, their high school grades and scores will matter even less.
  2. Get involved in activities that showcase a singular hook rather than well-roundedness. When so many transfer applicants position themselves as good at many things — like sports, music, community service, and more — their savvy peers will position themselves differently. They’ll position themselves as change-makers in one specific, often small way.
  3. Don’t just ask professors and advisors for letters of recommendation but instead help shape those letters. Too often, transfer students merely ask professors and advisors for letters of recommendation, hoping that if they ask nice enough, they’ll end up with powerful letters. But that’s how students end up with generic letters that don’t say much about them. Instead, after asking professors and advisors for letters, community college transfer students should share with them typed-out anecdotes that showcase their contributions to each respective class.
  4. Put together a robust list of top universities, universities you’ll take the time to visit. The list should include more than just the tippy top schools. It should also include other selective four-year institutions. In short, add more than just Harvard College. Emory University, for example, is one of the finest universities in America, and a jump from community college to Emory would be monumental. During the 2021-2022 academic year, over 33% of Emory transfer applicants earned admission. Check out our list of the transfer rates at America’s top universities.
  5. Showcase a singular hook throughout narratives in college essays, and when asked why students wish to attend a specific school, cite specific after specific. Just as a transfer student’s activities shouldn’t be well-rounded, neither should their essays. These essays need to demonstrate how a student will change the world in one super specific way, and every essay must not repeat the others but instead dovetail the others. For “Why College” essays, community college transfer students should showcase how they will contribute their singular hook to the specific school’s programs, institutes, culture, traditions, activities, and more.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Community College Transfers to Top Universities

If you seek assistance transferring from a community college to a top university, fill out Ivy Coach‘s free consultation form, and we’ll contact you. If you’re a veteran of America’s military, note that Ivy Coach’s transfer admissions services are pro bono — a perk reserved for veterans.

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