The Ivy Coach Daily

June 16, 2023

10 Important Steps for Students When Transferring Colleges

An aerial shot of Cornell University's pristine campus.
Cornell University’s transfer admission rate is higher than its non-transfer admission rate (photo credit: Sach1tb).

Are you considering transferring colleges? You may be a high school senior unhappy with your college results, and you’re considering how you can reposition their candidacy for February and March transfer application deadlines. Or you may be a college freshman, disillusioned with your college experience to date, seeking a new opportunity. Either way, let’s examine the transfer admissions process so you can know its ins and outs.

When Students Should Consider Transferring Colleges

The earlier students can start preparing for the transfer admissions process, the better. When students first approach Ivy Coach after they’re unhappy with their college results as high school seniors, we help them prepare transfer applications during the summer before they begin their first year of college. After all, we want them to enjoy their college experience. This way, they can get their transfer applications mostly done before they even start college and then promptly forget about them.

We offer these students ideas on the activities they should get involved in and the courses they should take during their first year of college. We help them prepare forward-thinking essays, and if they should veer from our game plan, we’ll make changes in the weeks before February and March transfer deadlines.

And for those students who only realize they wish to transfer colleges once they begin their first year of college, we aim to get started with them on their transfer applications as early on during their first year as possible so they can adhere to the game plan we at Ivy Coach map out for them.

10 Must Dos for Transfer Applicants

  1. Visit every school you hope to transfer to since visiting is crucial for demonstrating interest. Elite universities seek to admit students who they believe will enroll. Their yield is vital to them. If you can’t visit in person, do virtual visits. Ideally, do both!
  2. Sign up for coursework that aligns with the field of study you intend to major in at the school where you plan to transfer.
  3. Focus on getting top grades during your first year of college. While your high school coursework and grades will still count in the transfer admissions process, a strong performance during your first year of college can be a big boost.
  4. Get involved in extracurricular activities in college that showcase a singular hook that will be compelling to the school where you plan to transfer.
  5. Take a look at the admissions essays you’ll need to write so you can start figuring out how you’ll approach these answers. Each admissions essay, many of which need to be uniquely tailored to each institution, is a puzzle piece. They all need to complement one another.
  6. Write down the transfer admission deadlines. Unlike when students apply out of high school, the transfer admission deadlines vary. Some are in early to mid-February. Some are in early March to mid-March, and so on. Some have fall transfer deadlines, others have spring transfer deadlines, and others have both.
  7. Consider who you’ll be asking for letters of recommendation. Elite colleges have different recommendation requirements (e.g., one letter, two letters, one letter from a college professor, one letter from a high school counselor, two letters from college professors, etc.). The more notice you can give these recommenders, the better. 
  8. Prepare anecdotes for your recommenders. Don’t just ask a high school teacher or professor for a letter. Instead, share with them stories of contributions you made to their class so your letter is filled with specifics. In the case of a high school counselor, you’ll also want to update them on what you’ve gotten involved in during your first year of college. You want them to refrain from using the letter from the previous year.
  9. Request transcripts from your high school and college registrar’s office. Be sure to make these requests well before the application deadlines.
  10.  Prepare your applications and the many essays well in advance. You want to focus on getting excellent grades in your college coursework and enjoying the first year of your college experience. So get your transfer applications done as early as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute as there are often glitches with The Common Application’s transfer portal.

Transfer Admission FAQ

Is getting in as a transfer applicant typically harder than out of high school?

Yes, earning admission as a transfer student is typically more difficult than out of high school since there are so few available slots for transfer students.

For example, at Princeton University, a mere 10 to 15 transfer students have enrolled at Princeton each year since the school reinstated transfer admissions in 2018. However, in 2022, the school committed to expanding its transfer program to enroll between 25 and 35 students annually.

But there are exceptions. As an example, for fall 2022 transfers, at Dartmouth College, 9.9% of transfers were admitted compared to 6.24% of non-transfer students.

Is it better to transfer after your first or second year of college?

It’s better to transfer after your first year rather than your second year for two reasons: (1) your odds of getting into most top universities are stronger when you haven’t spent half of your college experience at another institution, and (2) you can enjoy your college experience for a more extended period at the school from which you intend to graduate.

If I previously applied to a college and reapplied as a transfer, will my previous application be re-reviewed?

It depends. Most universities will ask on their applications if you previously applied. But most schools will only take the time to review these files if they detect an inconsistency.

Should students be negative about the college they’re transferring from in their essays?

No, students should always be positive about the school they attend. It’s all about the spin. If a student bashes their current college, it will only present them as unlikeable and likely to criticize their future college.

Do top colleges covet non-traditional students in the transfer admissions process?

Yes, transfer students are data ghosts. Their numbers do not count towards or against a school’s reporting to US News & World Report for the publication’s annual ranking. As such, top schools will often admit veterans of America’s military, community college students, and non-traditional students who will significantly contribute to the college’s overall diversity.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Transfer Applications

If you’re a student considering transferring colleges, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to delineate our transfer services.

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