Applying to College As a Transfer Student

Sometimes moving on to a different college makes a lot of sense. But a happy landing depends on doing some hard work up front.

Applying to college as a transfer student is much like applying as a high school senior. The difference is, your application relies on what you did in college instead of what you did in high school.

What Colleges Look for in a Transfer Applicant

Colleges want transfer students who have performed well academically in their first years of college. Ideally, you should plan to transfer after your sophomore year. This will give you time at your current college to develop a strong case for admission and prepare to dive into your major.

Research Transfer Colleges

Why do you want to transfer? Make a list of your reasons and make sure each college you consider satisfies them. As busy as you may be, don't skip visiting any college you are considering. Meet with faculty in your major and talk with students who transferred there. Be very sure you will be comfortable with the people on campus.

Also, do some information mining. Ask the college how many transfers they accept annually, and how many in your major. Look for colleges with transfer counselors and support to help transfers adjust.

Find Out How Many of Your Credits Will Transfer

Each college (or college system) has its own policy for granting credit for college courses completed at other institutions. If you're transferring from a community college to an in-state college, or within a college consortium or state college system, your course credits will likely be transferred with few headaches.

Otherwise, you need to find out—before you apply if possible—just how many credits a college will accept from your transcript. And how many will count towards your major. Many transfer students who skip this step find out too late that they will lose a semester or even a year of credit. And that means paying for an extra semester or two at your transfer college.

Fortunately, many colleges make transfer counselors available to help you through the credit evaluation process. You can also ask the academic department responsible for your major to evaluate your transcript and tell you how many credits would be accepted toward your major.

Tips to Boost Your Chances of Admission as a Transfer Student

  • Take rigorous courses required by your major, and do as well as you can. If you know your transfer college, make sure those credits will transfer with you. In fact, make sure your overall GPA will meet the minimum required GPA for transfers.
  • Satisfy the general education requirements for your transfer college. This will signal that you are ready to jump right into your major studies once you arrive.
  • Identify professors who appreciate your work in courses related to your major. Ask them to write recommendation letters for your application.
  • Explain in your essay why you are transferring. Emphasize how the transfer college can help you pursue your academic goals.

What's Next?

  • Look up any college using College Match, and see its graduation rate, what majors it offers, and whether transfer applications are accepted.
  • Standing out as an applicant is just as important to transfer students as it is to freshman applicants. For tips, visit Prepare and Apply and look over the articles under "Create Outstanding Applications."