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5 Things to Consider If You Want to Transfer to Another College

I work with a handful of transfer applicants every year. It is a tough road for transfer applicants, especially if they are considering the more selective colleges.

Space is limited due to high retention rates at these colleges, leaving very little room for students who want to transfer, even ones with 4.0 GPAs. To say that I am cautious with their lists and about possible outcomes is an understatement.

But some students are determined to give it a try. If you are one of them, here are five things to consider:

1. Look at a college's transfer data from the last several years in section "D" of the Common Data Set.

You will see how many transfer applicants the college received and how many were admitted. By dividing the number of admitted into the number that applied and then multiplying that by 100, you can calculate the college's transfer acceptance rate. For example, according to Swarthmore College's most recent Common Data Set (2021-2022), it admitted seven out of 430 transfer applicants, resulting in a 1.6% acceptance rate. This is even lower than Swarthmore's freshman acceptance rate of 7%.

2. Consider why you are transferring before you go through the trouble of applying.

Many of the transfer applicants I hear from are interested in attending a more prestigious college. They believe that by attending a "better school," their lives will change for the better. But oftentimes that student is better served by staying where they are and excelling more than they ever imagined. 

3. If you applied to the college as a high school senior and you apply again as a transfer applicant, they will look at your old application (or what is left of it) and compare it to the new application.

I have shared this in the past about transfer admissions, but it deserves a reminder: new essays, updated activities lists, and a fresh approach are absolutely essential for the transfer application. No "copying and pasting" should go on from the old application to the new application.

4. Befriend your professors.

You will need them to write powerful letters of recommendation. It can be challenging to connect with a professor, especially if the student is in a lot of large lecture classes their freshman year. The student needs to go out of their way to reach out, converse, and get to know the professor so that they know the student well enough to write a thoughtful letter of recommendation.

5. Grades and classes from college matter the most.

If a student is hoping to transfer into a more selective college than where they are currently enrolled, their grades should be as strong as possible.

READ MORE: How High Schools Are Unknowingly Damaging Students’ Chances for College Admission

I have written about transfer admissions in the past. But the landscape has become so incredibly competitive since the pandemic that this topic deserves new attention. In the end, make sure you are transferring for the right reasons. As I often say, it's not where you go to college; it's what you do while you are there.