College Transfer Acceptance Rates: The Detailed Guide

Female student sitting with laptop and thinking about transferring college
November 2, 2023
10 min read

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 10/26/23

Are you considering transferring to another college? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about college transfer admission rates and the process. 


Applying to college can be a stressful, all-consuming process. If you’re afraid that transferring will be just as stressful, don’t worry; it doesn’t need to be. College transfers happen every year. It’s essential students feel they’re at the right college. 

Those planning to transfer should take note of the acceptance rates of schools they may apply to. Acceptance rates for first-year students tend to be significantly higher than for transfer students – read on to learn more!  

Transfer Acceptance Rates by School  

Having insight into the top universities for transfer students can help students make informed decisions about their educational journeys. Whether you’re interested in learning about the top universities for sophomore transfers or if you’re in your junior year - these stats on transfer admission can help you find the right fit for your needs and aspirations. So, let’s get into it. 

Studying acceptance rates by school helps you understand how colleges known for their transfer-friendly policies deal with transfer students, making it easier for you to decide on your academic path. 

Now, let’s get into the ideal universities for transferring students and their high acceptance rates. 

We’ll take a look at American University’s acceptance rate for transfer students, Boston University, and many more. So, enjoy this comprehensive list of excellent schools for transfer applicants!

15 Most Transfer-Friendly Top Universities

Keep reading for the transfer-friendly top schools in the nation, known to welcome and support transfer students with open arms. 

Each of these top colleges for transfer students make transferring straightforward and has a reputation for simplifying the transfer process, allowing students to transition smoothly. These schools with lenient transfer policies are not only colleges that welcome transfers but are also some of the best colleges in the US.

College Transfer Acceptance Rate
American University
Boston University 29%
Clemson University
Emory University 19.1%
Georgia Institute of Technology 36.2%
New York University 20.5%
Portland State University 97%
Saint Louis University 44.3%
The University of Utah 88%
Tulane University 49.8%
University at Buffalo 71.5%
University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) 24.4%
University of Miami 41.8%
University of Michigan 36.6%

Though their acceptance rates differ, each of these universities that are welcoming to transfer students makes it easier for students to pursue their academic dreams. 

Ivy League Transfer Acceptance Rates

Universities in the Ivy League typically have low acceptance rates. However, some college acceptance rates for transfer applicants are higher than first-year acceptance rates: 

College Transfer Acceptance Rate Number of Accepted Transfer Applicants Undergrad Acceptance Rate
Princeton University 2.9% 35 5.7%
Harvard University 0.9% 15 3.2%
Yale University 1.6% 32 4.6%
University of Pennsylvania 5.3% 185 6.5%
Dartmouth College 7.3% 44 6.4%
Brown University 5.4% 152 5%
Cornell University 13.9% 798 7.3%
Columbia University 11.3% 341 3.7%

Princeton University Transfer Acceptance Rates: 2.9%

Princeton is one of the Ivies that accepts the fewest number of transfer students. In 2018, Princeton reinstated the transfer student program. Keith Shaw, the Director of Transfer, Veteran, and Non-Traditional Student Programs, said, “We enrolled our first cohort in Fall 2018 with nine students, and I think now we have 60.” 

Princeton's admissions office has announced that they plan to increase the number of transfer students following the pandemic. They aim to enroll 100 transfer students in the coming years, a significant increase from the current 40 students.  

male and female student walking to class

Harvard University Transfer Acceptance Rates: 0.9% 

Harvard’s transfer acceptance rate remains low at 0.9%. Although it’s challenging to be accepted as a first-year student, getting accepted as a transfer applicant is more difficult. You cannot have completed more than two years of post-secondary study to qualify as a transfer student at Harvard. 

These are the qualities Harvard seeks in transfer applicants

  • “A clearly defined academic need to transfer
  • A proven record of achievement at your current institution
  • Strong faculty recommendations” 

Since transferring to Harvard is so competitive, the school also recommends exploring other colleges as well in your search.  

Yale University Transfer Acceptance Rates: 1.62% 

Similar to most post-secondary institutions, Yale University admits students partly based on why the applicant is choosing Yale. This is especially true of transfer applicants. All applicants should consider how to address this, considering Yale’s transfer admission rate of 1.62%. 

Yale University also considers transfer students with the Eli Whitney Students Program (EWSP). The EWSP is a small undergraduate program designed for adults who’ve graduated high school more than five years prior. Applicants cannot hold a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for this program. 

Students in the Eli Whitney program are similar to undergraduates at Yale though the admissions considerations are more flexible, as is the program itself. 

Transfer Acceptance Rates for Other Top Schools 

Interested in transferring to another school? These are the transfer admission rates for students who applied to the nation’s top 15 non-Ivy schools: 

College Transfer Acceptance Rate Number of Accepted Transfer Applicants Undergrad Acceptance Rate
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1.4% 21 4%
Stanford University 1.8% 57 3.7%
University of Chicago 13.6% 145 6.5%
Johns Hopkins University 6.5% 106 7.3%
Caltech 5.7% 9 2.7%
Duke University 4.8% 81 5.9%
Northwestern University 13% 423 7.2%

College Transfer Acceptance Rate Number of Accepted Transfer Applicants Undergrad Acceptance Rate
Vanderbilt University 16.6% 471 6.7%
Rice University 5% 66 8.7%
Washington University in St. Louis 17.4% 272 11.3%
University of Notre Dame 27.8% 212 12.9%
UC Berkeley 24.3% 4,714 11.4%
University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) 24.4% 6,130 8.6%
Carnegie Mellon University 7.3% 96 11.3%
Emory University 19.1% 386 11.4%

Why Transfer in College? 

There are many reasons why students may feel like transferring to colleges is right for them. Some may transfer to more competitive, prestigious institutions. Others will transfer to smaller, less demanding colleges. 

Many students also make lateral moves, transferring to a college at the same “level,” typically with a higher transfer admission rate.

Female student on college campus

Community College Transfer 

Many students strategically choose to go to community college before applying to a four-year college. This gives students a chance to accumulate college credits. 

College credits can be transferred after being obtained in a less challenging environment. Those who struggled academically or didn’t have competitive enough grades may go to community college to transfer after improving their academic performance. 

Columbia University’s Community College Research Center found that approximately 80% of community college students intended to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. Applicants, in this case, should review the transfer admission rates of their target schools. While many of these students planned to transfer, only 32% did so within six years. 

School Prestige 

Prestige and school recognition are common reasons for transfers. Students assume that the better the name recognition of a particular school, the better it will look on a resume. Many students transfer to more prestigious colleges to graduate from a school with more opportunities, resources, and networking opportunities.

Four-year colleges usually have a low cap on the number of transfer students they accept each year, especially in the Ivy League. Applicants should consider acceptance rates at each school. For example, Yale clearly states that the school only reserves space for a “small number of transfer students” each year. 

Male student on college campus

Changing Majors 

High school and college students are sometimes unsure of what career path they want to follow. College is a great time to explore different opportunities and decide what you’re best suited for. For this reason, changing majors is very common in college – and to be expected! 

Some students may find that their current college doesn’t have the ideal program for their new preferred major. In this case, transferring to a college with a specialized program may be necessary. 


The cost of your education, for many students, is the first significant expense of their adult lives. Of course, financial aid is available at any higher education institution, but that is not always enough. 

Students may find they cannot keep up with the high price tag their education comes with. Those in that circumstance may need to transfer to a smaller or more economic institution. The admission rates for transfer applicants will likely be higher when transferring to a more affordable institution.  

Not a Right Fit 

Many students take advantage of their college years to find who they are. Sometimes, the first college they go to is not the best place for them. This can sometimes be a personal problem. 

An excellent institution may be a great place to go to college, but it may not be great for you. Some reasons for this could be academic challenges, the social environment, the location, etc. Students may find transferring will give them the fresh start they need.

How to Transfer Colleges Successfully 

Most schools have similar application processes, though it’s essential to review your preferred institution’s specific guidelines and requirements. What colleges seek in transfer students can depend on the institution, but they generally want to admit exceptional, well-rounded students. 

Considering that transfer success rates tend to be lower, your application will need to stand out. These are the general requirements for transfer students: 

  • Coalition Application or Common Application 
  • Writing supplement  
  • Application Fee
  • Submit standardized test results (if applicable) 
  • College Report 
  • Transcripts and Mid-term Report (if applicable) 
  • Letters of recommendation 
  • Academic evaluations 

We’ll outline each requirement in-depth below. 

Coalition Application or Common Application 

Most undergraduates will be familiar with the Common Application. The Common Application allows candidates to apply to multiple colleges. The Coalition Application works much the same way. Most colleges accept one or both applications.

Writing Supplement 

male and female student working together on college campus

Colleges want to know more about you than just your test scores. Supplemental essays help them see you as an individual. Colleges craft these questions to be personal. This is your opportunity to be specific about why you want/need to transfer to this college. The admissions committee wants to know why this college and not any other.

Here are some examples of supplemental transfer essays you may write: 

  • What about [school name] has led you to apply? 
  • What inspires you? 
  • Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experience 
  • What brings you joy? 
  • What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? 

These questions will not appear in each application, but these examples are meant to give you a better idea of what to expect. 

Standardized Test Results 

Most colleges have adopted test-optional policies. Some of these colleges include Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and more. Applicants still have the option of submitting their results in most cases but won’t be penalized if they don’t.  

College Report 

You can find College Report forms in your application. A college official should complete the form and send the report back to the school.

The College Report shares your standing at your current school. It includes information about your GPA and extracurricular accomplishments. It helps give the admissions committee an idea of how you will perform and adjust if you transfer. 

person looking through documents


Both your high school and college must send an official transcript to your prospective school. Like Princeton or Yale, some colleges may also require a Mid-Term Report from your current college. 

Letters of Recommendation 

Most colleges will require two letters of recommendation. Transfer applications look for recommendations from college instructors, not high school teachers. Review the letter of recommendation requirements for the college you’re applying to before asking for letters.  

FAQs: College Transfer Admission Acceptance Rates

If you have any more questions about transferring colleges, check out these FAQs! 

1. Can I Transfer Colleges Halfway Through My Degree? 

If you have completed two years of post-secondary study, you may still be eligible to transfer. It’s always best to check transfer requirements first! 

2. Is Transferring Colleges Hard? 

In terms of effort, expect to spend as much time polishing your application as you would as a first-year student. In terms of acceptance rates, it depends on the college you want to transfer to; for example, it’s easier to transfer to some of the nation’s top schools than to apply as a first-year! 

3. What Is The Harvard Transfer Acceptance Rate? 

Harvard’s transfer admission rate is 0.9%. The first-year acceptance rate is 3.2%.

4. What Are the Best Schools for Transfer Students? 

Some of the best top colleges to transfer to include the University of Utah, Portland State University, and American University. These schools have the highest admission rates for transfers among the nation’s top colleges.

5. What Is The Yale Transfer Acceptance Rate? 

Yale’s transfer admission rate is 1.6%. The first-year acceptance rate is 4.6%. 

6. What Grades Do I Need to Transfer Colleges? 

Most colleges don’t require a specific GPA to transfer because they look at the application as a whole. While getting good grades is a must, you’ll also need good letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and a compelling reason for wanting to transfer.  

7. What Do Colleges Look for In Transfer Students? 

Colleges generally seek transfer students who show academic aptitude in high school and college and have a compelling reason for wanting to transfer.  

8. What Does Transfer Rate Mean for College?

The transfer rate for college tells us how many students switch from one college to another. It reveals whether students have a range of choices and if the education system is adaptable to their needs.

Final Thoughts

College is a great place to explore your interests while building a bright future. However, sometimes students find they’re enrolled in a college that isn’t the right fit for them. Fortunately, you’re not stuck where you are. 

By understanding college rates of acceptance for transfer students and submitting a robust transfer application, you can boost your chances of transferring to a school where you’ll be happier. 

We wish you luck on your transfer journey. 

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