College Transfer Acceptance Rates: Everything You Need to Know

Female student sitting with laptop and thinking about transferring college
July 13, 2022
Why Transfer in College?Transfer Acceptance Rates by SchoolHow to Transfer Colleges SuccessfullyFAQs: College Transfer Acceptance Rates

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Are you considering transferring to another college? Keep reading this article to find out everything you need to know about transfer acceptance rates and the whole transfer process.

 

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

Those planning to transfer should take note of the transfer acceptance rates of their prospective schools. The acceptance rates for undergraduate programs are significantly higher than the transfer acceptance rates of the same schools. 

Most colleges only leave a limited number of spots for transfer students. Keep reading to find out more.

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Why Transfer in College? 

There are many reasons why undergraduate students may feel like transferring colleges is right for them. Some may make an upward transfer, going to a better or more prestigious institution. 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 acceptance rate. 

Community College Transfer 

Many students strategically choose to go to community college before applying to a four-year college. This gives students, especially those straight out of high school, a chance to accumulate college credits. 

College credits can be transferred after being obtained in a less challenging environment. Those who struggled academically, or did not 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 intend to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. Applicants, in this case, should review the transfer acceptance rates of their target schools. While many of these students plan to transfer, only 30% do so within six years. 

School Prestige 

Prestige and school recognition are common reasons for transfers to higher education. The better the recognition of a particular school, the better it will look on a resume. Many students transfer to more prestigious colleges to graduate from a better school.  

Students with this plan should note that 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 the college transfer acceptance rates of each school. When it comes to Yale transfer acceptance rates, the university clearly states that they only reserve space for a “small number of transfer students” each year. 

Changing Majors 

Undergraduate students are often unsure of exactly what to do for the rest of their lives. College is a great time to explore different opportunities and decide what you are 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 does not have the ideal program for their new preferred major. In which case, transferring to a college with a better program may be necessary. However, it is essential to look into the college acceptance rates of the school you plan to transfer to before deciding on this path.  

Affordability 

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 that they cannot keep up with the high price tag that their education comes with. Those in that circumstance may need to transfer to a smaller or more economic institution. The transfer acceptance rates 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 and where they best fit. 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 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.

Transfer Acceptance Rates by School  

Universities in the ivy league typically have low acceptance rates. The acceptance rates for transfer students are dramatically lower than general undergraduate acceptance. The table below shows the difference between these rates. Undergraduate acceptance for Harvard University is 4%, while the Harvard transfer acceptance rate is 1%. 

Table showing the transfer acceptance rate, number of accepted transfer applicants, and undergrad acceptance rate, by school.
Source: Princeton University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, Yale University, Stanford University, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University

Princeton University Transfer Acceptance Rates 

Princeton's transfer acceptance rates are typically lower than most other schools. In 2018, Princeton reinstated the transfer student program. Princeton's independent student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, reports that 13 transfer students have been admitted in the first three years of the new program while the number of applicants has dropped.  

A bar chart showing the number of transfer admissions in Princeton University since 2018

 

In 2022, 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, a significant increase from the current 40 students.  

Harvard University Transfer Acceptance Rates 

Like most ivy league schools, Harvard’s acceptance rates remain low, around 1%. It is vastly more competitive to be accepted as a transfer student to Harvard than to apply from high school. You cannot have completed more than two years of post-secondary study to qualify as a transfer student at Harvard. 

Harvard’s admissions committee looks for transfer applicants who have shown that they have something to offer at Harvard. Extracurricular and leadership activities will significantly indicate this. You will also want to show that there is a strong academic reason that you are transferring specifically to Harvard. Considering Harvard’s transfer acceptance rates, you will need to show that you have a specific reason that you chose Harvard and not another school.  

Yale University Transfer Acceptance Rates 

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 acceptance rate of 1.7%. 

Yale University also considers transfer students with the Eli Whitney Students Program (EWSP). The EWSP is a small undergraduate program designed for adults who have 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. Remember, the Yale transfer acceptance rates include transfer students and students accepted through the Eli Whitney Students Program.  

How to Transfer Colleges Successfully 

Most schools will have similar application processes, though it is essential to review your preferred institution’s specific guidelines and requirements. Colleges are looking for exceptional, well-rounded students. Admissions officers will be reviewing your application as a whole to determine if you are a good fit. Considering the low transfer acceptance rates, your application will need to stand out amongst the hundreds of other applicants.  

Transfer Application General Requirements: 

Coalition Application or Common Application 

Most undergraduates will be familiar with a Common Application. Using a Common Application gives applicants more convenience when applying to multiple colleges. Coalition Applications work much the same way. Most colleges will accept one or the other. Applying through both will not help your application in any way.  

Writing Supplement 

Colleges want to know more about you than just your test scores. The writing supplement portion of your application will help them see you as an individual. Colleges craft these questions to be personal. This is also the application section where you can 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? 

Writing Supplement Examples 

These questions will not appear in each application, but it gives a good idea of what to expect. Don’t be afraid to be thoughtful about these questions, and answer honestly.  

Standardized Test Results 

Most colleges have temporarily held the standardized testing requirement following the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these colleges include Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and more. Applicants will still have the option of submitting their results but will not be penalized if they do not.  

College Report 

You can find the college report forms in your Common or Coalition Applications. Whether a dean, teacher, or an advisor, a college official should complete the form.The college official is to send the report back to the school. 

The college report gives an idea of your standing at your current school. It includes information such as your most recent GPA and extracurricular accomplishments. It helps give the admissions committee an idea of how you will perform and adjust if you transfer. 

Transcripts  

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 will look for recommendations from college instructors, not high school teachers. You must review the letter of recommendation requirements for the college you are applying to before asking for the letter.

FAQs: College Transfer Acceptance Rates 

1. Can I Transfer Colleges Halfway Through My Degree? 

If you have completed two years of post-secondary study, you are no longer eligible for transfer to most colleges.  

2. What Is The Harvard Transfer Acceptance Rate? 

Harvard’s transfer acceptance rate is 1%. This rate is 3% lower than the general undergraduate acceptance rate at 4%.

3. What Is The Yale Transfer Acceptance Rate? 

Yale’s transfer acceptance rate is 2.5%. The acceptance rate for undergraduates is 6.5%. 

4. What Grades Do I Need to Transfer Colleges? 

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

5. Which College Has The Highest Transfer Acceptance Rate

Cornell University has the highest transfer acceptance rate in the ivy league at 18%. In 2020, a total of 872 transfer students were admitted.   

Final Thoughts 

College is a great place to explore your interests while building a bright future. However, you may be in a college that is not right for you. Fortunately, you are not stuck where you are. Submitting a robust transfer application can give you a good chance of transferring to the right place for you. 

Applicants should note the transfer acceptance rates of the colleges to which they hope to transfer. Many of the top universities have low transfer acceptance rates, but with proper guidance, you can be successful.  

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