Transferring to the Ivy League: Everything You Need to Know

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October 27, 2022
How to Transfer Into an Ivy League SchoolShould You Transfer to the Ivy League?Ivy League Transfer Acceptance RatesFAQs: Transferring to the Ivy LeaguesTransferring to the Ivys: It's Your Choice


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/10/22

Transferring to the Ivy Leagues is an excellent goal to have. If you need information on how to make it an achievable one, read our guide where we tell you everything you need to know.

Every year Ivy League schools receive tens of thousands of applications from candidates around the world. Ivy League schools have a reputation for being extremely selective and competitive. If you’re considering transferring to an Ivy league, it’s important to make sure your application is as strong as possible.

A strong application is one that has been thoughtfully planned and written with an end goal of gaining acceptance into one of the Ivy Leagues. Here, we will discuss the process of applying to transfer, helpful tips and tricks, the advantages and disadvantages, and answer some commonly asked questions about transferring to the Ivy Leagues.

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How to Transfer Into an Ivy League School

Applying to transfer to a different college is essentially the same process as applying for school the first time. The difference is in how you prepare for it. Here are a few things to check off before you start your transfer application. 

  1. Assess why you want to transfer: do you think you will have a better opportunity with the Ivy League school of your choice?
  2. Begin your college search: List at least your top 3 Ivy League choices and research their acceptance rates, their transfer process, application components, etc.
  3. Meet with your advisor: Gather as much information and additional resources on transferring and see if you can have any help on the process if you’re stuck
  4. Start scoping out schools: Even if you have your top choices, it wouldn’t hurt to have backup choices and be sure to visit the campuses if you are able
  5. Check out which credits transfer: Make sure you have the right amount of credits as well as working towards the ones needed before starting the transfer application. 
  6. Understand your financial aid options: Ivy League schools are expensive. Make sure you have financial aid options as well as being on the lookout for bursaries, awards, and other means of financial support.

After doing all those steps, you can finally collect your components and begin the transfer application. Having good grades, a great application essay, and acing all the interviews are key when applying for an Ivy League school. Below is a step-by-step process on how to do it:

1. Receive Excellent Grades and Test Marks

Ivy Leagues want their prospective students to have exceptional academic standing. This quality is vital for you to enroll and excel in lengthy, overwhelming courses in an Ivy League.

You have to achieve certain test scores and GPAs to be considered by Ivy League admissions officials. Each breakthrough SAT or ACT score differs by school.. Though, some schools have different standardized test scores that determine if you are eligible to be accepted.

2. Improve Your Grades

Make sure your current transcript has acceptable grades, as it is possibly the most crucial component of your transfer application. Show the type of courses you took in your current school: sciences, arts, humanities, and more that helped boost your GPA.

Having a variety of courses on your transcript can impress the admissions because it shows you take on a variety of subjects that pique your interests. 

3. Prepare for Early Action/Early Decision Programs

Of course, you have already researched and picked the Ivy League school you want to transfer to, but you can take a shortcut by applying through an Early Action or Early Decision program if that Ivy League accepts transfer students.

Your application deadline will be earlier, and your response date will be later. This will buy you time to research the program and institution to see if you will be a good fit. 

An early action program gives you an early indication of your admission status. The issue however is that it may limit your application to other schools; only one application via Early Decision is permitted.

Also, if you are accepted, you are obligated to attend that Ivy League school and should withdraw from any other transfer applications.

4. Make Sure You’re Ready for Standardized Tests

If the Ivy League calls for it, it would not hurt to retake or take any standardized tests to help get a better score to increase your chances of getting accepted.

As you probably know, the SAT or ACT are not the same, but either test may be required for the Ivy League to which you are applying. These tests help the Ivy League schools assess your knowledge of topics including:

5. Create an Outstanding Personal Statement

Personal statements are also crucial documents in your application. You will need to write an interesting, compelling personal statement to stand out amongst the hundreds of other applicants. Make sure you avoid grammatical errors or cliche themes; those tropes will cause your application to end up in the trash.

Your statement does not need to be remarkable or ground-breaking; you can pick a topic that is meaningful to you and allows the reader to see how thoughtful and self-reflective you are.

6. Exemplify Depth in Your Extracurricular Activities

It wouldn’t hurt to mention any activities you have done while in your current institution, as it can help your application stand out. It shows that you have a genuine enthusiasm about the activities you participate in.

You can take your extracurriculars and mold them into something inspiring by listing your achievements and dedications. It will tell the Ivy League school how hard-working you are and if that makes you a good addition to the institution.

7. Provide Excellent Letters of Recommendations

Ivy League schools usually require two letters of recommendation. Your best options for writing these letters would be for teachers who are familiar with you and you have a good standing in their course. It does not have to be a teacher from your major, just make sure the person writing your letter can talk from personal experiences about your achievements and aspirations.

Research about recommendation letters ahead of time and give your choices at least two months’ notice in advance so they can gather your accomplishments, grades, and performance in class.

You can also provide your recommenders with your full transcripts, a CV, any awards you may have, any achievements you have made in extracurricular activities or volunteering.

8. Be Respectful and Likable for Your Interview

Some Ivy League schools will contact you for an interview, which are often conducted by a current or former student of said school. Interviews are not always required and not that important in your application, but it does have an impact on whether you will be admitted or not by the school.

If the school offers an interview, by all means, go do it! You have more to lose if you don’t: failing to talk about why you want to transfer to this school or your passions and goals can negatively affect your decision.

Be courteous and respectful during the interview. These are amiable interactions that allow admissions to get a better view of you as not just a prospective student, but as a person.

Should You Transfer to an Ivy League School?

It is always important to consider the factors before making the decision to transfer to an Ivy League school. You must consider all the good and bad that come with making such an important decision. 


Here are some advantages of transferring to an Ivy League school.

Save Money 

Tuition rates are an important component of attending college that needs to be addressed by all students. Ivy League schools are very expensive, but if you want to transfer, the good thing is that taking a semester in a community college or a more affordable college will allow you to save a good amount in the subsequent time that can be put towards your Ivy League tuition.

Improve Your Grades 

Good grades are critical in your transfer process. Being in a lesser-known college allows you time to get your GPA and grades up and lets the Ivy League admissions see your improvement, which increases your chances of getting accepted.

Determine Your Academic Path

Most students end up being rejected because they lack a clear sense of direction. It is alright to not know what you want to do post-graduation yet, or which profession you wish to pursue, but you must have a clear plan of action. Being in a different college can help that; you explore your options and solidify your career choices before putting your plan in action to apply for a transfer.


Here are some disadvantages of transferring to an Ivy League school.

High Tuition Fees 

Tuition, even with a cost-saving plan, is still high for Ivy League schools. Below is a chart that gives off a good idea about the estimated tuition fees.

table showing the ivy league's tuition fees

Low Admission Rates 

Alongside tuition, Ivy League schools are ridiculously hard to get into. You must perfectly fit the profiles of your ideal student to be accepted. Make sure to properly research the criteria for each school before applying towards them.

Ivy League Transfer Acceptance Rates

Look at the table below, which outlines the Ivy League transfer acceptance rate, the number of accepted transfer applicants, and the undergrad acceptance rate of each Ivy school. 

Table showing ivy league transfer acceptance rates
Source: Princeton | Harvard  | Columbia

Table showing ivy league transfer acceptance rates
Source: Dartmouth | Cornell
Table showing ivy league transfer acceptance rates
Source: Yale | Brown | Upenn

FAQs: Transferring to the Ivy League

Still have some questions regarding transferring to Ivy League? We understand. It’s an important decision and you should be as well informed as possible. Here are some FAQs that answer your general questions on the matter.

1. Can I Transfer to an Ivy League School from Community College?

Absolutely. Since 2019, a steady number of 200+ community college students have been able to transfer to Ivy League. Cornell University is said to accept the largest number of community college transfers. The University of Pennsylvania comes in second, and Brown University third. Their data showing the rates of community college acceptance are available on their websites.

2. What Do Ivy League Schools Look For In an Application?

Ivy League schools want students who stick out from the crowd and are unique in their area of interest. They want world-changers who wish to make a strong, positive impact on society and the future to come. They are looking for people who can make their dreams realities, and work hard to grow to reach success.

3. What is the Easiest Ivy League School to Get Into?

That can be debatable. It all depends on the ones with the most transfer acceptance rates. As stated earlier your top best choices would be Cornell, UPenn or Dartmouth. Their rates range from ~8.03% to 10%.

4. What Can Help Make Me a Good Applicant?

You can always talk to your academic advisor from both your current college and an Ivy League school to see if you would be a good fit. Make sure you’re in transferable classes. Earn high grades and maintain a high GPA. Be sure to check if your choices have a minimum GPA requirement for transfer students that you exceed.

5. Can You Have Too Many Transfer Credits?

Schools in the US, including Ivy Leagues, have different transfer policies. Some schools will accept you with 100 college credits, but most themes generally require 30 credits. You should research the school’s website to get a good idea of how many transfer credits are needed.

6. What Specific Courses Should I Take Before I Transfer?

Usually, it is specified on the Ivy League school’s website what constitutes a transfer credit and what doesn’t. It is advised to take basic general education courses and then maybe research the school you wish to transfer to and see if there are any specific credits to earn.

7. How Do I Find Out About Transfer and Major Requirements for My School?

You can always ask your academic advisor of your current school to make sure you are meeting the requirements and are on the right track to transfer. Also, check out any transfer application workshops around your campus.

Transferring to the Ivys: It's Your Choice

Transferring to another school, especially an Ivy League school, is a big step, with an exhaustive application process. You will be able to make a smooth operation of the matter if you were to follow the steps and are determined to get into the Ivy League school of your dreams. It is always alright to ask questions and receive all the help available to be successful in getting accepted.

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