Transferring to the Ivy League: When, How + Steps To Take

How to transfer to the ivy leagues
June 7, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/2/24

Transferring to an Ivy League school is an excellent goal. Read our guide to learn how you can make transferring achievable! 

Every year, Ivy League schools receive tens of thousands of applications from candidates worldwide. Schools in the Ivy League have a reputation for being extremely competitive. If you’re considering transferring, ensuring your application is as strong as possible is important. 

We’ll discuss Ivy League transfer acceptance rates, helpful tips and tricks, and answer some commonly asked questions about transferring to the Ivy League.

How to Transfer Into an Ivy League School

If you plan on transferring from a community college or state university, you can expect to hear about a potential acceptance after your sophomore year. However, depending on the school, gaining admissions as a transfer applicant is more difficult than for a first-year student. 

Here are a few things to check before starting your transfer application. 

  1. Assess why you want to transfer: Do you think you’ll have better educational, research, or extracurricular opportunities at your chosen school?
  1. Begin your college search: List at least your top three Ivy League choices and research acceptance rates, transfer processes, application components, etc.
  1. Meet with your advisor: Gather as much information and resources about transferring and ask for help if you’re stuck. We offer personalized college transfer counseling services to those interested and need guidance!
  1. Start scoping out schools: Even if you have your top choices, it won’t hurt to have backup choices. Visit campuses if you can!
  1. Check out which credits transfer: Ensure you have enough credits or are working toward the ones needed before starting the transfer application. 
  1. Understand your financial aid options: Schools in the Ivy League can be expensive. Ensure you have financial aid options sorted out, and stay on the lookout for bursaries, awards, and other means of financial support.

After completing these steps, you can collect your documents and begin the transfer application process. Here’s how to make transferring easier despite Ivy League school transfer rates. 

Put Your All Into College Courses 

While there’s not much you can do to change your high school GPA now, you can put your all into performing your best in your college courses. Schools in the Ivy League seek students who demonstrate academic excellence. Giving your all and achieving great grades is an excellent way to boost your candidacy! 

Robert Penman, Executive Director for Undergraduate Outreach, Recruitment, and Admissions at UC Davis, states that how transfer applications are reviewed may differ from first-year applications. 

“First-year applicants are reviewed holistically at UC Davis (for example) and the process is more selective. Transfer is much more focused on meeting minimum academic requirements,” he said. 

Consider Retaking the SAT/ACT 

While all schools in the Ivy League are currently test-optional, retaking the SAT or the ACT could help give you an edge in the admissions process. If you plan to retake the test and share your scores, aim for a score in the upper middle 50% range or higher for admitted students to be more competitive. 

Craft a New, Outstanding Personal Statement

Personal statements are also crucial documents in your application. You may need to write a personal statement to accompany your application aside from a transfer essay, but always check school requirements first. 

We don’t recommend keeping your original personal statement from your first college application – however, you can certainly borrow elements/themes. We’re sure you have new stories to tell! 

Write Captivating Supplemental and Transfer Essays 

Like first-year applicants, you must write school-specific essays for each school you apply to. While these prompts vary significantly, transfer-specific prompts typically follow the same themes. Here’s an example from Cornell University: 

“Tell us what you’d like to major in at Cornell, why or how your past academic or work experience influenced your decision, and how transferring to Cornell would further your academic interests.”

The ingredients for a great transfer essay include understanding why you want to transfer, explaining how you’ve prepared yourself academically, and conveying how your acceptance would help you realize your goals. 

Provide Excellent Letters of Recommendations

Schools in the Ivy League usually require two letters of recommendation. Your best options for writing these letters would be for professors who are familiar with you. It doesn’t have to be a professor from your major; just ensure the person writing your letter can talk from personal experiences about your achievements and aspirations.

Give your choices at least two months’ notice in advance so they can write you a stellar letter. You can also provide your recommenders with your full transcript, a CV, any awards you may have, and more insight into your activities and volunteer experiences.

Choose to Interview If Offered

Some schools will contact you for an interview, often conducted by alumni. If the school offers an interview, by all means, do it! It’s an opportunity to discuss why you want to transfer to this school. 

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

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 undergraduate acceptance rate of each Ivy school. 

College Transfer Acceptance Rate Number of Accepted Transfer Applicants Undergrad Acceptance Rate
Princeton University 2.9% 35 5.6%
Harvard University 0.8% 15 3.2%
Columbia University 14.7% >100 3.9%
Dartmouth College 7.3% 44 6.4%
Cornell University 13.8% 798 7.3%
Yale University 1.6% 32 4.6%
Brown University 5.4% 152 5.0%
UPenn 5.3% 185 6.5%

Deadlines for Transferring 

It’s important to be mindful of transfer deadlines to ensure your application is submitted on time. These are the final transfer application deadlines at each school, based on data from each website.

School Transfer Application Deadline
Princeton University March 1
Harvard University March 1
Columbia University March 1
Dartmouth College March 1
Cornell University Fall semester: March 15
Spring semester: October 15
Yale University March 1
Brown University Fall semester: March 1
Spring semester: October 1
University of Pennsylvania March 15

Most Ivy League schools only accept transfers for the fall semester, although Brown and Cornell allow students to transfer in the spring. Please be mindful of final application deadlines to ensure your documents are submitted on time!

Transferring From Community College to Ivy League Schools 

If you’re currently attending a community college, it’s still possible to transfer to an Ivy League school. In fact, the Transfer Scholars Network initiative helps pair “high-profile” community colleges with some of the nation’s most selective schools, including Cornell University, Princeton University, and Yale University. 

Ivy League schools accept transfer students from various institutions across the country. As long as you have a strong profile, excellent grades, and a compelling application, transferring to the Ivy League as a community college student is possible (whether or not you’ve already completed an associate’s degree). 

Many students go from community colleges to Ivy League schools – ensure you focus on your academics to give yourself the best chance of admission! 

Should You Transfer to an Ivy League School?

Pros and Cons of transferring to the ivy league

It’s always important to consider all factors before deciding to transfer to an Ivy League school. 


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

Abundant Resources

Ivy League schools are well-known for their prestige, academic excellence, famous alumni, and abundant resources. State-of-the-art research centers, spiraling libraries, and numerous academic enrichment opportunities for students make transferring to an Ivy League attractive. 

A Powerful Ivy League Network 

Switching to an Ivy League school means becoming a part of a vast, powerful network of students, faculty, and alumni. The extensive networking opportunities can help you secure research opportunities, internships, and jobs before and after graduation. 

A World-Class Education At Your Grasp 

Ivy League schools and academic excellence go hand-in-hand. Ivy League students learn from the nation’s best experts in the field – world-class faculty is a huge draw. While other schools may have capable, knowledgeable professors, you’re sure to learn from the best of the best at an Ivy. 


Here are some disadvantages of transferring.

High Tuition Fees 

Tuition can be high at Ivy League schools. Below is a chart detailing tuition rates at all Ivies: 

Thankfully, scholarships and other types of financial aid can help mitigate tuition costs. 

Low Admission Rates 

Alongside tuition, Ivy League schools are hard to get into, with acceptance rates below 10% for first-year applicants. Do your best to craft a stand-out application to boost your chances of acceptance. Make sure to properly research the criteria for each school before applying to them.

If you have your heart set on transferring to an Ivy, working with the team at Quad can help you boost your admission chances! Our expert insight can help you build an application that showcases your strengths.

Transferring to an Ivy League school is a big decision. You can take our free college transfer quiz below to determine if transferring schools is the right thing for you! 

FAQs: Transferring to the Ivy League

Still have questions regarding transferring to Ivy League? Here are some FAQs to answer your questions.

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

Absolutely. Cornell University is said to accept the largest number of community college transfers. 

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. 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?

Your top best choices would be Cornell, Columbia, or Dartmouth, based solely on transfer rates. 

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. 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 Transfer to Harvard? 

Yes, Harvard accepts transfers, albeit very few of them. 

6. How Hard is It to Transfer to Harvard? 

Transferring to Harvard University is more difficult than gaining acceptance as a first-year student. According to Forbes, Harvard accepted only 0.8% of transfer applicants in a recent cycle. 

7. Is it Easier to Get Into College as a Transfer? 

Generally, no, at least for most Ivy League schools. Columbia College/Engineering is the only outlier above that suggests it’s easier to get in as a transfer than as a first-year student. 

8. What is the Easiest Ivy League School to Transfer to? 

Cornell University is the easiest Ivy League to transfer to and accepts the most students of any other Ivy school. 

9. Is Transferring to an Ivy League School Hard? 

Switching to an Ivy League school can be difficult, but you have a better chance depending on your academic standing, application documents, and which school you choose. 

10. What GPA Do You Need to Transfer to an Ivy League? 

There’s no magic GPA that will guarantee your acceptance, but it’s always in your best interest to strive for the highest GPA possible to improve your chances. 

Transferring to an Elite School: It's Your Choice 

Transferring to another school, especially an Ivy League school, is a big step. You can make the process smoother by following these steps and showing determination to get into the Ivy League school of your dreams. It’s always alright to ask questions and receive all the help available to boost your chances of acceptance.

Access 20+ Transfer Essay Examples Here

Access 20+ Transfer Essay Examples Here


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