Student Insight: How to Approach Transferring Colleges

January 09, 2018

Not sure if your current university is the best school for you? Consider your transfer options.

No one really expects to go through the application process again after senior year in high school. But things change. Your interests and priorities may change, and your experience might push you to do something different. It doesn’t matter what your reason is. At the end of the day, just like any other applicant, you’re looking for a college with the resources and environment to support your academic and personal growth.

There are different estimates to the number of transfer students in the U.S. In one estimate from 2009, according to the National Center of Education Statistics, 2.5 million college students transfer each year. In another from 2008, only 20% of students at four-year colleges are transfers. While the numbers vary, the takeaway here is that you’re not alone.

If you’re interested in transferring to another college, here are some advice successful transfer applicants would like you to know:

1. California Community College to UC Berkeley

Transfer Application Advice from Gomezandres97, UC Berkeley ‘18:

“I transferred from a California community college to University of California, Berkeley. The key to this really is the personal statement. The competition is high among transfer students, and almost all of them will have a high GPA. This means that the personal statement will really make or break you. The best advice I can give about writing your personal statement is to have it edited… a lot. I wrote my personal statement around three months before the university application was due. This gave me lots of time to bring it to professors/mentors/parents so they could help me make changes they sought fit. Of course, there will be advice that you will not want to take, and it is ultimately your decision what goes in your personal statement. However, the input from other people can really open your eyes to another perspective, and English teachers especially, can help you draft a personal statement that is free of errors. I’m a good writer, but I feel like showing my personal statement to so many people (around 10) helped me make the changes that I needed to be accepted

View his full UC Berkeley profile to learn more about his application journey!

2. Vanderbilt University to Washington University in St. Louis

Transfer Application Advice from Turnerej, Wash U ‘18

“As a transfer, I had to go with my gut. I wallowed about the decision and leaving my friends and my foundation, but I had already made my decision, I was just scared to take the leap. Everyone will try to tell you the same stuff: do what will make you the happiest but I have no idea where I will be happiest, I just knew that I would have a better chance of being happy at Wash U than at Vanderbilt. I made a pros and cons list that ended up not being very helpful, so in the end I just had to take a leap of faith and so far I could not be more excited or happier.”

Unlock her WashU profile to view her application materials and advice!

3. University of Notre Dame to Santa Clara University

Transfer Application Advice from rachaelc66, Santa Clara ‘19

“Transferring was the last thing I wanted to do when I began my college application process. I thought that by choosing to go to my “dream school” I wouldn’t have to transfer and so I overlooked my other options when I was applying. I should’ve given each school a fair shot from the beginning and then maybe I wouldn’t have changed my mind. It’s okay to transfer though. You’re not expected to know what you really want when you’re a senior in high school (even though it can feel like you are… trust me, I’ve been there). There is always the opportunity to grow and change and if you do that’s perfectly okay! I decided to transfer the summer before I had even started and I remember feeling like it was going to be so awkward to try to explain to my family and friends because I thought they would be disappointed in me for attending a less prestigious school. I hated trying to explain my reasoning to everyone that asked but one thing I did learn was that no one was disappointed in me; I was just disappointed in myself. Once I realized that changing my mind was the best decision for me I felt a lot better.”

View her full Santa Clara application file to find out how she set herself apart.

4. International Transfer to Columbia University

Transfer Application Advice from AnnyB, Columbia ‘17

“Well first of all, I transferred internationally - and that’s a big deal. It was a last minute decision and I was rushing everything. I had to prepare all these essays, research about each school, take the SAT, get recommendation letters, get all the documents I need for admission…etc. IT WAS A NIGHTMARE and I was so stressed and unhappy. I was working in a lab from 6am - 10pm too, which didn’t help at all.

[...] For me, writing transfer essays were somewhat easier than writing freshman admission essays. I think it’s because transfer essays are less creative and more direct - to the point. They want to know why you’re transferring.”

Unlock her full Columbia profile to read her full application advice on transferring!

5. University of Virginia to New York University

Transfer Application Advice from khanzai94, NYU ‘16

“I had gained admission to the University of Virginia as a freshman and was ecstatic. The school was extremely competitive and had a beautiful campus. However, after a year I was pretty disenchanted with the small town feel and thought a change to a bigger city and more international school would be the right move so I transferred. My advice to any transfer would be to decide what you want. Not only in the courses but the environment, city, student body, and professors. I chose New York for the internship opportunities outside my door, the friends from across the world, and the ability to surround myself with the energy and passion of the city. After you’ve decided what you want, make sure it comes exploding through your essay. Discuss why you are transferring in the first place but never criticize your old school. Give the reasons why you are looking for more and why you would be an ideal fit for your new school.”

Unlock his NYU profile to learn more about his application process!

Applying to college?
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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


Browse Successful Application Files

Columbia ‘20

Accepted to Columbia, Brown, UPenn, Rice, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, UC Davis, UCSD, UCSC, USC

Hey! I'm a John Jay Scholar at Columbia, and I'm from Los Angeles. I'm planning to major in Art History and do ballet and theater. Hope I can help!
Columbia ‘21

Accepted to Columbia, Duke, JHU, NYU, UPenn, WashU, UMich, Middlebury, Case, Wesleyan, Williams

Hi! I'm an incoming engineering student at Columbia University. I am a probability theory enthusiast, New York pizza lover, and a tennis fan.
WashU ‘22

Accepted to WashU, USC, BU, UCSB, Washington, UC Davis

Wasn't sure what I wanted but figured it out in the end!
NYU ‘19

Accepted to NYU, BU, Ohio State

Chicago-->Cincinnati-->New York City. Dancer. Rower. Volunteer. Future Teacher.

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