harvard lawn

Transferring to an Ivy League University

Transferring to an Ivy League school is even more difficult than being accepted as a freshman applicant. For students who aspire to attend Princeton, for example, it hasn’t even been possible to transfer to the school in recent decades. The university recently announced that in 2018 it will offer admission to a small number of transfer students as part of the university’s strategic plan to seek greater diversity.

“Princeton is planning for the reinstatement of a small transfer admissions program as a way to attract students with diverse backgrounds and experiences, such as military veterans and students from low-income backgrounds, including some who began their studies at community colleges,” the university announced earlier this year.

In an important recent development for students who may be planning to transfer, the Common Application organization has announced plans for a new application specially customized for transfer students. Jenny Rickard, the Common App’s chief executive, said that the move to a special application for transferees would help “a very important but under-recognized group of learners . . . by actually acknowledging their diverse backgrounds and experiences.”

At this time, transfer students complete only about 4% of the total applications that are submitted through the Common App platform. The new transfer application will allow transfer students to apply to multiple schools with the new special-purpose application and will also waive certain fees.

IvySelect college admissions counselors take pride in their ability to help high school students applying to college as freshman applicants to construct a target list of 12 or 13 schools of which even the schools at the bottom of the list are attractive to the student. We develop the list so that the student will be happy to attend any of the target schools, not just the ones at the top of the list. However, if a student didn’t use IvySelect initially or if they didn’t anticipate how much they would dislike, say, cold weather, large class sizes, a rural setting or any of the other features of the college they’re attending, then IvySelect is highly qualified to offer expert assistance in transferring to a more desirable school.

There are other reasons why a student may prefer to transfer aside from those characteristics of their current school that they dislike (which go unmentioned in the transfer application to avoid being perceived as a malcontent). A student may be seeking to attend a college from which they were previously rejected or which offers a more challenging educational experience. IvySelect will work with the student to distill a compelling message that clarifies the reasons that your current school doesn’t meet your academic needs and why the transfer school is a better fit.

Some students seek to transfer so that they can participate in specific programs that aren’t offered at their current college or are offered at a much higher quality and breadth at the transfer school. This rationale offers the most frequently successful case for acceptance as a transfer student. IvySelect enables you to articulate this rationale so that the admissions office will view your transfer application positively.

Again, we emphasize that students hoping to secure a spot at a top-tier university face even tougher odds as transfer students than they do as freshman applicants, as seen in the Table below from The Washington Post. The columns show the top national universities listed according to their US News & World Report rankings, the number of transferees entering in a recent year, the number of new freshmen, the total of newly admitted students, and the percentage share of transfers in the total. Schools that do not permit or report transfers are omitted.

Note that, among Ivy League schools, Cornell accepts the largest share of transfer students at 15% and Harvard and Dartmouth the lowest at 1%. Princeton is not shown because their new transfer program won’t begin until next year. The seven branches on the University of California on the list accept a remarkably high average of 33% of students who apply as transferees, due mainly to their commitment to the State’s community colleges.

Table: Transfer Students as a Percent of Total Admissions at Top-Tier Schools

SCHOOL TRANSFERS FRESHMEN TOTAL TRANSFER % OF TOTAL
Harvard University 12 1659 1671 1%
Yale University 29 1360 1389 2%
Stanford University 29 1678 1707 2%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 16 1043 1059 2%
Duke University 13 1721 1734 1%
University of Pennsylvania 150 2425 2575 6%
California Institute of Technology 3 226 229 1%
Johns Hopkins University 40 1414 1454 3%
Dartmouth College 14 1152 1166 1%
Northwestern University 55 2005 2060 3%
Brown University 51 1561 1612 3%
Cornell University 554 3225 3779 15%
Vanderbilt University 207 1605 1812 11%
Washington University in St. Louis 110 1734 1844 6%
Rice University 31 949 980 3%
University of Notre Dame 118 2011 2129 6%
University of California-Berkeley 2187 5466 7653 29%
Emory University 105 1365 1470 7%
Georgetown University 148 1578 1726 9%
Carnegie Mellon University 20 1474 1494 1%
University of California-Los Angeles 3167 5764 8931 35%
University of Southern California 1435 3098 4533 32%
University of Virginia 665 3709 4374 15%
Tufts University 22 1348 1370 2%
Wake Forest University 30 1287 1317 2%
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 1041 6505 7546 14%
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill 886 3976 4862 18%
New York University 854 5913 6767 13%
Brandeis University 60 859 919 7%
College of William and Mary 157 1511 1668 9%
Georgia Institute of Technology 499 2809 3308 15%
Case Western Reserve University 38 1282 1320 3%
University of California-Santa Barbara 1592 4747 6339 25%
University of California-Irvine 2024 5424 7448 27%
University of California-San Diego 2461 4921 7382 33%
Boston University 478 3915 4393 11%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 121 1331 1452 8%
Tulane University 116 1647 1763 7%
University of California-Davis 3138 5377 8515 37%
University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign 1331 6937 8268 16%
University of Wisconsin-Madison 770 6264 7034 11%
Lehigh University 29 1299 1328 2%
Northeastern University 460 2944 3404 14%
Pennsylvania State University 425 8183 8608 5%
University of Florida 1968 6537 8505 23%
University of Miami 592 2076 2668 22%
Ohio State University 2606 7079 9685 27%
Pepperdine University 106 656 762 14%
University of Texas-Austin 2325 7285 9610 24%
University of Washington 1730 6360 8090 21%
Yeshiva University 31 809 840 4%
George Washington University 492 2416 2908 17%
University of Connecticut 805 3588 4393 18%
University of Maryland at College Park 2004 4129 6133 33%
Worcester Polytechnic Institute 42 1056 1098 4%
Clemson University 1293 3475 4768 27%
Purdue University-West Lafayette 586 6372 6958 8%
Southern Methodist University 287 1459 1746 16%
University of Georgia 1116 5261 6377 18%
Brigham Young University-Provo 734 4072 4806 15%
Fordham University 343 2258 2601 13%
University of Pittsburgh 762 3847 4609 17%
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 2175 5530 7705 28%
Texas A&M University-College Station 2525 10835 13360 19%
Virginia Tech 958 5494 6452 15%
American University 287 1787 2074 14%
Baylor University 454 3625 4079 11%
Rutgers-New Brunswick 2541 6412 8953 28%
Clark University 52 547 599 9%
Colorado School of Mines 159 999 1158 14%
Indiana University-Bloomington 912 7716 8628 11%
Michigan State University 1668 8055 9723 17%
University of Delaware 426 4179 4605 9%
University of Massachusetts-Amherst 1158 4642 5800 20%