It’s very difficult to “trade up,” through transfer admissions into a more selective college.. But its possible, if you do your homework. Transfer-up is a way of life for community college students in California, as my friend Elizabeth LaScala points out on her blog on DoingCollege.com. It’s the only route for residents to transfer into the University of California system schools. Given the new realities of higher education, my hunch is that many more college students will try to transfer up two years from now. They might start at a community college. Or they might start at a less expensive four-year school. But I’ll share a short story of someone who did not take their first two years of college for granted
Last year I had an online conversation with a professional acquaintance who had what I might call the “ultimate transfer-up experience.” He began his college education at Illinois State University, close to home. Then he transferred to St. Louis University for his sophomore year. He landed at his dream school, the University of Notre Dame, for his junior and senior years. He has a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame, just like anyone else who spent a full four years on campus. But he took a longer road to get there. He had to earn a 3.9 GPA at the first two stops in his college education. That was a necessity to rise to the top in a more competitive admissions process.
Notre Dame is not the easiest of schools to get in the first time around. The acceptance rate for the freshmen in the Class of 2022 was only 18 percent. These students were admitted off their high school accomplishments. Nearly 900 students applied to transfer in for this fall. Less than 200 (22%) were accepted. They were admitted off their college accomplishments. At first the odds look better for a transfer student. But Notre Dame was not in a position to take a deposit from each transfer student who got it. The university might have had room for half of them.
Freshmen who start at Notre Dame tend to return for their sophomore year. At most 40 students would leave. The university’s four-year graduation rates exceeded 91 percent for the classes that entered in 2010, 2011 and 2012. . With such high retention and graduation rates, the university would have room for between 80 and 100 transfer students. If you don’t like these odds, you will like the odds of moving on to an Ivy even less. Want to turn the odds in your favor? Choose a school where you will be happy to stay if you cannot leave.
Some of the more selective state schools—UC-Berkeley, UCLA, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia, to name a few, take transfer students. But these schools also have agreements with community colleges in their states. Top-performing applicants who have earned their Associates degrees will be at an advantage in transfer admissions. Community college might actually be a better option if you live in one of these states. But I can also imagine that many high-achieving high school students prefer the option of starting at a four-year school, and possibly staying there. Unless you live in a state where the community colleges have a well-defined path to a very good home state university, you might want to search for good four-year options.
Some state university systems let you start at a campus closer to home, then transfer to the main campus to finish your degree. Penn State has 35 Commonwealth campuses where a student may begin their education before transferring to the main campus in State College. Ohio State and the University of Pittsburgh, among others, have regional campuses, too. This is realistic for state residents, especially commuters. One nice bonus: you are an alumnus of that university, no matter which campus you took your courses.
One reason that Notre Dame is such a challenge in transfer admissions is that virtually everyone who is accepted decides to come. You might not be able to get into Notre Dame with your 4.0 from Illinois State or St. Louis University, but there will be another school that will take you. Other schools such as Case Western and NYU have low acceptance rates for transfers, but fewer than half of the applicants they accept decide to come. The same is true for some excellent state universities such as Indiana University-Bloomington and Rutgers-New Brunswick, which accept over half of the applications they receive for transfer admissions, though some majors may be tougher to get into than others.
The more selective private and public colleges consider various factors in freshman admissions besides grades and test scores. This is called “holistic review.” They are likely to do the same in transfer admissions. Depending on the school and how many transfer credits you have, they may also ask for a high school transcript and standardized test scores. The weaker your high school record, the less likely your chance of admission to these schools as a transfer student. The stronger your college record, the better your chances become, especially if you can back it up in the essays.
The key is to be willing to do the work—and have realistic options as well as reaches. Admissions officers have every right to expect more diligence from a college student than they would from a high school senior.
Need help in transferring from your current college? Contact me at email@example.com or call me at 609-406-0062
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