Did you royally screw up in high school and are you wondering whether you can make up for your past mistakes by transferring later? Or are you in community college or at another college that doesn’t suit your long term goals? Regardless of why you’re interested in transferring, if you want to know more about how to best position yourself for transfer admissions, this blog and video are for you!

Below are some tips for transferring to another college.

Be Strategic

My number one tip for transfers is to know the stats before you make your dream college list. Here, I’ll go through best and worst bets for transfer students looking for admission at top schools (ranked approximately 1-30 by US News and World Report). If you’re looking to transfer to a college not on these lists, the same concept still applies: look up the stats on freshman admits vs. transfer admits so you have a realistic idea of your chances. Still, lower ranked schools tend to have more commensurate rates of admission between freshman round and transfer rounds. We may have omitted a few top schools that have historical statistics which don’t easily fit into a pattern.

For the record, you cannot transfer to Princeton. The school doesn’t accept transfers, period.

Now for a few lists.

Worst Bets for Transfer Students

These schools admit far fewer students (sometimes 1-2%) as transfers than they admit to their freshman class. If you’re looking to transfer, be aware that any application to these schools will be a reach.

Harvard University




University of Chicago

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology

Brown University

Duke University

Possible Schools for Transfer Students

These schools have low transfer acceptance rates, but not much lower on average than their typical freshman admit rates. If you’re poised for a top school admission, these are probably better bets than the above schools.

Columbia University

Johns Hopkins University

Washington University (St. Louis)

University of Pennsylvania

Northwestern University

Rice University

Best Bets for Transfer Students

These schools have historically admitted a greater percentage of transfer applicants than freshman applicants. As a result, you may be able to receive admission to one, even if you were turned down as a freshman to schools of similar caliber.

Cornell University

University of Notre Dame

Emory University

University of California, Berkeley* 

University of California, Los Angeles*

University of Southern California

University of Virginia


Tufts University

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

*(All University of California schools have exceptionally generous transfer rates, particularly from California residents attending community colleges).


2. Grades Matter

More than anything else, your college level coursework grades matter. When you apply as a transfer, this information is the absolute most important factor. Don’t mess up your grades!

3. Know the Specifics of Where You’re Applying

The rules for transferring are NOT as uniform as rules for freshman admissions. Most schools want students to transfer in as either a sophomore or junior, and some will have a certain number of units you must have taken already while others will have a maximum. Unlike freshman admits, transfers often must declare a major before admission depending on the school. Likewise, some schools have vastly different transfer admission rates depending on the major you apply to– at UCLA for example, computer science is incredibly tough to transfer into, while foreign language programs have over a 50% acceptance rate on average. Check to see if your schools of interest have similar policies or release such information.

4. Know what is required of you.

Again, the rules are different for transfers. Be sure to know whether you need an SAT or ACT score, whether schools will look at these tests post-high school (many will— so you may have a chance to still improve your scores). Remember, if you’re looking to up your SAT or ACT score, check out our YouTube Channel for more tips, or subscribe to our Best ACT Prep Course Ever.

You may also need prerequisites for particular majors if you’re trying to join junior year. Be sure to research ahead of time so you can properly plan.

You also may need to write an essay explaining why you want to transfer and why you didn’t apply as a freshman (or need to reapply). Your story matters so much, and if it makes sense why you want to transfer, you’ll have a better shot.


* Want to see how current college undergrads got into their dream school? Get access to their actual test scores, application material, mentorship and more with Admitsee! Support SupertutorTV by using this link: https://www.admitsee.com/?ref=W7P9J2

DISCLAIMER: This video is not sponsored. All opinions reflected are those of SupertutorTV’s regardless of sponsorship, referral links and/or affiliation. Links denoted with a * denotes a referral and/or affiliate link.