Transfer Weak High School GPA

Transferring Colleges: Three Ways to Overcome a Weak High School GPA

Applying to Transfer: Overcome a Weak High School GPA

The question: How can I overcome a weak high school GPA if I want to transfer to a school with high academic standards?

My high school transcript was pretty weak for the school that I was shooting to transfer to. I got Cs in two math courses, and Bs in a host of others (even in courses that I considered myself good at, like English). Further, I got a 1 on my French AP exam (which is what you would get if you just wrote your name on the test and did nothing else), and low scores in the other AP tests I took (2s and 3s mostly). How could I get around my weak high school performance to transfer to Dartmouth?  And this is a school where 45% of accepted freshmen this year were the valedictorians of their high school classes (see here).

There are really just three ways to overcome weak high school performance:

(1) Make sure your grades are better overall
(2) Focus on what you are really good at
(3) Confront your weakness head on

(1) Make sure your grades are better overall

First, I made sure my grades at my current college were beyond reproach. I only got one B (and it was a B+!) at my first college, which I’ll discuss below in a second. I also stayed at my first college two years before applying to transfer out (applying in the fall of my second year of my college career), to provide myself with a longer period to prove myself and establish a solid record of improvement.

Your grades should show a consistently improving trend. If, for example, you were a B student in high school, and that prevented you from getting into the college you really wanted to go to the first time around, you want to show that you’re pulling off consistent As at whatever college you’re at. It will prove that you’re more than ready for your first choice school.

Take a look at the average high school GPAs for accepted students at each school you’re interested in transferring to (the school admissions websites will have the info), and make sure you’re well within or above that range.

Besides getting better grades all around, there are just two further strategies you can pursue to overcome a weak high school transcript: (2) focusing on your passions and doing really well at those, and/or (3) confronting your weakness(es) head on. I did a little bit of both when transferring myself, so I’ll talk about what I did on each side.

(2) Focus on what you are really good at

I knew that (at the time, anyway) I was interested in classical history (the Greeks and the Romans), so I made sure I was really good at any courses I took in that subject. I also demonstrated my interest outside the classroom in several ways.

First, I saw a flier one day for a scholarship that would pay for an undergraduate to go on a classical archaeological dig (which besides being right in my area of interest, just sounded really cool too), and so I applied and, luckily, got the scholarship (more on applying for scholarships in the future). Second, I also participated in a one-on-one research project with a professor (which really helped him write a strong letter of recommendation for me later on, since we knew each other so well by the end of the project). Finally, I also took a summer school course in classics after my first year (that I got an A+ in).

If your high school GPA was dragged down by the fact that you’re just not good at certain subjects, then one way to improve your GPA would be to simply not take those courses at your current college and instead focus on what you’re really passionate in.

History is full of examples of tremendously accomplished people that were very bad at certain things. We just don’t hear about how, for example, Richard Feynman was horrible at English and philosophy because, frankly, who cares given that he won the Nobel Prize in physics and accomplished so many other things?

In fact, one could argue that, in many cases, the intense focus these people applied on the one or two things they really cared about—to the exclusion of so much else—is what made them so great in the first place.

If you’re interested in transferring, you should have a better sense of what you’re interested in than a high school applicant would, since you’re (likely) at least a little older, and you’ve (definitely) had the chance to take college level courses.

Take more courses in the major you’re leaning toward and really excel in them. You should also get involved in activities that reflect your academic interest. Do research with a professor. Even if you may not be good at other subjects, you can still blow the admissions officers away at the topics you are good at.

(3) Confront your weakness head on

So I mentioned at the beginning that I got a 1 on the AP French exam. Other weak subjects aside, that one really bugged me, since I wanted to be good at a second language and the 1 was really embarrassing to me since, again, it’s what anyone could get on the test by just writing their name.

So I sucked it up and took Intermediate French at my college. Not even low-level French, but the hardest level of French I could hope to take and not completely fail. I mustered up all  the study skills I could, using flash cards and whatever other tools I found that would get the information into my head, and I worked like a demon that whole quarter.

…and I got a B+. Not exactly the A that I was hoping for and that would demonstrate really extreme improvement, but not bad nonetheless. In my application essay I pointed out the 1 I got on my French AP exam (instead of just ignoring it, leaving the admissions office to wonder what happened there), explained to them why I did so poorly on the test the first time around, and showed them how I took the course at a high level in college and pushed myself to do pretty well in an area I was otherwise weak at.

If you want to be really impressive (which you’ll have to be if you want to stand out to a super-competitive school), you can directly confront any areas of particular weakness on your high school transcript at the college you’re currently at. For example, if you got a bad grade in a high school math class, take a college math course or one that uses a lot of math and absolutely crush that course. Then you can highlight how although you had troubles with math that hurt your high GPA when you were applying to colleges as a freshman, you’ve directly overcome that weakness. This is obviously a hard thing to do since you’re trying to succeed where you once slipped up, but there’s no more direct and indisputable way to show that you’re a stronger applicant, and a stronger person.

Now what if you take that course in college and unfortunately don’t do well in it yet again? First of all, do everything you can in your power to avoid messing up in the class. If transferring to a particular, hard-to-get-into school is important to you, and if your desire to improve in this area of weakness is genuine and strong enough, we think there’s no way you won’t work hard enough to improve.

But maybe something horrible happens on the day of exam—there are always things that are out of our control—and you still don’t do well in that course. Explain in your application what went wrong, and still stress the point that you were willing to take on a subject or course that you didn’t do well in in high school knowing full well how it would look on your transfer application if you missed your goal. Your willingness to challenge yourself so directly is still incredibly impressive.

So to summarize, this is how you overcome a weak high school GPA:

(1) Make sure your grades are better overall at your first college than they were in high school
(2) Really excel at the areas you are good at/interested in
(3) If you want to really blow them away, do your best to overcome particularly weak areas

If you found this useful, please comment and/or pass this on! Thanks!

(Photo: m00by)



35 responses to “Transferring Colleges: Three Ways to Overcome a Weak High School GPA”

  1. Jennifer S. Avatar
    Jennifer S.

    I agree that taking classes you’re bound to excel in is a good strategy, but in freshman year we are also required to take courses that we’re bound not to be great in. I find myself doing well in the majority of my classes then having that one required Calc II class tanking my GPA. And since general requirement courses make up the majority of a freshman’s transcript and ultimately the transfer application, I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed.

    I read in sources giving advice to transfer students that it’s good to take advantage of essays as a way to explain a weak grade, GPA. For instance, if you were really busy in extracurriculars in effort to explore career interests, that it was time consuming and took time away from studying. However, I feel like this is a wishy-washy way to make an excuse. What advice can you give about this?

  2. Chris Avatar

    Hey Jennifer,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    To your first point, it’s true that general education requirements can require one to take a lot of courses their freshman year that they wouldn’t necessarily be good at. There aren’t a lot of ways around this, unfortunately, except for studying really well (we’ll discuss study skills in the future).

    One possible way to deal with this is to take “physics for poets” type classes. For example, at my first college, there were science classes geared toward liberal arts/social science majors that fulfilled science requirements at the school. They were reasonably rigorous, while being taught in a way that accommodated how non-science people learn. If there’s any question about the course’s rigor, you should stress it in your application essays (provided the course was actually solid).

    To your second point about using essays to explain weak grades: you should definitely do this. Is it wishy-washy? Only if your explanations are. If your reasons sound wishy-washy on paper, but they’re genuine and legitimate, revise your explanation until it’s accurate. One way that usually works is to get very specific. Did your grades suffer because of “family issues”? A lot of people say that. Uncomfortable as you may feel, you may have go deeper than that so the admissions officer really knows what you were facing and why your grades suffered.

    Hope this helps,


  3. Jennifer S. Avatar
    Jennifer S.

    Thanks for the reply and revision- inspired some useful ideas for essays.

  4. Applying to Transfer Colleges: Only Three Ways to Overcome a Weak … |

    […] See the article here: Applying to Transfer Colleges: Only Three Ways to Overcome a Weak … […]

  5. […] why, in a previous blog entry, we stressed the idea that you should work hard in college to overcome a weak high school GPA. According to our interviews with successful transfer students, applicants with solid college […]

  6. John Avatar


    I’ve also heard that re-taking the SAT’s is another option to enhance one’s profile if he/she did not do so well in high school. What are your thoughts on the weight of SAT’s for transfer students?


    1. Lan and Chris Avatar
      Lan and Chris

      Hey John,

      Thanks for the comment! We talk extensively about tests and transfer admissions criteria in the book. Won’t repeat everything here, but here’s the gist: all the research we’ve done (talking to admissions officers, etc.) tells us that SAT scores are not as important for transfers as it is for freshmen, though of course, having a high SAT score can only help you. Your college transcript is without a doubt the most important piece of your transfer app. Think about it. SAT scores supposedly predict how well you’ll do in college, but why would admissions officers need that score when they can just see exactly how well you’re doing in college from your college transcript?

      If studying for the SAT will get in the way of your current college studies, ask yourself if it’s really worth re-taking the SAT. If it’s not a big deal to retake it, then you have nothing to lose. Just to make sure, check with your target school; simply call and say:

      Hi. I’m currently a [freshman/sophomore] at [college/university]. I’m applying to transfer [term, year]. I was wondering if I should retake the SAT because I got a [score] on it when I was in high school.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Elise L. Avatar
    Elise L.


    First off, I just want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for creating this website. I will be a freshman next year at a school I had not imagined I would have to go to and was absolutely desperate for transfer advice. I almost cried in happiness and relief when I coincidentally came upon this site!

    I just had a couple of quick questions: since I want to transfer into a more competitive school (Columbia) by junior, if not sophomore, year, does that mean I have to keep my last quarter high school grades up? I don’t have any C’s but I’m afraid all of my B’s will drop my GPA yet again; Senioritis has taken over my life!

    Also, is it better to transfer after sophomore of junior year? I’m afraid that if I transfer after sophomore year, I won’t be able to adjust as well… but since I won’t be able to get as many internships/extracurricular activities freshman year to really show my passion, I’m also worried that my transfer application will not stand out.

    Thank you so much in advance!

  8. jay Avatar

    Hi there everyone, nice to know that there is a help site around. I don’t have a weak high school GPA but here is how my high school record looks like.

    9th grade year = All B’s one C
    10th grade year = All B’s one C
    11th grade year = All A’s
    12th grade year = All A’s.

    I have a week of school left, currently a high school senior. I will be graduating with a 3.4 overall GPA. I really believe that due to tough circumstances in my life and lack of guidance, I did not fare well in the college admissions process. I was denied from my state flagship university and my parents and I have decided to send me to a local tier 4 university.

    I am in Georgia but I want to transfer to an Ivy. I will do all that is possible and work really hard to get that 4.0, I will retake the SAT (made a 1950 in high school) and try to aim for a 2200. I was wondering though, is it really possible for me to get into a top school if I maintain a 4.0 GPA and apply as a junior transfer?

  9. jay Avatar

    Elise, I am sure that if you join more clubs for your final two years, you will be able to fit in well, that is my advice at least

  10. Lan Avatar


    Thanks so much! It’s really gratifying to hear that our site is helpful. You are doing the right thing by getting an early start and looking into transferring because, as you may have already found, there’s a lot to do and think about, but not a lot of time.

    re: “does that mean I have to keep my last quarter high school grades up?”

    The short answer: YES. Applying to transfer to top schools, especially nowadays, is extremely competitive. You don’t want to give the schools you’re applying to any excuse to reject you. However, if your high school grades aren’t the best, it’s not completely hopeless because you can still “redeem yourself” by achieving a stellar undergrad record.

    re: “Also, is it better to transfer after sophomore of junior year? I’m afraid that if I transfer after sophomore year, I won’t be able to adjust as well… but since I won’t be able to get as many internships/extracurricular activities freshman year to really show my passion I’m also worried that my transfer application will not stand out.”

    First, for many colleges/universities, undergrad grades are one of the most, if not THE most, important factor in the evaluation of transfer applicants. Although extracurricular activities can help, low grades can negate your extracurricular efforts. I would worry more about grades than extracurricular activities.

    Is it better to transfer as a sophomore or a junior? It depends on your situation. I transferred as a sophomore, but Chris transferred as a junior. Here are our stories to give you something to think about.

    I had a pretty strong high school record: straight As, consistently in the top 10 of my class of 580 or so, eight AP classes (out of the 10 or so offered at my high school), a score of 3-5 on each AP exam, and varsity speech/debate team member (with a fair amount of awards). In my first 2 quarters at my first college (it was on a quarter system) I also got straight As. Outside of school, I was devoted to one extracurricular activity and two part-time jobs. After about a month as a college freshman, I knew I wanted to transfer to a school that would be a better fit for me, but I also realized that I was aiming high and may not get accepted. I was open to the idea of applying again as a junior transfer.

    Chris’ story is different. He did not do as well in high school and had some flaws in his record, as explained in the above post. So, he knew he wanted to spend two years at his first undergrad school to build up his academic record and then apply to transfer. As the blog post explains, he spent this time wisely, taking a rigorous course load and challenging himself. He also took advantage of his first two years in college to do internships and other activities, not only for professional and academic development, but also to prove himself to schools that he would be applying to.

    In summary, some students need more time to establish themselves as competitive transfer applicants. Hope this helps! Others out there, feel free to share your insights/stories.

  11. Jamison Avatar

    Nice to have found this site. Well I may as well post my story.

    As you guys know, there is little to no help for transfer students or students looking to transfer out there. I am in a tough spot, I recently finished high school a few weeks ago (graduated). I have been accepted into the honors program at a tier 4 university, attended here because it was the cheapest.

    I finished high school with a 3.3 GPA, ranked 20th in a class of 85 seniors in a very competitive magnet school. Started with 140 students in the class of 2010, had 85 by our 12th grade year.

    My GPA does not reflect my performance neither does my SAT, I made a 1780 on it. I plan on studying and taking it after my first year of college, I recently took a timed practice test under test like conditions and scored a 2100 on it (had many people grade my essay).

    I was wondering. Say if I maintain a 4.0 GPA while in the honors program, do some Extra curricular things like joining clubs and being an active volunteer, would it be possible for me to go from a tier 4 university to a top 50 University?

    I maintained a 4.0 during my junior and senior year of high school. I was not well prepared for the SAT due to lack of sleep, putting up with other rather rough events in my life and having to balance many things out, now I am well prepared to take it. Basically, I can say I did not put forth my best foot for the SAT.

    I am just wondering how the top schools (a notch below Ivies, like lets say Georgetown or Washington U in St Louis) would view someone who graduated a B student in high school but did almost perfect in college. Is top 50 a possibility for me?

    1. Lan and Chris Avatar
      Lan and Chris


      Hi. Thanks for posting a comment! Though we can’t predict which schools will accept you, we can give you some advice and clarify some things for you. We’ll write more about factors that are taken into consideration in the transfer admission process in a future blog post, but for now, we can tell you that colleges/universities look at your college grades as one of the two or three most important things they look at in your transfer application, and they’re always more important than your high school GPA. This means that, if you do have strong grades at your current college, your college GPA will make up to a great degree for whatever weaker grades you got in high school.

      As for the SAT, only a relatively small percentage of schools say that standardized test scores are of great importance in the transfer admission process, so it doesn’t seem like something to be overly concerned about. As mentioned in another blog comment, if preparing for the SAT will hinder your college grades, it’s probably best to just focus on doing well in your college courses (see our reply to John above). Plus, doing an excellent job in your classes will help when it comes time to request letters of recommendation from your professors.

      The bottom line: it doesn’t hurt to aim for a top 50 university in your case. It doesn’t seem unrealistic to hope to transfer into one assuming that you’re currently doing well, but at the same time, definitely apply to some safety schools as well. Applying to college has become so competitive that even the best students get rejected; it’s best to have a backup plan.

      If anyone else has anything to add, please share your thoughts!

  12. Abby Avatar

    This has all been so helpful!
    I hope you may have some advice for my story:

    In high school I did very poorly freshmen and sophomore year, my junior year was spent studying abroad in Europe (which I think is most of the reason I was accepted into the colleges I was) and then my senior year was finished with four APs and a 3.6 weighted average (though there was a D in the senior year :() So now I am at my freshmen year of college and working my ass off. I enjoy my school but I want to attend a top tier college. After the first quarter here, I had all A’s and one A-, if I keep up my straight A transcript for the year do you think there will be a chance for my transferring next year? I can’t wait until Junior year because my school’s credits don’t transfer very well and I can’t loose two years of credit. I am in a mock trial club, the competitive dance team, and meet once a week with local attorneys and law students to discuss legal issues, something my school just began doing this year. I believe I can get a fairly good letter of recommendation, though I hesitate to ask one of my professors for their aide in me leaving their school.. and I can potentially get a letter of recommendation from a professor who teachers at the university I want to attend. How are my chances and what more can I do?

    Thank you SO much, I can’t explain how helpful this has been and how much I look forward to hearing from you!

    1. Chris Avatar


      Thanks for the comment! We’re glad what we’re putting out there is helpful to you.

      Ok so, “What are my chances?” is by far one of the most common questions we get (we’re probably going to put together a FAQ soon), but it’s also the hardest to answer, because, unless we look at your entire application, we don’t know a lot of things about your situation (even if you give us, as you did, a pretty long and detailed description).

      For example, we don’t know what your overall high school GPA was (I’m reading that the 3.6 reflects only your senior year). We also don’t know what your planned major is, what kinds of classes you’ve been taking, at what level you’re participating in your extracurricular activities, what you’re writing in your essay, or (and this is key) where you want to transfer to and why. Everything is in the details, but unfortunately we just don’t have the time to look at everyone’s details (though we really wish we could!).

      That said, you generally sound like you’re on the right track. If you haven’t already, really get focused on what your goal in life right now is and understanding why going to the school you’re interested in will help you reach that goal. Do related extracurriculars at a very high level, but do not let your grades slip at all. I can go on, but you might have done this already and either way I’d just be repeating things we’ve said all over the site and in the book, which brings me to my last piece of advice: avail yourself of all resources out there on transferring (including our site, yes, but people, counselors, and everything out there as well).

      Hope that helps, best of luck!


  13. Ravi Avatar

    This website is great! So glad I found it!

    So I had a question about my situation specifically and your insights are greatly appreciated!

    I am currently a freshman in 4 Year state university and want to transfer to an ivy. I did really well in high school but senior year, I just tanked. I graduated with a 3.52 GPA and 37/293 in my class (Missed Top ten percent, ~12.3%). However, I did well on my SATs: 2170 and got accepted into my University Honors Program.

    Right now I am taking Bio 1, Chem 1, Calc 1, English 101 and as a freshman right now, I think I will come out with a 3.85 or 4.0 GPA in college (If I can get that A in bio!!). I also have some pretty meaningful ECs and feel confident in my ability to address the essays for the schools. With this kind of profile do you guys think I have a shot at a school like UPenn/Cornell/Brown?

    Where do you think I can improve? What you guys suggest? Thanks for all your help and this website as well!!

    1. Lan Avatar


      Thanks for checking out our website!

      Since this question asks, “What are my chances?” part of this response is going to be similar to what Chris wrote in response to Abby’s comment above: we can’t give you an exact answer (I don’t think anyone can!), especially if we don’t know the full picture. We’ve been getting a lot of emails with this sort of question; that’s why we started offering one-on-one help.

      However, here’s what I can say based on your information: the hope is that your grades from your high school senior year will be overshadowed by your college grades. Really push yourself to get straight As; get that A in bio. It’s great that you have “some pretty meaningful ECs,” but don’t push yourself to do more than you’re able to. Don’t be afraid to devote yourself to just one or two extracurricular activities. Doing so might look better than doing a laundry list of activities and might also distract you less from your college courses.

      It’s good that you’re aiming for the relatively more transfer friendly Ivy universities, but make sure to choose some back-up schools, too.

      Hope this helps!

      All the best,


  14. The Transfer Book Survey Results and Odds and Ends

    […] out that there’s a really active discussion (16 comments so far!) going on at this post: Transferring Colleges: Three Ways to Overcome a Weak High School GPA (even though it’s not showing up on our most popular posts […]

  15. Ravi Avatar

    Thanks Lan,

    I think you guys have a great website going here — I can only imagine how good the book can be. I will definetly look to make a purchase over winter break so I can check out all the other useful tips.

    I recommended this site/book to a few of my friends interested in transferring and they are in love with this. A huge thanks from your fan base in NJ!


  16. Marcelle Avatar

    Hello, my name is Marcelle. During high school, I didn’t do as well as I should have(2.6 GPA). I was extremely organized and received some academic excellence award from my local senate district. I also have mediocre SAT scores(1580). All of these issues were the result of poor work ethic. I was extremely involved in major clubs(Student government/prom committee/Literary Magazine), varsity sports(Basketball/Baseball), and my community. I’m currently in my first year of studies at Santa Monica Community college and would like to know if I had any chance of getting into Vanderbilt University? They’re minimum GPA is a 3.0 for Transfers and at this pace, I will have a 3.6 College GPA by next March. At this point, I am insanely motivated. It’s kinda scary 🙂

    Thanks for creating such a helpful website for Transfer Students.

    1. Chris Avatar

      Hi Marcelle! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s great that you’re scarily motivated, as the problem most community college students have is they self-select themselves out of the process (ie, they don’t even think of applying). The short answer is yes, you have a chance. Private colleges, even selective and highly selective ones, take community college students. You’ve got a good (though not blow-away great) GPA that you’ll hopefully continue improving, and you should also continue to be involved in a few extracurricular activities at a high level and have a good story to tell about why Vanderbilt is the necessary next step for you. If you can do all of that, I’d say you have more than a fair shot.



  17. LBHalinf Avatar


    Thank you for this helpful, optimistic blog!

    One question: Does a freshmen entry rejection hinder your chances of admission as a transfer (to that same institution)?

    Peace for all life,


    1. Chris Avatar

      Hi Halinf,

      Thanks for the comment! Generally speaking, freshman rejection actually HELPS your chances of admission to a school. It’s actually probably the clearest sign of genuine interest for a school you can have on a transfer application.

      And if your transfer application shows that you’ve worked hard and matured since your freshman application, then that’s really the best possible thing you can demonstrate to admissions officers.

      Peace to you too!


  18. Lynton Avatar

    Hello, My name is Lynton. In my high school year I received 3.2 GPA, and received 1810 on SAT. I am going to Penn State as a business major. I will have 3.7 GPA by the end of the year. I really want to transfer to NYU. Will I have a chance?

    Thank you so much for helping out many transfer students

    1. Chris Avatar

      As always, tough to say, but based on what you’ve written here, I would say you’ve got a shot. Your GPA shows clear improvement, your SAT scores matter a lot less when transferring, and 3.7 is about the average GPA for admitted transfers at NYU. Keep the grades up (make them even higher, ideally), get to know your professors, work at a deep level on an extracurricular passion, and clearly explain why you want to transfer in your application.

      Best of luck!


  19. Bilalpervaiz Avatar

     Hi Chris. I have a question- when applying to start classes at a community college you must take an assessment test. if you have to take a lower math and or english  class is there anything you  can do to improve your chances or transferring well having to take lower starting classes 

    1. Chris Avatar

      Hi Bilal,

      Here’s what I’d say about remedial classes and improving your chances of transferring. First, before taking the assessment tests, brush up on the basics. If your score is borderline, study the weak spots, and, if you can, retake the tests to be placed higher.

      If you do get placed in remedial courses, be sure to complete all the sequences and enroll in tutor/learning community/adjunct courses while in remedial classes. Be proactive and seek out counseling.

      Also, try to get involved by working in departments at the community college, especially in your major or related courses. Working in school departments will help you with keeping on track and developing relationships with staff and faculty. Ideally, try to get a work-study/student position.

      Lastly, in class, try to develop study groups so you can help and motivate each other. And be sure to know who your professors are and talk to them, as this is good for recommendation letters later on, as well as for general guidance/mentorship. I know students that have had to do remedial work but still ended up transferring to fantastic, US News Top 25 schools, so even if you have to take remedial classes, there’s no reason to let that hold you back at all.

      Hope that helps!


  20. Chris C. Avatar
    Chris C.

    One of my greatest regrets coming out of the transfer process is not applying to Dartmouth. I was initially discouraged because it has one of the lowest transfer rates (something like 2-3%). I actually even spoke with an admissions official a year or two ago who said they usually only accept a handful of students from other elite colleges ever year, compounding my discouragement. And as a community college transfer with a poor high school record, I didn’t really think I had a chance. But I was surprised to find that others had successfully transferred there from community colleges this year (a ‘hook’ one or two of them had was that they completed military service, though). 
    I pretty much did most of the stuff suggested in this post, countering my low HS GPA with a 3.9 in college (excelling in the math and science courses I had failed in high school), but I still received rejections from fellow Ivies with higher transfer rates, Cornell and Brown, as well as other top schools (Berkeley, UCLA, Brown, Emory).

    1. Chris Goodmacher Avatar

      Hey Chris, thanks for your thoughts, I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you this go around.

      But, as I think you already know, (1) you got into some other strong schools, (2) you sound like you’ll do great wherever you go or whatever you do, (3) there’s grad school (which matters more in the long run), and (4) life is long and you don’t really NEED to go to any particular school to do exactly what you want.

      I’m not sure how appealing it would be to you, but I’ll throw this out there: if you want me to take a look, I can do a quick after-the-fact analysis to figure out what problems you might’ve had on your app (which might be helpful for future grad school/scholarship apps, etc.). Ping me if you’re interested.

      Also, if there’s other observations you have after going through the process, any sharing is definitely appreciated here or in the forums.


  21. Richie Avatar


    This post is pretty old, but hopefully you’ll still see this :). Anyways, I just graduated from high school and I’m hoping to transfer to a top tier school. In high school I struggled with staying motivated, and ended up with a 3.4 gpa. I was able to get into a top 30 school off of my test scores (2270 SAT, 750+ on my subjects) and my “rigorous” courseload. However, you mentioned that test scores aren’t weighted as much. Provided that I do well in college, which I’m sure I can, do I still have a shot at transferring schools such as Dartmouth, Columbia, Duke, or Cornell?

    1. Chris Goodmacher Avatar

      Absolutely, 100% yes.

      This is a classic excellent transfer case: the student that was clearly smart, but wasn’t motivated enough to do well grade-wise.

      Here’s basically what you need to do (I’ll write everything that comes to mind right now, but we wrote two whole books on the topic, which you can get here if you want: The Transfer Book.

      1) Get straight-As in college, or as close as possible to them (as much as the rest of your application matters, the single biggest determinant of your ability to transfer to highly selective schools will be your college GPA). It’s good you’re confident here!

      2) Try to find something you’re really interested in, and try to do it at a high level fast. For example, if you’re into CS, try your hand at developing a useful web app.

      3) Talk a lot in class. Sometimes super-smart people don’t say anything, but colleges want people that will add to the conversations on their campus. Ideally, you’ll get to know at least one professor in the subject that interests you most and who will write a letter that will note not only how smart you are and that you’re doing this cool side project or independent research with him, but that you also contribute a lot in class.

      4) Write a strong transfer essay that focuses on why X school is right for you, while the school you’re at just doesn’t quite have the a, b, or c things you need.

      Feel free to post any follow-ups you want here or on the forums, and I’ll respond right away.


  22. Bryan Milligan Avatar
    Bryan Milligan

    Hello, I just graduated and am going to San Diego State University Honors Program which I chose over UCI (really hard choice). Anyway my goal is to go to USC. My highschool gpa was a 3.95 before senior year in which I did horrible dropping my gpa to around a 3.6. I am confident in being able to get a 4.0 at sdsu, but I was wondering how much my 3.6 affects my chances at transferring to USC.

    1. Lan Ngo Avatar
      Lan Ngo

      Make sure to get that 4.0 at SDSU, and go ahead and apply to USC. At most universities/colleges, your undergrad GPA carries more weight than your high school GPA, though everything in your file generally affects the admissions result to some extent.

  23. Jake Rosenblum Avatar
    Jake Rosenblum

    AP Credits
    5- AP Calculus BC & AB Subscore
    5- AP Chemistry
    5- AP Physics B
    5- AP Computer Science
    4- AP Biology (took it in 2012)

    I have an SAT score 2110 and my high school senior year I took all APs and had a GPA of 4.957 overall GPA 4.31. I go to Fairfax County Public Schools. I’m a freshman at University of Virginia with a GPA of 4.0! I really want to transfer to University of Pennsylvania and I want to know whether I need to retake my SAT I. What are my chances for either school? Do I need to wait a year and really prove myself??

    1. Jake Rosenblum Avatar
      Jake Rosenblum

      Sorry my other school is Columbia University! So I’m trying to transfer into University of Pennsylvania or Columbia University. Your feedback is most appreciated!

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