Are There “Transfer Friendly” Colleges Out There?


August 7, 2009 in Adjusting, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, To Transfer or Not


Yes, there are “transfer friendly” colleges out there. When deciding on which schools to apply to transfer to, it’s worth taking a few minutes to check out a wide range of the schools you might be interested in applying to (before you start narrowing it down) and to think about two points: (1) the school’s interest in accepting transfer students and (2) what support the school provides for transfers.

(1) Does the school actively court transfer students or not?

The first point can help you to decide if the school is within your reach. A school’s admission rate can be a good start if you have absolutely no idea of your chances. As an example, let’s look up Vanderbilt’s transfer acceptance rate:

  • Go to
  • Under ‘Search by college name’, type ‘Vanderbilt’
  • Click on ‘Admission’
  • Look at the data under ‘Transfer Students’

In 2008, 533 students applied to transfer and 298 were accepted. That means that 55.9% of all fall transfer applicants were accepted. That’s huge! Compare that to, say, Stanford’s 2008 transfer acceptance rate of 2.1%. Just judging from this basic information, it looks like Vanderbilt might be a school that’s really interested in taking in transfer students.

[UPDATE: We added Fall 2008 transfer acceptance rates at 50 top colleges here. You can also get there by clicking on the “Stats” tab at the top of the page.]

The transfer acceptance rate of a school is only part of the story, however: what if a lot of students that entered as freshmen simply left Vanderbilt in later years, thus opening up all those spaces for transfers? In this case, the high transfer acceptance rate could be less about the transfer friendliness of the school and more about the school simply having a lot of space to fill.

The truth looks like it’s somewhere in between. In an article in Vanderbilt’s student newspaper, the high transfer acceptance rate is in large part due to Vanderbilt completing a special residence hall that all freshman are required to live in. That residence hall, however, can fit 40-60 less freshmen than the normal freshman class and those 40-60 slots can now be filled by transfer students. The article does, however, also quote a dean there who has some very good things to say about transfer students. So the higher transfer acceptance rate is due both to a welcoming policy toward transfers, as well as some space opening up.

Should the transfer acceptance rate affect your decision to apply to a school? Ideally, not too much. Whether or not you apply to a school should really be based on what you’re looking for in a school (whether it has a strong department in your chosen major, and offers you the opportunities and facilities you need to succeed) and whether or not your profile (interests, GPA, and, if applicable, test scores) fits what that school is looking for. If you are up to a school’s standards and have good reason to transfer to it (such as any of the many successful real stories mentioned in the book), the overall acceptance rate shouldn’t affect your approach too much either way. Again, just use the acceptance rate as a basic, first-sweep indicator of what schools might be more transfer friendly than others.

In practice, however, students love looking at the admissions rates, and it does affect where they apply to. I recently talked with Robert, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania as a transfer student beginning this fall (he did his freshman year at Northwestern):

Lan: You mentioned that Penn has a relatively high rate of transfer admission. Did that affect your decision to apply there? Did you think that applying there would increase your chances of getting accepted?

Robert: Yeah, actually I did. I originally wasn’t even going to apply to Penn, but my sister said, “You should apply to Penn. It’s known to have a good transfer rate.”

(2) Does the school offer some kind of support to transfers once they’re in?

One quick and basic way to find out is to see if there’s a student organization devoted to transfer students. Let’s look at how we can find out more about the level of transfer friendliness at Brown University:

  • Go to
  • To the right of ‘Life on Campus’, click on ‘Student Groups’
  • Click on ‘Browse Organizations’
  • Scroll through the list or try searching for ‘transfer’
  • You’ll find ‘Organization of Transfer Students, Brown (BOTS)’

Under this organization’s name, there’s even the email address of the group contact. This person is very likely a transfer student (and possibly a transfer counselor) who may be happy to provide answers to questions about transfer students at Brown.

I spoke with Bryce, who transferred from Hampshire College to Brown University. She was heavily involved in the Brown Organization of Transfer Students, serving as a student-counselor to new transfer students. She said that Brown has a great transfer community. She explained that when she came in as a sophomore, the message was: “Just acclimate yourself to Brown and just pretend like you never transferred. Just pretend that you’re the same as everyone else.”

However, she and several other transfer students worked hard to create a stronger support system for transfers. The message then became: “You’re a transfer student and that’s part of your identity as a Brown student. You should celebrate that and take part in the transfer community. Make it a part of your experience rather than try to ignore it.” If you’re someone that wants a little extra support once you’re in as a transfer student, a transfer environment like the one at Brown might be for you.

For more information on what a really transfer-friendly environment would look like, check out our in-depth spotlight on the College of William & Mary.

You can follow the above steps to dig up even more info on schools you’re interested in. This is the second college you’ll be going to. Now that you’re older and wiser, take the time to do the research to find a school that’s really the best fit. There’s one out there for you. Happy researching!

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

(Photo: lissalou66)

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4 responses to Are There “Transfer Friendly” Colleges Out There?

  1. i decided after my sophomore year to switch to the bio major and with that i committed to completing a 5th year. i am doing my 4th year right now however i would like to transfer for my 5th. how do i find out what kind of college would let me transfer with over 100 credits hours and graduate in 1 year?

    • Thanks so much for your comment.

      Unfortunately, there’s no central place to find the transfer policies of colleges. It’s one of the unpleasant facts about transferring that makes it a more complicated process than it has to be.

      The standard that many colleges follow is to require a minimum of 60 credits to be taken at their school after the transfer (this usually equates to about 2 years), and some schools actually won’t take students who have completed a certain number of credits, even if the students are willing to give those up.

      Those strictures are particularly true/stronger at the most selective colleges, but at the less selective ones you’ll find that even if they have stated policies like the ones I just mentioned, there’s more leeway to make an exception, especially if the reason for the transfer is compelling enough. With transfer admissions (and probably life in general, actually), you’ll often find that most of the stated rules go out the window if you can make a convincing enough argument as to why you should be the exception.

      You’ll have to research the policy of each school you’re interested in by going to their websites. If it’s unclear or not mentioned, don’t be afraid to email or call the admissions office (if you’re calling, ask to speak with someone who can handle questions about transferring into the school).

      If you’re really interested in going to the school you’re calling/emailing, be prepared with a strong, reasonable argument about why they should take you even though you only plan on staying for a year.

      Hope that helps, sorry there isn’t an easier answer!

  2. I just have question that is general.
    If you have a learning disability like ADHD can you get extra benefits in terms of admissions?

    • This is a touchy issue. Unfortunately, the short answer is, it depends. It depends on the school and it depends on the individual admissions officer(s) reading your application, and it depends on exactly what you say about your condition in your application.

      It’s not supposed to hurt you – you absolutely can’t discriminate on the basis of medical conditions.

      But two very quick examples. Let’s say you got great grades, and you did so despite some poor performance earlier in your academic career. Noting that you succeeded despite your severe, diagnosed ADHD would generally help.

      On the other hand, let’s say you just use ADHD as an excuse for poor, declining grades. That wouldn’t help, and it probably would even hurt you.

      Hope that helps, at least a little,

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