by Lan Ngo

College Transfer Application Checklist

March 6, 2016 in Admissions, All Transfers


In addition to the transfer application form itself and the essays, you have a whole host of application materials to manage.  Even if you’ve already submitted your applications, your work is not entirely done yet.  Be sure that all the required materials have been submitted.  Check the applicant portal of the schools you applied to, and see whether you have anything missing. Make sure you have all these items submitted or ready to go:

Official College Transcript

Don’t assume that your college will automatically send a transcript just because you asked your academic advisor or dean to complete the College Report.  You need to submit a request to the registrar’s office to have your transcript sent.  Note that some schools require that transcripts (both college and high school) be sent from the originating institution, so check the requirements carefully.

Official High School Transcript

Contact your high school guidance counselor’s office to have your transcript sent as soon as possible.

Instructor Evaluations and/or Recommendation Letters

Many colleges require at least two.  There is a bit of leeway here, because colleges understand that you don’t have a lot of control over when exactly your teachers submit evaluations and letters, but it’s best to not take any chances.  Don’t be shy about sending reminders if your teacher hasn’t submitted an evaluation and/or letter yet.

Mid-Term Report

This should be received by the college you’re applying to by the application deadline.  Some colleges allow you to submit the Mid-Term Report a few days after the application deadline, but don’t make that assumption.  Call the admission office to check.  If you have a professor who really is unable to provide you with a grade on the Mid-Term Report because your midterm exam or paper has not yet been graded, contact the admission office for advice on how to best proceed—different colleges have different protocols.

Official Standardized Test Scores

The SAT or ACT is required by many colleges.  If you’re an international student, most schools will require the TOEFL.  Log into your account for the respective standardized test, and have your scores sent directly to the schools you’re applying to.

College Report

This needs to be completed by your academic advisor or dean.

Financial Aid Materials

In most cases, you will need to submit financial aid materials before notifications of decision are released, though you will likely be able to submit these materials after the application deadline.  Look up all the required documents and dates for financial aid.

Fine Arts Supplement

Some schools give applicants additional time beyond the application deadline to submit their fine arts supplement.  Most applicants don’t end up submitting a fine arts supplement.  If you’re thinking about it, consider this option carefully.  Too many additional materials may clutter your application and perhaps create a negative impact.

There’s no reason to let one piece of application material get in the way of your transfer admission, so be diligent about going through this checklist!

(Image: Bruce Guenter)

by Lan Ngo

Want to Transfer to Columbia University? Tips on Recommendation Letters

September 14, 2015 in Admissions, All Transfers, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus

Columbia University


We attended an admissions information session at Columbia University this summer and got insider’s information from an admissions officer, who had completed his undergraduate studies at Columbia. Some of his most insightful advice was about letters of recommendation, and we’re paraphrasing them here with some additional tips and revisions geared toward transfer applications.

Ask professors that like you. That sounds very obvious, but many students think that it’s okay to just ask any professor that gave them an A in class. A professor that likes you is more likely to write a thoughtful, compelling recommendation letter.

Ask the professor if he/she would be comfortable writing a positive letter about you.  Don’t simply accept “yes” when you ask a professor if he/she is willing to write a letter of recommendation.  Confirm that the letter will be positive. If a professor cannot say, “Yes, I feel comfortable writing a positive letter for you,” that is a sign that you should ask someone else to write you a letter.

Remind professors about your specific achievements or attributes. Professors have to work with a lot of students, and it’s inevitable that they will forget details about each student’s particular achievements or strengths. If there was a time in class that you made an especially insightful comment about a difficult subject that sparked a deep class discussion, remind your professor about it. Encourage your professor to include that in the letter as an example of your intellectual prowess and ability to add to a learning environment.

Ask the professor to write about what you do outside of the classroom. Learning and contributing to an organization are not confined by four walls. After you’ve verified that the professor is willing and able to write a positive letter of recommendation, ask him/her if he/she could also include details about what you do and what you’re like outside of the classroom.

Review these notes before you decide which teachers to ask to write your recommendation letters, and you’ll be on your way to some great letters that will vouch to your ability to succeed at and contribute to the college or university of your choice.

(Photo: InSapphoWeTrust)

by Lan Ngo

College Transfer Q&A: What Can I Do To Improve My Chances?

January 15, 2015 in Admissions, All Transfers, Ivy Plus, Q&A, Stats

In forums, prospective transfer students often ask, “What can I do to improve my chances?” I’m going to take you through one such post and provide the same type of advice I would give to a student if I were providing a one-on-one consultation. The post comes from ElmerChelmo:

I am currently a first-year student (technically a sophomore) at a four-year public university. I’m looking at Rice University, UNC, University of Southern California, and Notre Dame, which I realize are crazy hard to get into. I am motivated and desperate though because simply put, I hate the school I attend. I get full tuition paid for, but I can’t get over the fact that I just hate everything about it. It’s just not for me.

“Hate” was mentioned twice. Be careful to avoid coloring your transfer application with your strong, negative emotions toward your current school.

It was my safety school my senior year, and I got rejected by a lot of top schools, which I should have realize were way out of my reach. I didn’t think going to my safety school would be bad, but experiencing it as a student there could not have gone worse.

An important–often unspoken–part of the transfer application process is expectations management. You will inevitably be let down if you label your reach schools as your match schools. If the “top schools” you had aimed for as a freshman applicant were “way out of [your] reach”, perhaps your safety school was actually your match school.

Choose a wide range of schools, and take the time to label them as accurately as possible (safety, match/just right, or dream) based on information gathered from school websites,, and direct communications with the schools.

High School:
Couple ECs including Student Council secretary, Tutor, NHS, SADD, Cross Country, Book Club, and Track
Ranked 2/118
Don’t remember GPA
ACT 32
SAT Writing 800, SAT Reading 680, SAT Math 750
SAT Subject Math II 790, SAT Subject US History 790
AP US History (5), Calculus BC (5), US Government (5), English Language (5), Statistics (5), Microeconomics (4), English Literature (4), Environmental Science (4)
Worked at a restaurant as a busboy
Interned with a lawyer

The Common App allows transfer applicants to list up to 10 activities, including those completed in grades 11 and/or 12. Given the limited space, carefully choose which activities to include in your application. If you were very substantially involved in an activity prior to grade 11, consider including brief information about it in “Additional Information” in Common App. However, avoid dumping a list of superficial activities into “Additional Information”.

Of your high school activities listed, busboy sounds the most interesting, as many (or most) high school students do not work during the academic year. If you had to work to help cover living expenses, mention that in the description of this activity.

Math & Stats / Information Systems double major
Calculus III (A), Probability (A), Physics (A), Physics Lab (A+), Business 101 (A-)
3.93 GPA (I’m really going to try harder next semester to get a 4.0)
I came in with 35 credit hours, last semester I took 14, next semester I’m taking 17
Information Systems and Analytics Club treasurer, Green Team member, Optimist Club (volunteer) member, Actuarial Science Club member
I’m going to try to do Habitat for Humanity to get more service hours

Cohesion in your application makes for a good strategy. For example, if you want to portray yourself as an expert in Math/Stats/Information Systems, align your activities as such. If your only reason for doing Habitat for Humanity is to gain community service hours, I would reconsider. Perhaps you can use your talents and skills in math to serve society, e.g., provide math tutoring. Do something you’re genuinely interested in.

I want to transfer so bad, and I can’t transfer to a school that is mediocre or only above average academically because I’m going to have to pay so much more to attend whatever school I go to so I want to make transferring worth it by going to a top school.

Take some time to think about why you want to transfer, as you will need to articulate your reasons very clearly in your application. You’ve provided a lot of information, but I still don’t actually know why you want to transfer. What would you gain from transferring? What are your goals? How would transferring align with your bigger goals? What do you have to offer to the school you transfer to?

By the way this is my first time applying to these schools. What kinds of things can I do to really improve my chances of transferring to these very exclusive schools? I’m talking about specific suggestions. Thank you in advance! [smiley face]

Additional information from ElmerChelmo:
Also I’m going to try to get another leadership position in either the Actuarial Science Club or the Optimist Club. Thanks again! [smiley face]

How does the Optimist Club fit into everything else you’re doing and your goals? Stay focused. While you have a great profile, I don’t know what your center of gravity or core is.

Reply from Camo:

You sound like you have a really good shot. Most top colleges consider 3.7-3.8 competitive so your GPA is pretty impressive (especially with the classwork).
Just did a quick check, Rice admits 17% of transfers, USC admits 29%, UNC admits 39%, and Notre Dame admits 25%. I think you’re probably at the top of the pool. Just perfect your apps and you’ll probably get in to a couple of them.

As we say whenever we post statistics on transfer admissions, take these numbers with a grain of salt. Knowing about a relatively high transfer admission rate might not be helpful for your context.

For example, the transfer admission rate for UNC Chapel Hill looks high at least in part because the university has a transfer program: “…[The] University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program, or C-STEP, to enable more community-college students to transfer to and graduate from Carolina.”

Reply from 1sttimetransfer:

With your gpa and courseload you could probably get into top 20 schools for sure. So I think that is within your range.

Such a comment may provide a morale booster, but again, expectations management is important for reducing the stress involved in the transfer application process. Yes, you do have a great profile, as I mentioned earlier, but no one can tell you whether you will “for sure” get into “top 20 schools”.

My final suggestions: Be vigilant about potentially erroneous advice. Get more than one opinion, and analyze those opinions. Step back, look at your application as a whole in light of the data and evidence (both qualitative and quantitative) you’ve collected. Devise a strategy for tackling the transfer admissions process from there.

(Photo: Edwin Torres)

by Lan Ngo

Navigating College Transfer Credits

September 9, 2014 in All Transfers, Credits, Four-Year Transfer Articles


We’re a few weeks into the new school year, and some of you freshmen or sophomores out there are already considering transferring. It’s good to get an early start! Looking ahead, one major consideration is whether the classes you’re taking will transfer over to your new, future college. Not getting enough transfer credits could add up to more time as an undergrad and more dollars on your tuition bills. Before you decide on which colleges to apply to, do some homework on whether your colleges of interest will give you transfer credits. The tips below will help start you off.

College Websites

General information about the transferability of credit is usually offered on a college’s website, which is probably the best place to start. As an example, Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences lays out some general guidelines for incoming transfer students. If you have further questions after reading the information, don’t hesitate to email or call the admissions office to see how you can gather more information.

Special Courses and Requirements

Many liberal arts colleges and universities have special writing course requirements, such as first-year writing seminars. That means you might not get credit for the writing course you’re taking as a freshman at your home institution. Again, start by looking at the website of the college you want to transfer.  You might need to look at the college’s writing program website or speak to someone that works in the writing program.  For example, Cornell University’s writing institute determines whether external writing course credits can be transferred to Cornell.

College Specific Online Tools

Some colleges have websites where you can check the transferability of credit from your home institution. See for example, these online tools from the University of Virginia and the University of California system. You’ll notice that such online tools are mostly not available from private institutions.

Department Offices

Depending on the college, the individual departments might be open to speaking with you about transfer credits. If you took (or are taking) an introductory art history course to fulfill a general education requirement, consider contacting the Art History Department of the colleges of your interest to check the transferability. Remember that whatever the department says isn’t necessarily final. Take the information they give you as an approximation, because it’s rare for a college to approve transfer credits before you actually transfer into the college.

Looking into transferability is not easy, and you may come across guidelines that are difficult to understand. Don’t hesitate to call the admissions office for clarification. If they don’t know the answer, they can at least point you in the right direction.

(Photo: Thomas Abbs)

by Lan Ngo

Dartmouth Stresses Importance of Maintaining College Transfer Program

May 10, 2014 in Admissions, All Transfers, Ivy Plus, News, Specific College


The Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Dartmouth College considers transfer students to be the kinds of students the College wants to have in its community, according to a recent article in The Dartmouth, the College’s student newspaper. Although transfer admissions (along with freshman admissions) continue to grow in competitiveness, Dartmouth’s message generally seems to be one of welcome to transfer applicants. Below are highlights from the article:

At 1,210 students, the number of incoming freshmen accepting Dartmouth’s offer of acceptance is its highest ever, producing a yield of 54.5 percent.

Laskaris [Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid] said that although the Class of 2018 is overfilled, it is important to maintain a transfer program.

Laskaris noted, however, that the first-year application pool was the first priority. The number of accepted transfer students is contingent upon the space available after first-year students have decided to matriculate, she said.

Laskaris said the admissions process for transfer students is need-blind and the College meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for admitted transfer students, as it does for first-year applicants.

Two-thirds of all students who earn a baccalaureate degree attend two or more colleges or universities, said Judith Brauer, proposal developer at the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Georgia. A report released through the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center placed the figure at one-third of all students.

Between 15 and 27 transfer students enrolled each year in the College between 2010-13.

Despite the small number of transfer students enrolled in the College each year, Dartmouth seems to be “transfer friendly”, in that the transfer admissions process is need-blind, and the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid seems supportive of the College’s transfer student population.

Photo: Ben Stephenson