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by Lan Ngo

Transfer Requirements: Cornell University Case Study

April 18, 2011 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus, Requirements, Specific College

Meeting requirements for the transfer application is crucial; missing even one item could disqualify your application from being considered. Unfortunately, the requirements are not always straightforward. This post examines the process of determining course requirements for transfer applicants using Cornell University as a case study.

Specifically, let’s say you want to apply to transfer as a junior into the Applied Economics and Management program, a highly competitive major, within the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Begin by following this website pathway: CALS Home > Prospective Students > Admissions > Transfer > External > Required Coursework. You’ll end up on this page showing required coursework for external transfer students.

The top of the page tells you that transfer applicants to most majors within CALS need

  • one full academic year of intro Biology with hands-on labs
  • and two college Writing/English Composition courses or one Writing/English Composition course and one Public Speaking course.

Those requirements sound quite specific already, but look closely at the requirements for particular majors. Click on the one you’re interested in, here, Applied Economics and Management. Now the list is extremely detailed and there are different requirements depending on whether you’re applying as a sophomore or junior transfer. Here are the requirements for students that want to transfer as sophomores:

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I
    • Encouraged (but not required):
      • Public Speaking
      • One full year of Introductory Biology (labs not required)
      • One course in either Chemistry or Physics

The requirements for junior transfers are similar, but there are many more required courses, given that you would have two full years of college before transferring:

  • Three College Writing/English Composition courses
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I
  • Statistics

The list looks cumbersome. Note that taking the “encouraged” courses will give you a competitive edge.

Let’s further investigate the College Writing/English Composition requirement because it looks like a major hurdle. Three College Writing/English Composition courses is a lot. However, if you dig carefully enough, you’ll find some semblance of loopholes on the AP credit, transfers, and substitutions page.
Here are the key points about applying AP credit toward this writing course requirement:

All students who score 5 on the Princeton Advanced Placement Examination in English receive 3 credits… Of students who score 4, only Agriculture and Life Sciences students may apply their 3 credits toward the writing requirements of their college.

For most majors, the university will accept nothing but a 5. For students in CALS, a 4 on one of the AP English exams will cover one writing course requirement. Going back to the example of trying to transfer as a junior, even with a 4 on one of the AP English exams, you still have two more required writing courses to fill, so you’ll have to take actual college writing courses. Here’s key information about college transfer credit for these writing courses:

… students must provide evidence that the course was offered on a college campus as part of its normal curriculum and that the work done was comparable to that in a First-Year Writing Seminar (see the guidelines–it is not sufficient to write, say, one 30-page term paper). Courses not taken in the academic year must be at least six weeks long. Students must earn a B+ or better in the course.

Cornell seems “picky” about these writing/composition courses. Now it’s time for you to look at the course catalogue of your current college and seek writing courses that are comparable to Cornell’s First-Year Writing Seminar courses. You can download the spring 2011 brochure of these classes here.

Even after looking at Cornell’s brochure and the brochure of your current school, you may still not be quite sure if writing courses at your college will count toward Cornell’s writing requirement. Try calling the office of admission or registrar, and, if you really want to keep things honest, take notes on whom you speak to, when, and what they tell you. You can keep a log of phone calls (or emails) in an Excel spreadsheet with the following column headings:

School | Name | Position | Date | Notes

If any doubt remains, use the “additional information” section in the Common Application or school-specific application to explain that you did all you could to meet all the transfer requirements and include information about when you called the school and what they told you.

Each school has its own requirements for transfer applicants. With a keen eye, you can be sure to meet every requirement and even go beyond them to put together the best possible application possible.

(Photo: Joe Shlabotnik)

by Lan Ngo

University of Michigan: Transfer Spotlight

February 4, 2011 in Community College Articles, Credits, Specific College

When people refer to the University of Michigan (U-M), they almost always mean the Ann Arbor campus. From here on, “U-M” denotes the main (Ann Arbor) campus. Note that though U-M-Dearborn and U-M-Flint are also part of the University of Michigan system, transfer students from those schools to U-M are considered new transfers. In this post, we highlight key points primarily for community college transfer applicants.

Brief Background

U-M is a large public, four-year institution with 19 schools and colleges, offering a vast array of areas of study. Sixty-two percent of the students are in-state, which means they benefit from in-state tuition. Nonetheless, a good portion of students are out-of-state, so don’t pass up this school just because you’re not a Michigan resident. You can apply to transfer to one of eleven undergraduate schools or colleges, but you must choose beforehand because the admission process is school/college-specific.

Community College Transfers and U-M

If you’re a community college student looking to transfer to a four-year institution of academic prestige, consider U-M, which is usually considered to be well within the top 50 national universities. Depending on who you ask, U-M may be considered one of the “New Ivies,” comparable to NYU and Northwestern. Very few schools of this caliber have a website devoted exclusively to community college students. Among other useful pieces of information, the website explains that transfers from community colleges are eligible for federal, state, and institutional financial aid, just like other incoming students. In the MythBusters section, FAQs and useful answers are covered. One of the best points covered is closely related to our post on how to overcome a weak high school GPA (click on the link to see our take):

MYTH: Even though I am getting straight As at my community college, my high school grades were bad, which will prevent me from getting into Michigan.

FACT: Not so! We look at the whole person when reviewing applications for admission, not just high-school grades. The fact that your college grades are so much improved will actually work in your favor, because it tells us that you are moving in the right direction. Talking about your struggles in high school and how you overcame them can also be an important part of your essay.

To be a competitive transfer applicant, strive to get straight As in your community college courses. There are over 1,200 incoming U-M transfer students each year, which may sound like a large number, but given the sheer number of transfer applicants–about 3,000 annually–transfer admissions is competitive. Also, consider the bigger picture: in 2006, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a major supporter of community college transfers, reported that the number of community college students transferring to the most competitive institutions had decreased. In 1984, 22.8 percent transferred to the most competitive public universities, but in 2002, the percentage dropped to 18.8.

Transfer Credit

U-M provides detailed information on transfer credit. The vast majority of undergrads are in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts (LSA). Current (and future) community college students in Michigan aiming to transfer to LSA should carefully review the transfer guide for their specific community college here. We highly recommend that Michigan community college students enter a transfer agreement with your community college. If you’re experiencing difficulty deciphering the guidelines, be sure to visit the transfer counselor at your college.

For students at out-of-state community colleges or other institutions, this page has a list of the general education requirements at LSA. Although not strictly required, these are classes that you really should take to make yourself a more competitive transfer applicant. If you want to apply to other U-M schools or colleges, carefully read the information here. The College of Engineering, for example, has a list of specific prerequisites that you must fulfill to be considered for transfer admission.


Applying to U-M can be a great opportunity, but don’t miss your chance by not adhering to transfer admissions guidelines. Visit the links embedded in this post to get more information!

(Photo: snre)

by Lan Ngo

Transfer Friendly College Spotlight: Emory University

December 19, 2010 in All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Specific College

Emory University is a four-year private institution in Atlanta, GA with a total of 5,268 undergraduates. Within the larger university is Emory College of Arts and Sciences, which accounts for most of the undergrads. The college offers majors typical of a liberal arts school with degrees ranging from a BS in Computer Science to a BA in Italian Studies. After thoroughly examining Emory’s website and other sources, we have determined that Emory is transfer friendly for many reasons, which we’ll go over now.


Whereas many top schools only allow transfer admissions in the fall, you have several options on when to apply to Emory.  You can apply to enter either in the fall, spring, or summer. If flexibility in timing is what you’re looking for, put Emory on your list.

A Second Shot

Did you apply to Emory as a freshman but got rejected? If you were placed on the waiting list and offered a conditional acceptance, hang on tight and you can still get in. Under Emory’s Conditional Transfer Admission program, as long as you remain active on the waiting list, complete your freshman year somewhere else, and meet a set of requirements, you can transfer to Emory as a sophomore. What a great deal if you still have your heart set on Emory after a year!

Increase in Number of Transfer Students

Emory’s undergrad transfer acceptance rate was actually higher than the freshman acceptance rate in 2009.  That year, 39.5% of transfer applicants was accepted, while 29.7% of freshman applicants was accepted. According to this article in the Emory student newspaper, Emory received 704 transfer applications for fall 2010, up from 550 the previous year. Of those that were admitted, 170 actually chose to enroll in Emory, while school had a declared goal of bringing in 235 transfer students. Why does Emory want more transfer students? The article quotes Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Joanne Brzinski :

[The] University set a goal to increase the number of transfer students, especially through the conditional admission program, after observing an overall increase in the quality of applicants, leaving numerous good students on the wait-list.

In addition, the Dean of Admissions there, Jean Jordan, is quoted as writing the following:

A recent analysis had also shown that the academic performance of transfer students paralleled that of those joining the undergraduate population as first year students…

Basically, the university is receiving higher quality applicants across the board (and it wants to admit more of them), and transfer students do as well as students that entered as freshmen.

Need-based Financial Aid for Everyone, including Transfer Students

Emory has a strong reputation for financial aid. For one, as of February 2010, the school’s endowment was $4.3 billion. To give you some perspective, NYU’s endowment was $2.43 billion as of October 2010. Note that NYU’s undergraduate population is MUCH bigger than that of Emory: NYU has over 21,000 undergraduates in total, which means that it’s endowment has to stretch a lot further than Emory’s.

With it’s sizable endowment, Emory can offer need-based financial aid to students, including transfer students.  This aid can be in the form of a grant that you don’t need to repay, money for doing a work-study job, and low-interest loans.  Get an overview of financial aid at Emory here.  Committed to helping transfer students, Emory has a step-by-step guide on how prospective transfers can apply for financial aid.  You can find that info here.

Help for Transfer Applicants

Probably due to the school’s goal to increase their transfer student population, they have a designated transfer admission counselor. This person also happens to be the Assistant Dean of Admission.

A Warm Welcome to Transfers

Once you’re in, you’re treated to a transfer student orientation where you can meet other transfer students and get to know the school without feeling like a freshman again.

On-campus housing is available for incoming transfer students, who are treated as second-year students. (Many schools leave transfer students to find off-campus housing on their own.) Here’s housing info specifically for incoming transfer students.

Last Words

A transfer friendly college/university is often characterized by a willingness to first take you in and then take care of you once you’re in. Emory has both of those qualities. If you like what you’ve seen so far, we encourage you to spend more time learning about Emory.

Is Emory a really transfer-friendly school? Did you or anyone you know transfer there? Let us know in the comments below! Thanks!

(Photo: Nrbelex)

by Lan Ngo

Transfer Program at Harvard College Resumes

August 27, 2010 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus, News, Specific College

If you look at our table of transfer acceptance rates, you’ll see that Harvard’s rate says “0.0%.” That’s because the transfer program ceased to even exist, but now Harvard is accepting transfer applicants again.

An article in the Harvard Gazette shares the news. Here are the highlights for prospective transfer applicants:

Harvard’s generous financial aid policies will apply to transfer students.

Yes, it’s nice to go to a “wealthy” school. Harvard, with an endowment of over $25 billion (as of 2009), can afford to share the love. Watch out for other schools that are less generous to transfer students than freshmen.

What does it take to be a competitive Harvard transfer applicant?

“Harvard seeks students with clearly developing academic interests that can be well served by Harvard,” said Marlene Vergara Rotner, director of transfer admissions.  “Students who apply should be enrolled in a challenging liberal arts curriculum that includes mathematics, science, and a foreign language.”

“Transfer admission closely mirrors that of freshman admissions, insofar as it looks beyond good grades and test scores and considers the qualities of creativity, intellectual curiosity, and independent thinking,” Rotner said.  “Other factors weighed in the evaluation of transfer candidates include significant nonacademic talents and personal qualities such as a capacity for leadership, energy, character, motivation, and a sense of responsibility.”

Academics are important, but an immaculate transcript alone just doesn’t cut it for Harvard and the other ivy plus schools. In contrast, many state universities that have transfer articulation agreements with community colleges usually just look at grades and GPA. In many cases, when applying to a four-year school under a transfer articulation agreement, a transfer essay is not even needed.

For most transfer applicants, Harvard is definitely a “reach” school. However, if you think you have what it takes, it’s worth a shot. We wish you all the best with your transfer process!

(Photo: David Paul Ohmer)

by Lan Ngo

The College Transfer Application Essay: An Example for the University of Pennsylvania

May 26, 2010 in Admissions, All Transfers, Community College Articles, Essays, Four-Year Transfer Articles, Ivy Plus, Specific College

(Update: We’ve added another “why” transfer essay example with a detailed critique here.)

One of the most important elements in your transfer application is the essay on why you want to transfer to the college of your choice. Here, we’ll deconstruct a real-life transfer application essay by David, a student who is trying to transfer from Amherst College to the University of Pennsylvania. The essay was posted on, which says that the essay is for the Common Transfer Application. However, this might be an error, because you wouldn’t write something school-specific for the Common Application. The essay was more likely written for the University of Pennsylvania Application Supplement for Freshmen and Transfer Applicants, which has the following prompt:


Answer the essay question on a separate sheet of paper. (Do not exceed one page.)

Benjamin Franklin established the Union Fire Company, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, and, of course, the charity school that evolved into the University of Pennsylvania. As they served the larger community of Philadelphia, each institution in turn formed its own community.

Which of the academic communities and social communities that now comprise the University of Pennsylvania are most interesting to you and how will you contribute to them and to the larger Penn community?

For freshman applicants, the prompt is straightforward. They just have to talk about a great academic and social community at Penn. The transfer applicant, however, must also explain why s/he wants to transfer to Penn.

We’ll work through David’s essay for Penn, paragraph by paragraph, looking at the good and the not-so-good.

Paragraph 1:

During the summer after my first year of college, I spent six weeks volunteering at an archaeological excavation in Hazor, site of the largest tel (mound) in Israel. My time in Hazor was not easy – wake-up came at 4:00 a.m., and by noontime temperatures were often in the 90s. The dig was sweaty, dusty, back-breaking work. I wore out two pairs of gloves and the knees in several pairs of khakis. Nevertheless, I loved every minute of my time in Israel. I met interesting people from around the world, worked with amazing students and faculty from Hebrew University, and became fascinated with the current efforts to create a portrait of life in the Canaanite period.

This opening paragraph works well because it follows our rule 3 for the college transfer essay: Be specific. It also follows the mantra for college essay writing: Show. Don’t tell. For the most part, he verbally creates a visual for the reader, helping us to imagine what it felt like to work at the archaeological dig.

Imagine if he had written something vague like, “I volunteered at an archaeological excavation in Israel and learned a lot from the experience. I worked with great people who taught me more about my field of interest, and I truly grew as a person. [More of the same fluff…]” This kind of essay doesn’t really tell admission officers anything. Don’t waste their time with filler statements.

To strengthen this paragraph, he could highlight his accomplishments by pointing out one concrete way in which he added value to the project. The college transfer essay is the place for you to make your superstar qualities shine.

Paragraph 2:

Upon my return to Amherst College for my sophomore year, I soon came to realize that the school does not offer the exact major I now hope to pursue. I’m majoring in anthropology, but the program at Amherst is almost entirely contemporary and sociological in its focus. More and more my interests are becoming archaeological and historical. When I visited Penn this fall, I was impressed by the breadth of offerings in anthropology and archaeology, and I absolutely loved your Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Your broad approach to the field with emphases on understanding both the past and present has great appeal to me. By attending Penn, I hope to broaden and deepen my knowledge in anthropology, participate in more summer field work, volunteer at the museum, and eventually go on to graduate school in archaeology.

It looks like he took the effort to learn about Penn and its anthropology program. He clearly lays out the difference between the program at his current college and Penn, getting to the heart of his reason for applying to transfer to Penn.

This part could be improved by mentioning a particular course at Penn that exemplifies the aspects of the anthropology program that stand out for the applicant. What’s so special about the anthropology and archaeology courses at Penn? Don’t they have those courses elsewhere?

The line, “I absolutely loved your Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology” is not informative. Perhaps he let rule 3 (be specific) slip a little. An example of why he “loves” the museum would be helpful. He could also include one line about how the availability of the museum could specifically add to his anthropology education.

The last sentence could use some work. What kind of summer fieldwork (or fieldwork with which professor)? Although it’s great that he pointed out his desire to pursue graduate studies in archaeology, he could elaborate on how transferring to Penn could help him reach that goal.

Paragraph 3:

My reasons for transferring are almost entirely academic. I have made many good friends at Amherst, and I have studied with some wonderful professors. However, I do have one non-academic reason for being interested in Penn. I originally applied to Amherst because it was comfortable – I come from a small town in Wisconsin, and Amherst felt like home. I’m now looking forward to pushing myself to experience places that aren’t quite so familiar. The kibbutz at Kfar HaNassi was one such environment, and the urban environment of Philadelphia would be another.

This is a great paragraph, in which he follows our rule 2: Be honest. He is honest with himself as well as the Penn admission officers, in that he admits that there are reasons related to his social life and personal development driving him to apply to transfer. He’s also following our rule 1 (be mature) by exhibiting his understanding of himself and hope to leave his comfort zone. Also, he emphasizes another benefit of attending Penn—its urban setting, which greatly differs from the area around Amherst and what he’s used to.

Concluding paragraph:

As my transcript shows, I have done well at Amherst and I am convinced I can meet the academic challenges of Penn. I know I would grow at Penn, and your program in anthropology perfectly matches my academic interests and professional goals.

Though the essay doesn’t exactly end with a bang, his conclusion does its job.

Overall, this essay is a good one. Maybe we’re being too picky, but why not aim for the best when writing an essay that’s so crucial? Our transfer guide has real-life, successful examples and advice about the transfer essay from actual transfer students, so check it out!

(Photo: Ryan Neuls)