If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

What's different about applying as a transfer student?

This article outlines some of the differences between applying to college as a first year student and as a transfer student


If you’re applying as a transfer student, you’re not alone. Over a third of students transfer colleges at least once.start superscript, 1, end superscript While admissions officers look for similar traits among freshman and transfer students - strong academic performance, clear goals, and the ability to contribute to the college as both a student and alumn - there are a few key differences between applying as a freshman and as a transfer student.
1) Different applications and deadlines - Many colleges have separate applications for freshman and transfer students. Save yourself the burden of having to refill new forms by double checking that you created the appropriate online account or downloaded the transfer application. If using the Common Application, you have the option to create a “first year” or “transfer” account. If you previously created a first year account, you can rollover your account to transfer status.
In order to learn more about your college experiences, freshman and transfer applications will often ask slightly different questions. Notably, you may be asked to respond to a different personal statement prompt. Avoid reusing a personal statement you wrote while in high school. Chances are, it won’t fit the prompt. And even if it does, you’re missing out on the opportunity to share lessons learned while in college. (Why are you transferring? What have you learned from the time spent at your current institution?)
Also keep in mind that some colleges only accept transfer applications for certain semesters or quarters. Pay careful attention to the specific transfer admissions deadlines. Colleges often set later deadlines for transfer applicants than for freshman (first-year applicants) - think of it as extra time to polish your application!
2) Less emphasis on standardized test scores - Many institutions pay more attention to academic performance in college than to standardized test scores when evaluating transfer applicants. Some schools make the submission of standardized test scores optional for students who have earned a minimum number of college credits. If given this option, check the admissions statistics for your target colleges. If your scores are above the average test scores of admitted students, then it’s in your best interest to send the scores.
3) College transcripts - As a transfer student, you will need to send transcripts for all colleges you’ve attended, even if there was a gap in your education or you didn’t earn a degree at the institution. If you feel that the transcripts don’t reflect your abilities as a student, address that in the personal statement or optional essay response.
What about high school transcripts? Depending on your target college, you may still be required to send high school transcripts, even if you completed an associate’s degree or equivalent number of credits. If the idea of sending high school transcripts makes you nervous, keep in mind that colleges care about growth. If your transcripts demonstrate a strong upward trajectory from high school to college and if you back this up with a thoughtful personal statement that demonstrates your learning and growth, then that can be very compelling to admissions officers.
4) Apply to your major - If you’ve completed an associate’s degree or most of your general education credits at another institution, check your target college’s policy for applying directly to a major. Some colleges require you to apply to your major in addition to applying for general admission. The deadlines for applying to a specific major or program can vary, even within the same institution, and may come before the general transfer deadline. If you’re set on entering a specific program, make sure that you are tracking both sets of application requirements.
5) Explain your reason for transferring - Many factors can impact the decision to transfer, from college costs to realizing that your current institution doesn’t offer your desired major. When responding to questions about your reason for transferring, the main objective is to demonstrate that you’ve made a thoughtful decision and that you have a clear sense of why the new institution will be a better fit for you. As you reflect on your experiences, avoid making negative comments about your current institution. Focus on what you’ve learned and your goals for the future.

Want to join the conversation?