For transfer students, it can be an overwhelming task to find the best college to transfer to as a sophomore. With so many options at their disposal, students don’t know where or when to begin their search. What they must do first is an honest assessment of their GPA and GPA requirements for schools they may be interested in attending. After this has been figured out, then what? Where are these students supposed to start looking for the right schools at which they will fit in both academically and socially?
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Best Colleges To Transfer To As A Sophomore
Year-to-year variability in college yield rates and retention rates can make applying for transfer an unpredictable endeavor; however, some selective colleges are consistently transfer-friendly. Transfer-friendly colleges admit a relatively high percentage of transfer applicants, and occasionally have transfer acceptance rates that are higher than acceptance rates for the freshman applicant pool.
College students earning excellent freshman-year and/or sophomore-year grades and who can effectively articulate their reasons for wanting to transfer may have a decent chance of earning admission at the following competitive and transfer-friendly colleges:
- Claremont McKenna College
- College of William and Mary
- Colorado College
- Cornell University
- Emory University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Lehigh University
- Notre Dame University
- Sewanee: University of the South
- Tufts University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of California, Los Angeles
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Richmond
- University of Southern California
- University of Virginia
- Vanderbilt University
- Wesleyan University
Transferring from one school to another is a wise or even necessary choice for many students, but it’s not without obstacles. College transfer acceptance rates are actually lower than freshman acceptance rates, meaning competition is higher.
This might sound like it’s cause for alarm, but, like applying as a freshman, it just means you need to be prepared.
If you need or want to transfer but aren’t sure where to go, check out some of the colleges with the best transfer acceptance rates.
Why Is the Acceptance Rate Lower for Transfer Students
Knowing the reasons transfer acceptance rates are lower will help you better understand what schools are looking for. You can address these concerns about transfer students in your essay, demonstrating that you’re a great candidate. Don’t panic—it’s not impossible to be a successful transfer student!
Because transfer students have already proven that they can succeed in a college setting, it seems counterintuitive that their acceptance rates would be lower. However, due to a lack of information on transfer student graduation rates as well as many misconceptions about transfer students, it’s only recently that colleges have begun to court them.
In the past, many colleges assumed that accepting transfer students would lower graduation rates. The truth is that transfer students and students who start at a four-year school have the same graduation rate of 60%.
The difference is that only 28% of community college students overall graduate within four years, and 60% of them never transfer. The low graduation and transfer rates might signal to colleges that community college students in particular aren’t ready for four-year education, despite their graduation rate being the same as that of four-year students.
Transfer students also tend to take more time to graduate, which is often because they aren’t enrolled full-time—many work or care for families while in school. Another common belief among colleges was that students who attended community college instead of a four-year university right after high school did so because they weren’t ready for a four-year education academically.
As time has gone on, studies have shown that even top-scoring community college students don’t move on to four-year schools, suggesting that it’s not academic readiness, but rather some other obstacle—money being one of the biggest.
Many transfer students are at lower income brackets than students who enroll directly at four-year universities. Low-income students typically have lower enrollment rates, but without surveying students directly, colleges might have assumed that transfer students just weren’t ready for universities.
In fact, one of the many reasons that transfer school enrollment was lower for low-income students is that many schools lacked scholarships and grants for incoming transfers, raising the financial burden.
Coupled with many credits not transferring and therefore requiring more classes at a higher cost, the financial burden on low-income students was simply too high for a long time. However, things are changing—many schools have created pathways for students to move from community college to four-year schools with few obstacles.
Why Are College Transfer Acceptance Rates Changing
There are a couple reasons that colleges are now beginning to accept transfer students at higher rates.
One of the largest is that undergraduate enrollment has decreased, leaving more room for transfer students to take those spots. With lower undergrad enrollment, colleges need to find a way to make up the difference, and two years of tuition from a transfer student is more beneficial to colleges than having no tuition at all.
But an even bigger reason is that elite colleges have a reputation as having largely homogeneous student bodies. Princeton admitted its first transfer students recently, which serves to add diversity to a college typically seen as white and wealthy.
So though admission rates for transfer students are lower than rates for freshmen, that doesn’t mean you’re up against insurmountable odds. The processes for transfer students are changing, and planning ahead will protect you from many of the common obstacles transfer students run into.
How Many Transfer Students Get In
Transfer acceptance rates vary among schools. Some, like Princeton, are just now beginning to accept transfer students after decades of having policies against them. Almost half of all college students enroll in two-year public schools, and 37% of all college students transfer at some point in their education.
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), in 2010 the transfer acceptance rate was 64% overall. In the last eight years, however, significant strides have been made to simplify the process for transfer students of all kinds.
Of all two-year college students who transfer, some 42% go on to earn a bachelor’s degree—a substantial increase over the number of all two-year college students (around 13%) who earn a bachelor’s degree. That’s actually slightly higher than the national average for earning a bachelor’s degree within four years.
However, just 33% of students transfer within six years, extending the time they spend in school.
Again, while all this looks bleak, it’s important to note that things are improving. With programs designed to smooth the process for transfer students by providing transparency about credit transfer, more financial assistance, and more interest in courting these students, rates are improving overall.
Which Schools Have the Highest Transfer Acceptance Rates
Planning to transfer colleges is much like planning to attend a four-year school straight out of high school. You should develop a list of potential colleges to transfer to so that you can attend the school that best suits your needs—and having a variety of schools with different transfer acceptance rates is a great way to do that.
Because there used to be some stigma that transfer students weren’t ready for a four-year education, there’s sometimes an assumption that transferring prevents you from getting into good schools.
Though many Ivy League colleges do have extremely limited transfer programs, there are still many top universities that readily accept transfer applications. In fact, one of them (UCLA) is both a top-ranked school and one of the biggest accepters of transfer students.
The majority of college applicants are high school seniors, and most of the college application advice out there is aimed at them. But what do you do if you don’t fall into this narrow category? Our eBook on how to prepare for and apply to college as a nontraditional student will walk you through everything you need to know, from the coursework you should have under your belt to how to get letters of recommendation when you’re not a high school senior.
Colleges with best financial aid for transfer students
These schools offered international students an average financial aid package of $68,569 in 2019-2020, per U.S. News data.
College is expensive, but international students studying in the U.S. often face tuition price tags much steeper than those paid by U.S. students.
International students accounted for 5.5% of the total U.S. higher education population in the 2018-2019 academic year, according to the latest data available from the Institute of International Education, but they provide a significantly higher proportion of many institutions’ tuition revenue. In that same year, international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the U.S. economy, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
And unlike their U.S. counterparts, international students are often not eligible for the financial aid that can help bring down college costs. To qualify for federal student aid, for example, students must be U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens, such as lawful permanent residents.
Many of these institutions are also ranked in the top 10 among National Universities, schools that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, and among National Liberal Arts Colleges, which emphasize undergraduate education and award half or more of their degrees across liberal arts fields.
Harvard University in Massachusetts, for example, is ranked No. 2 among National Universities and provided an average of $66,805 in aid to international students in 2019-2020. Williams College, also in Massachusetts, is ranked No. 1 among National Liberal Arts Colleges and provided an average of $68,456 in aid to international students that same year.
While Arizona State University—Tempe, a public school, did not make this list, it provided the largest number of international students with aid among all ranked colleges that provided U.S. News with this information. In 2019-2020, ASU awarded 2,803 international students an average of $4,737 in financial aid.
Below are the 10 schools that gave the most in financial aid to at least 50 international students during the 2019-2020 school year. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
|SCHOOL NAME (STATE)
|NUMBER OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS WHO RECEIVED AID DURING 2019-2020
|AVERAGE AID AWARDED TO INTERNATIONAL UNDERGRADUATES DURING 2019-2020
|U.S. NEWS RANK AND CATEGORY
|Columbia University (NY)
|3, National Universities
|Skidmore College (NY)
|36 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
|Amherst College (MA)
|2, National Liberal Arts Colleges
|Dartmouth College (NH)
|13, National Universities
|Williams College (MA)
|1, National Liberal Arts Colleges
|Duke University (NC)
|12, National Universities
|Stanford University (CA)
|6 (tie), National Universities
|Wesleyan University (CT)
|20 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
|Swarthmore College (PA)
|3, National Liberal Arts Colleges
|Harvard University (MA)
|2, National Universities