Students transfer from one university to another for a variety of different reasons, including financial reasons, social circumstances, choice of major, and finding a more suitable program. The idea behind transferring is to find a university that is a better fit for you.
As a transfer student myself, a combination of these factors influenced my decision to transfer. I started as a freshman at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, but due to financial circumstances, I transferred to the American University in Dubai (AUD). AUD’s International Studies program was in its infancy, had limited course choices, a small number of students, and was located in one of the most attractive areas of Dubai. I wanted to be in a large university environment with many like-minded students, a well-developed International Studies program, strong language programs, and a campus that was urban, but not in the middle of a large city. Thus, I transferred to the University of Wisconsin, Madison as a junior.
What is so different about the transfer process?
The application process is similar to the application process for freshmen, but has a few differences that stand out. Just a high school student plans ahead for the application, transfer students should start the process early (meaning at least one semester in advance). Before considering transfer, keep in mind that most universities will not even consider students as transfer candidates until completion of 15 university-level credits; otherwise they must apply as a Freshman. The University of California system only accepts transfer students who enroll in the Junior year, meaning they must complete two years of full-time study before transferring.
Transfer deadlines are generally much later than Freshman deadlines – February, March, or April for the fall and September and October for the spring are typical. Keep in mind that not all institutions will accept transfer students in the spring.
Many of the application requirements remain the same, such as the personal statement, supplemental essays, academic transcripts, the application in which you record biographical information and extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, and proof of English proficiency (for international students). One thing to keep in mind is that some universities will require you to submit standardized test scores, particularly if you have not completed a full year of university study, as well as transcripts for all high school and university work completed.
Most universities will require a short essay highlighting the reasons for your transfer. When writing this essay, one should always focus on the positives of the transfer university rather than the negatives of the university from which you are transferring.
Debunking some of the MYTHS about transferring
- Transferring is very hard or impossible. As seen above, transfer students have similar requirements, or even fewer requirements, than traditional freshmen applicants. Transfer acceptance rates will generally be different from the freshman applicant acceptance rates, for example, UCLA’s transfer acceptance rate is 26% versus 17% for freshmen applicants. Harvard, on the other hand, has a transfer acceptance rate of 1% versus 6% for freshmen applicants.
- Scholarships are not available for transfer students. Some scholarships will require students to apply as freshmen, but there are still a variety of different scholarships available to transfer students. When I transferred to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I received a few different scholarships in addition to federal aid (US students should also consider applying for government aid and scholarships). The key is to do research on the universities and their scholarship programs before applying.
- Students will almost inevitably lose credits when they transfer. This is not the case if you are transferring from an accredited institution and if you are transferring lower level credits (the 100 and 200 level classes that you take as a freshmen or sophomore). Students who transfer as juniors or seniors typically do not receive transfer credits for upper level credits. In my case, I didn’t lose a single credit by transferring, however, some of the credits were considered as electives rather than credits that would apply directly to my major.
Nicholas Tabakow is the Director of Outreach at Hale Education Group and a graduate of University of Wisconsin – Madison.