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A Quick Guide to First-Year vs. Transfer College Admission

Transferring colleges may seem daunting, but it's actually very similar to your freshman year applications. Here's how the two processes compare to one another.

Some students may avoid transferring colleges simply because the process is a bit daunting. From transferring credits to adjusting to an entirely new campus culture, many students may remain unhappy at their current school rather than taking the time to switch to a better fit. But the transfer process is actually very similar to something all college students have done before: the undergraduate application. If you’re in college, you had to apply there to get accepted, right? Well, the transfer application process isn’t too different, or more demanding, than what you went through as a high school senior. Of course, there are some differences, and it helps knowing what they are before you begin applying. Here are some ways the transfer process compares to applying as a first-time freshman.

First-time freshmen college admission

  • Applications: Most schools accept applications online now, and though they may charge a fee for all types of applications, sometimes, it’s cheaper to apply online.  
  • Essays: Applications typically require at least one essay, and they can range in both topic and length. This is a big consideration for many admission counselors since they want to differentiate you from a large pool of applicants.
  • Transcripts: Your school counselor will be in charge of sending your high school transcripts to the schools you’re applying to.
  • Test scores: Many colleges and universities require SAT/ACT test scores, but many schools are now test-optional, allowing you to choose if your scores represent you well enough to submit them. 
  • Housing information: You’ll need to request and/or apply for campus housing as a freshman. This includes preferences for a roommate, location, and any special housing, such as an honors floor or single-sex building.
  • Other relevant info: Your immunizations need to be up-to-date, and a record of them needs to be submitted to each school prior to enrollment. Some schools also request a résumé to be submitted, or require an interview with an admission counselor.

Related: How to Avoid These 5 Common Transfer Student Mistakes

Transfer student college admission

  • Applications: The transfer application is almost identical to a regular undergraduate application. Many schools even accept the Common Application for transfer students.
  • Essays: There isn’t quite as much variety in the transfer application essay as there is for undergraduate admissions. You’ll typically answer just one question: why do you want to transfer?
  • Transcripts. For acceptance into a new school, they’ll want to see how you performed academically at your first school. This is also necessary to look at what class credits can be accepted at your new school. Some schools also require that you send you high schools transcripts if you haven’t met a certain level of credit or time at your current school.
  • Test scores: A similar process to your transcripts, you will sometimes need to submit your SAT/ACT test scores if you have taken less than a certain number of credits or if you’ve been there for less than a year. The good news: you don’t have to take them again!
  • Housing information: If you want to live on campus, you’ll again need to request it/apply to do so, just like you did as a first-time freshman. Do some research to find out where most transfer students live and if they are in the same housing eligibility pool as other students, as this may require a different process than for freshmen.
  • Other relevant info: Just like your undergraduate application, all of your vaccines will need to be up-to-date prior to enrollment. You also may need to submit a résumé or have an interview, but just like undergraduate admission, this is dependent on each school.

Related: What Admission Requirements Are Important as a Transfer?

So, did you notice a trend? The trend being that the two processes are very similar. You may want to transfer schools to explore a new major, to leave a school where you’re not comfortable, or for myriad other reasons. But don’t let the process of transferring scare you away, because in the end, you’ve done it before. 

Don't let transferring scare you! Use all of Our Best Advice for the Transfer Admission Process to get through it with ease and get excited about the next step in your journey. 

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