Transfer Admissions to the Ivy League, Stanford, and MIT

August 9, 2022
College Admissions
Transfer Admissions


Transferring into a top college is one way students can level-up in college admissions. Sometimes, students who fell short of getting into their dream school as a high school senior want another shot. Other times, students who were “late bloomers” are able to show how much they have to offer a college despite the fact that their first few years of high school weren’t stellar and ended up being an inaccurate indicator of their intellectual capacity. Despite being a relatively common phenomenon, clarity surrounding the process of transferring colleges remains somewhat limited. AtomicMind has set out to provide some targeted insights that those considering a transfer admissions path should find useful.

What Constitutes a Transfer Student?

Transfer students are defined using distinctly different parameters than first year applicants. And while disparities do exist between individual universities as to what constitutes a transfer applicant, there are generally a small set of factors that commonly apply to those planning to transfer. These include the successful completion of a secondary education, 12 or more credits earned, and/or current enrollment as a full-time student at a regionally accredited university.

Application Requirements & Deadlines

Much of the application process for transfer students is similar to that of first-year applicants. The process requires transfer students to submit both their high school and college transcripts, recommendation letters from at least one college professor, and for many top colleges, mid-term grades. SAT or ACT scores are also required at many, though not all, top universities.

Additionally, international transfer applicants whose first language is not English are expected to submit the required English proficiency exam scores alongside the materials mentioned above.

Most elite colleges’ deadlines are in the spring for entry in the fall. For example, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown have transfer deadlines of March 1 for entry in the fall. MIT, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell have deadlines of March 15. A few top colleges also accept spring transfers – these applications must be completed in the fall. For example, MIT and Cornell’s deadlines for spring semester transfer admission is October 15. It’s also important to note that some programs, such as Cornell’s College of Engineering and the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, do not admit spring semester transfer applicants. Students planning to transfer should be sure to check university websites well in advance to ensure a complete understanding of both the application deadlines and what programs may or may not be available for the upcoming semester.

Plan Ahead

Most students looking to transfer should come up with a transfer plan that precedes the deadlines by six months to a year. Different colleges look for different attributes in their transfer applicant pool, and it’s helpful to pursue courses and activities in college mindfully before attempting to transfer, especially to an Ivy League or equivalent school.

In Summary

While the process requires preparation and carries with it meaningful implications for future success, the transfer application process does not have to be an overwhelmingly stressful pursuit. Understanding both the general transfer student process and degree-specific requirements will help ensure a clear and well-defined path towards success in the transfer admissions process.

The team at AtomicMind understands the many nuances of the transfer admissions at elite colleges. Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation about how you can best prepare for a successful transfer candidacy to your dream college.