Transfer Students Apply to College, Too. How Come We Don’t Help Them?


Stephen J. Handel explores this question in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. While doing research for a book on transfer admissions, he discovered that… there’s practically nothing out there for transfers! He searched high and low, both online and print resources, but still came up empty handed. This is despite the fact that “the transfer-student market is huge and growing.”

Handel admits that there is some information available, but it’s nothing to brag about. Gigantic college books published by The Princeton Review, The College Board, Barron’s, and others go into great detail about the freshman application process, but advice specifically for prospective transfer students is “vague or nonexistent.” Check out the books yourself, and you’ll see that it’s true.

Desperate, Handel tried searching, something that we tried before we started working on our book and website. If you search “transfer admissions” you’ll come up with a hodgepodge of results – most books aren’t even for transfer students. The top search result is a book that we’ve bought and read. We’ve bought others as well. Our suggestion: hold off on these and save your money. Don’t believe us? Go ahead and buy them, but know that we tried to warn you.

The argument is that the lack of transfer-specific information is due to the fact that “it is more complicated to summarize.” Sure, there’s more variation within the pool of transfer applicants than seen in the freshman applicant pool, but so what??!! We shouldn’t be ignored.

I’ll end with some smart questions written by Handel. Make sure you get the answers to these questions as you research the schools you’re interested in:

1. How many transfers are admitted in any given year relative to the number that apply?

2. Do you admit transfer students as sophomores or juniors?

3. How can a student become minimally eligible to transfer to your institution?

4. How can students become competitively eligible for your most popular programs?

Our blog post about transfer friendly colleges can help you get the exact numbers for question 1. To find answers to questions 2 and 3, you can start with college websites. For example, check out the criteria for UC Berkeley transfer applicants here. You should also call the admissions office to ask questions 3 and 4. While you’re at it, make an appointment with an admissions counselor.

It can be scary when there’s so little info for transfer applicants, but you’re not alone. We’ve been there, done that, and succeeded. Many others have done the same, and so can you.

(Photo: gruntzooki)