The 10 Best Colleges to Transfer To

According to a recent report, roughly 2.1 million students transferred from one institution to another in the United States in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

There are three types of transfers: reverse, lateral, and upward. In reverse transfers, 4-year college attendees transfer to 2-year colleges. 

With lateral transfers, 1- or 2-year college attendees transfer to a similar institution, and 4-year college attendees follow the same pattern. 

Upward transfers occur when students attending 2-year colleges transfer to a 4-year institution.

Schools across the nation have varying requirements and desirable characteristics of transfer applicants – some value a proven academic record in a 2-year or 4-year educational environment. 

In contrast, others are more interested in a candidate’s extracurricular experiences or achievements. 

There is also an abundance of local or regional partnerships – similar to feeder patterns – between 2- and 4-year colleges and the public school districts where most of their applicants obtain a high school diploma.

In the list that follows, we have ranked schools with the highest acceptance rates of transfer students in the top 50 universities in the country, according to AdmissionSight

While some schools in the U.S. accept zero to minimal transfer students, there’s a great chance that the schools that follow have a place for motivated students desiring to attend a 4-year university.

10. University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)

University of Florida Library
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

At the University of Florida, admission for transfer students is based on the college and major to which they apply. 

Students are eligible to transfer if they have obtained an Associate of Arts degree from a public Florida institution of higher learning, or if they have earned at least 60 transfer credit hours from a regionally accredited school.

According to UF’s 2019 annual report, the school received 7,505 transfer applications, accepted 3,434 applicants (an approximate acceptance rate of 46%), and enrolled 2,368 students.

Transfer students at UF may be invited to join the Delta Chapter of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, a group specifically dedicated to transfer students. 

UF actually established the fourth chapter of this kind in America. 

If members maintain a 3.5 GPA within their first academic year at  UF, they receive access to scholarship offerings, national conferences, leadership opportunities, and ways to get involved at the university or community level.

9. College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA)

College of William and Mary Alumni House
Pbritti, Alumni House at the College of William and Mary, CC BY-SA 4.0

Competitive applicants seeking to transfer to William & Mary generally have a 3.5 or higher GPA at their current institution. 

W&M has several programs and agreements in place to assist Virginia-based students transferring from community colleges. 

The Guaranteed Admission Process between William & Mary and all Virginia community college schools (VCCS) guarantees placement to students who maintain a 3.6 GPA at their current community college and make As/Bs in a series of English, mathematics, art, reasoning, and sociocultural classes. 

The Co-Enrollment Program enables enrolled students at Richard Bland College and Thomas Nelson Community College to attend classes at  W&M while pursuing their associate’s degrees.

W&M hosts several virtual and in-person Transfer Days throughout the semester – these are 90-minute informational sessions where applicants can learn more about the school and speak with current transfer students and faculty members. 

Enrolled students can easily access the Tribe Transfer Tool – a digital database created specifically to provide resources to transfer students.

In any given year, William & Mary generally receives 9770 applications from students seeking to transfer in the fall and 250 for those intending to transfer in the spring – they enroll 200 and 70 for those terms, respectively (21% and 35% acceptance rates).

8. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, IL)

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Library
Killivalavan Solai, Library-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, CC BY-SA 4.0

Students hoping to transfer to UI at Urbana-Champaign are required to select a major, write an essay, and list their extracurricular activities, work experience, awards, and accolades. 

Their applications will determine any honors programs they’re accepted into or merit-based scholarships they are awarded, and the $75 application fee is waived for all UI Chicago or Springfield students.

The application essays are generally 300-400 words in length, and the prompts depend on whether an applicant is committing to a particular major or remaining undeclared. 

Either way, the essays encourage applicants to share their interests, experiences, and future career goals.

Minimum GPA requirements depend on the particular college the transfer applicant wishes to attend and range from 2.25 to 4.0. 

The university has a considerably high acceptance rate of 51% (accepting 2,034 of 3,991 applications in 2019), and transfer students make up approximately 4% of the overall student body.

7. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Tyler A. McNeil, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa’s chapter building, CC BY-SA 4.0

While many schools on this list stipulate a minimum of 60 transferable credit hours for admittance, Rensselaer accepts applicants with a minimum of 12 transferable college credits – they recently accepted 55% of applicants for the fall term. 

Any students entering Rensselaer with first-year or sophomore standing are required to participate in the Arch, which helps students pursue personal and professional development opportunities that prepare them to meet the complex demands of the 21st-century work environment. 

First-year transfers participate in both the Summer Here and The World Away programs, while sophomore transfers elect to attend one of the two.

Over 200 transfer students join Rensselaer’s campus on an annual basis, and all transfer students are required to live on campus for their first two semesters. The school seeks applicants who have a 3.0 or higher GPA, although this is not a strict cut-off.

In 2021, Rensselaer was named as one of 122 colleges to Phi Theta Kappa’s Transfer Honor Roll – this award recognizes schools who demonstrate excellence in creating pathways for transfer students. 

6. Boston University (Boston, MA)

Boston University
John Phelan, Boston University School of Education, Boston MA, CC BY 3.0

Over 700 students transfer to Boston University each year, and the average applicant enters with a GPA of 3.66. Like Rensselaer, BU only requires 12 credits for applicants wishing to apply.

BU offers many scholarship opportunities specifically for transfer students. The Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship Award for $25,000 is awarded to a transfer applicant (with at least 60 transferable credits) who has demonstrated academic excellence and achievement in leadership. 

Several scholarships offer full tuition coverage for BU transfers. 

The Bunker Hill Community College Scholarship offers this opportunity to graduates of Boston Public High Schools graduates who attend BHCC and maintain a 3.5 minimum GPA. Massachusetts Bay Community College and Roxbury College provide the same packages for their respective students.

The Boston University Hub for Transfer Students exists to assist transfer students in following a specifically-crafted curriculum that builds on their foundational coursework and prepares them to be successful at BU. 

Transfer students must earn 10 Hub units in order to graduate – these units come from attending 4-5 courses which can simultaneously count toward major/minor requirements.

5. University of California – Irvine (Irvine, CA)

UC Irvine
Allyunion at English Wikipedia, UC Irvine view from Watson Bridge, CC BY-SA 4.0

University of California schools on this list share several similarities; namely, any transfer applicant must have completed 60 credits in order to transfer in the fall. California applicants are required to have a minimum 2.4 GPA and non-California residents must demonstrate a 2.8 minimum GPA.

University of California school transfer applicants must also complete seven specific college courses with a grade of C or better: two in English, one in math, and four in at least two of the following areas: arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, or physical and biological sciences.

The Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) guarantees admission to highly-qualified applicants from all California community colleges – these applicants must have a 3.4 minimum GPA in all transferable UC coursework. 

UCI maintains strong partnerships with Rio Hondo College, California State Los Angeles, the El Monte Union High School District, Santa Ana College, and the Santa Ana Unified School District. 

Through these partnerships, UCI’s Transfer Prep seeks to increase transfer-bound student populations from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

Edison Transfer Scholarships are granted to students who are enrolled in one of the 40 South California Edison service area community colleges and who have declared a major in science, engineering, or mathematics. 

These students receive $7,500 per year with the expectation of maintaining a 2.0 minimum GPA, completing 25 hours of community service, and attending weekly workshops and events geared specifically for Edison Scholars.

UC Irvine, specifically, received 21,470 transfer applications in 2019 and accepted 8,924 (at an acceptance rate of about 42%). 

UCI offers a broad range of resources for its transfer students, including the First Year Transfer Experience, Second Year Transfer Experience, STEM Transfer Scholars Program, Pathway for Adult Learner Success (for transfers over the age of 25), and Transfer Edge (an optional early start program). 

All of these initiatives are dedicated to arming transfer students with resources for community building, counseling sessions, loan services, academic support, workshops, and events.

4. University of California – San Diego (San Diego, CA)

Tktktk, Warren Mall, UCSD, CC BY 3.0

Acceptance to UCSD is highly competitive – while the school admitted 55% of applicants in the fall of 2021, the middle range of GPAs of their admitted transfer students was 3.55 to 3.91. 

90% of UCSD’s transfer students come from California community colleges.

The Triton Student Success team helps new transfers find their way – both physically and socially – around the UCSD campus and encourages transfer students to become active in the community and utilize available resources. 

The Transfer Hub offers transfer peer coaching, where students have the opportunity to meet 2-3 times per quarter.

Other resources for transfer students include the blog Transfer Tell-alls, a video compilation of resources called Transfer TV, and Triton Talk webinars, where applicants can attend virtual sessions to engage with faculty and students.

3. University of California – Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)

University of California - Santa Barbara
Spatms, Campus Pool (UC Santa Barbara), CC BY-SA 4.0

One-third of UCSB’s incoming student body is composed of transfer students, and the school has an admittance rate of approximately 50%. 

Applicants are encouraged to register for a free 15-minute transfer admission advising session, which can help them determine if UCSB is the right institution for them.

The UCSB Transfer Preparation Academy is a free summer program (offered in-person and virtually) designed for California community college students who plan on transferring to UCSB in the fall.

Here, applicants can discover academic and co-curricular opportunities while receiving admissions support, attending workshops that strengthen leadership skills, attending lectures/workshops, and engaging in meaningful discussions with faculty and current transfer students.

The Transfer Student Center was founded in 2016 and is a space for transfer students to make connections, access resources, and carve pathways to success. 

Peer educators and mentors are available, as well as workshops focused on writing, research skills, financial aid, career services, transition skills, and more.

The TSC hosts regular social events, like hikes and bowling. In 2017-2018, 39% of all transfer students visited the center, primarily for academic advising and studying purposes.

2. University of California – Davis (Davis, CA)

UC Davis
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

UC Davis has the best acceptance rate among University of California schools for transfer students, accepting 56 out of every 100 transfer applicants.

The Transfer Opportunity Program (TOP) connects UC Davis admissions counselors to select Northern California community college campuses, where they host free workshops to help students progress toward earning a 4-year degree.

The UC Davis Transfer and Reentry Center (TRC) assists transfer students in meeting their needs; they provide information on scholarships, advising, transition courses, fall welcome events, workshops, social events, and activities. 

Additionally, the TRC provides transfer student resources (like housing, orientation, mentoring). 

The TRC Weekly Brief is sent weekly to all transfer students and includes event highlights, upcoming campus programs, study sessions, coffee chats, and more.

1. University of Georgia (Athens, GA)

University of Georgia
Coxonian, Fine Arts Building UGA, CC BY-SA 4.0

With a 76% transfer student acceptance rate, the University of Georgia is, by far, the school where transfer students are most likely to be accepted. 

Transfer decisions are implemented on a space-as-available basis, and the best marker of success at UGA is a students’ calculated transfer GPA and the number of classes they have completed.

Students are eligible for admissions consideration to the Athens campus if they have completed 30-59 transferable credit hours, graduated from high school, completed at least one year of college, and maintained a 3.3 or higher minimum GPA.

Students are eligible for consideration at the Griffon, Tifton, or Online campus if they have completed 60 or more transferable credit hours and maintained a 2.8 or higher calculated transfer GPA.

The Office of Transfer Services aims to provide transfer students with a smooth transition to life at UGA. They offer information on pre-transfer advising, financial aid, student life, campus resources, mentorship, the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, and Double Dawgs – a program designed to give motivated students the chance to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in under five years.