Columbia University Transfer Acceptance Rate, GPA, and Requirements

In movies and TV shows, college applications are a pretty straightforward affair. A student applies to a college, gets accepted, and then spends four-five years studying at that institution.

As in most cases, things are a bit more complicated in real life. Many students find that the college they are attending can no longer meet their needs. 

It may be that their major has changed; it may be that they were just attending a community college to clear out prerequisites.

Whatever the reason, transfers are a fairly common part of college life. And if you’re going to transfer, you might as well trade up to one of the best institutions in the world.

One of the state’s oldest colleges, Columbia University in the City of New York has existed for over 250 years. Its students include Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama. 

Additionally, the school has produced hundreds of leaders in every field and the winners of every major award known to humanity, including the Nobel Prize and the National Medal of Sciences.

Who wouldn’t want to join such illustrious company? Even if you’re at a great school, it’s hard to believe that Columbia couldn’t offer even more opportunities.

Fortunately, the process of applying to transfer to Columbia is pretty easy, if you know what to expect.

Columbia University Transfer Acceptance Rate

Columbia University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

In their own words, Columbia University typically accepts no more than 10% of those who apply to transfer to their school. 

While students can transfer directly into Columbia College, the primary undergraduate school at Columbia University, the school recommends the School of General Studies. 

The School of General Studies has its own requirements for transfers, as does the Columbia School of Engineering.

At first glance, that 10% acceptance rate can seem very discouraging. After all, that means that, at best, every 9 out of 10 applicants get rejected from transferring. 

In most years, Columbia takes in approximately 100 transfer students, which means that 900 students each year are not allowed to transfer.

But when looked at in context, Columbia’s transfer acceptance rate is quite high. In 2019, Columbia received 42,569 applications. Out of that group, only 2,190 received acceptance letters, for a 5.1% acceptance rate.

When looked at that way, it becomes clear that transfer students actually have a better chance at being accepted by Columbia than those entering as Freshmen. 

This higher percentage indicates that Columbia appreciates students who bring experience and education to their student body. 

That information should encourage anyone who wants to transfer to continue their studies at Columbia.

Application Requirements & GPA for Columbia Transfers

On average, Columbia expects transfer students to have a minimum overall GPA of 3.5. To be sure, that’s a tall order, especially when you consider that transfer students need to earn that GPA while taking college courses, not high school classes. 

To ensure that the GPA stays within acceptable levels, transfer students must earn an A in most of their classes.

Transfer hopefuls with a slightly lower GPA don’t need to give up hope. In fact, Columbia is quite clear that they don’t make their acceptance decisions on grades alone. 

The school has a wide range of requirements the school uses to choose the right students to bring into their programs.

In addition to transcripts showing high school and college scores, Columbia also requires transfer students to complete a Coalition Application. A Coalition Application is a common application used by more than one school.

Because transfer students have a different educational history than traditional new students, they need not fill out every part of the Coalition Application, including descriptions of the coursework. 

However, while transfer students are not required to complete the application essay, Columbia recommends that they do so.

The essay prompt asks students to explain why they want to transfer from their current institution. 

This essay should not be an opportunity for potential transfers to bash their current institution, nor to paint themselves in a bad light. 

Rather, they should use the essay to explain why the current institution cannot meet their current academic ambitions.

Additionally, Columbia requires at least two letters of recommendation from those who can speak to a candidate’s qualities as a college student.

Columbia University Transfer Deadline

Columbia University
JSquish, Butler Library Columbia University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Columbia requires that transfer students complete all of their application materials by March 1st of each year.

But those who want the best chance to get accepted shouldn’t wait until the end of February to get started. 

Instead, the most successful transfer students get started on the process early to ensure that they can devote enough time to finish the applications to their satisfaction. 

With extra time to answer all of the application questions, potential students can ensure that they cover all of the necessary information.

Sticking to a timeline is also an essential part of securing letters of recommendation. 

Because Columbia wants letters of recommendation to come from those who can attest to a candidate’s abilities as a college student, the best letters will come from professors at the current institution.

To be sure, most professors are happy to help students, even those who are trying to switch to another school. 

However, unlike high school teachers, college professors have a very different schedule and often have higher standards for writing letters of recommendation.

For that reason, it’s important to not only cultivate a relationship with a potential letter writer but also give the professor plenty of time to write the letter. 

If the application needs to be submitted by March 1st, it’s wise to speak with a potential letter writer by January 15th at the latest. If the professor does not have time to complete the letter, they will pass, which means that applicants will need to scramble to find a second or third choice.

What is the Decision Date for Columbia University Transfers?

Columbia University sends letters of acceptance to the transfer students who make it by June 1st each year.

To be sure, that can make for a rough few months of waiting. But that doesn’t mean that potential students should let that time go to waste. 

There are many things that they can do to stay busy and have the best chance of being successful upon acceptance.

One of the best things to do during that waiting period is to apply for financial aid and scholarships. Like most schools, Columbia has a variety of options available, especially for transfer students. 

These options reward those who try to do the best for their education by finding the right school for them.

Furthermore, the acceptance letter doesn’t mean that the application process is over. Columbia expects transfer students who have been accepted to submit their deposit money by June 15th. The $500 deposit is necessary to hold a transfer student’s place as an enrolled student at the school.

If a transfer student has any financial hardships that prevent them from paying the $500 deposit, they should contact the school immediately. Columbia has scholarships and financial aid options to help cover that cost. 

The school does not want to lose a potentially great student simply because they can’t afford to hold their place in the school.

Deciding Whether You Should Transfer to Columbia University

Columbia University
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University Morningside Heights campus from northeast, CC BY-SA 4.0

As has been made abundantly clear, you certainly can transfer to Columbia University. But should you?

Unfortunately, that’s a question that only you can answer for yourself. To answer that question, you need to keep in mind some key points. 

Most importantly, remember that Columbia does want to accept students from other schools, and provides many resources to help transfer students easily acclimate with their new school.

Those resources include the Berick Center for Student Advising, which offers a handy list of suggestions for transfer students new to Columbia. 

The list includes pointers about setting up Columbia email and connecting with the advising dean, things that new students know, but might slip the mind of transfer students.

That said, it’s also to remember that Columbia is an incredibly popular school, and many students will want to attend, even if they are already enrolled at a different institution. 

The competition to transfer to Columbia will be tough, and the standards higher. There’s a reason that so many people have their transfer applications rejected by Columbia.

While rejection is always a risk, it’s essential to consider the benefits of transferring. 

The fact is that many undergrads transfer to new schools, often to pursue their majors better. Columbia is one of the best schools in the world, and their degrees carry more weight than those of nearly every other college.

Again, only you can decide if you should transfer to Columbia. There’s always a risk of rejection involved, but the benefits are undoubtedly great.

RECAP: How to Apply As a Transfer Student to Columbia University

In conclusion, Columbia does welcome transfer students from other colleges. However, it has incredibly high standards for those students, sending offers of acceptance to fewer than 10%. 

While that is a very competitive number, it’s a higher percentage than the 5.1% acceptance rate Columbia has for new student applications.

For the best chances of acceptance, a student should have a GPA of at least 3.5. To earn that grade, the student must earn mostly A’s and a couple of B’s in college classes, not in high school courses. 

Furthermore, transfer applicants must fill out the Coalition Application and should consider completing the essay included in the application.

More important than grades are the supplemental materials, especially the letter of recommendation. 

With a strong letter of recommendation, transfer students are more likely to be among that happy 10% who get accepted. 

For that reason, it’s crucial to form a strong relationship with professors at your current institution and talk to them as soon as possible about getting a recommendation letter.

None of these steps will guarantee that you’ll be able to transfer to Columbia, but they will give you the best chance. But the biggest step is the one you have to take on your own: deciding to apply.

It’s always scary to step out and move to a new institution, especially if you’ve done the hard work of learning the ropes at your current school. 

But there’s no question that Columbia University is an excellent school, sure to provide a first-class education that few other institutions can offer. Most would jump at the chance to study there.

Does that describe you? If so, follow the steps above and get started on your new university adventure!