Stanford University Transfer Acceptance Rate, GPA, and Requirements

At first glance, it may not make sense to transfer from one college to another. After all, it takes a lot of work to get accepted into a school. Why would anyone want to do it all again?

There are a lot of reasons that someone would want to transfer. But more importantly, the fact is that a lot of students go through the college transfer process. 

Some find that their first school just isn’t a good fit, while others transfer because they change majors and need to be in a department that better fits their needs. 

Even more common are the students who decide to do their prerequisite classes close to home and then move on to a more prestigious university.

That’s especially the case when the prestigious university in question is Stanford. 

The school has a reputation equal to that of even the best Ivy League schools, thanks in part to its excellent research and achievements. 

Few institutions in the world can live up to Stanford’s standards, so it’s pretty easy to believe that students would want to jump over to join them.

Whatever your reason for switching schools, there are a few things to know before applying to transfer to Stanford University.

Stanford University Transfer Acceptance Rate

Stanford University Campus
Oleg Alexandrov, View of Stanford University campus, CC BY-SA 3.0

In some years, Stanford University’s transfer acceptance rate is less than 2%.

That’s a very low percentage, but to be fair, the school is upfront about it. 

According to the Stanford University website, the school “accepts a small number of undergraduate transfer students each year.”

There are two important takeaways from that sentence. 

First, the good news – Stanford does accept transfer students each year. In other words, they will accept applications from students who want to leave their institution to join their student body. 

Now, the less encouraging news. They accept only a small number of transfers. In 2019, Stanford accepted only 27 transfer students out of a pool of 2352 applications.

Without question, that’s an extremely low rate. 

That rate means that out of every 100 students who apply, at best, 98 will be rejected. At worst, and more often, 99 will be rejected.

But that number does need to be examined within context. Stanford is one of the most competitive schools in the world, even for new students applying for the first time. And it only seems to get more competitive.

In fact, in 2021, Stanford admitted a record low number of new students. Out of the 55,471 students who applied for entry that year, Stanford sent offers of admission to a mere 2190 students. 

That gives them an extremely low acceptance rate of 3.95%, which is less than the previous year’s admission rate of 5.19%.

In short, it’s tough to get accepted into Stanford no matter how you’re applying.

Application Requirements & GPA for Stanford University Transfers

Stanford University has no minimum GPA requirement for its transfer applications.

That might sound like good news, but it’s essential to keep everything in perspective. Just because Stanford does not have a minimum doesn’t mean that they’ll accept just everybody. Remember that low rate we just saw?

In fact, most transfer students accepted into Stanford have a GPA of 3.5. 

Keep in mind, that’s a 3.5 GPA not in high school classes, but in college classes taken at a previous institution. Furthermore, Stanford only allows grades of a C- or higher from a previous institution to transfer and count for credit there. 

Whatever your grades, they need to be submitted as transcripts, as do your grades from high school. 

Like most high-level schools, Stanford requires a completed Coalition Application from transfer students. A common application used by a variety of institutions, the Coalition Application provides the transfer application committee with all of the information they need to make an informed decision. 

Stanford also prides itself on evaluating transfer students according to a holistic process. They want to consider everything about the people applying to join their school, not just the ability to earn good grades. 

For that reason, Stanford expects an application essay and letters of recommendation from the previous institution. 

These materials should speak not only to a student’s academic potential but also to the personal qualities they bring to the school. They should indicate the applicant’s passions and desires from the Stanford experience.

Stanford University Transfer Deadline

Stanford University
Another Believer, Stanford University, CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re planning on applying to transfer to Stanford, you need to have your materials submitted by March 15th every year

Students who are applying to programs that require a portfolio, such as music or fine arts, have a bit more time. They have until March 20th each year to submit their materials. 

Given the incredibly competitive nature of transferring to Stanford, it’s not wise to wait until March 1st to begin the process of applying. 

Even if you’re just doing a standard application and don’t need to create a whole portfolio, it takes a while to craft an impressive application. 

If you start work months in advance, you’re more likely to cover all of the necessary information in the application essays and questions. 

More importantly, strong letters of recommendation require a clear timeline. 

Unlike new student applications, transfer students need to provide letters from those who have seen their work in college, which means that they must come from college instructors. 

Without question, college professors love to help their students, and most will be willing to write letters of recommendation for those who do well in their courses. 

But unlike high school teachers, college professors hold higher standards for writing letters of recommendation and have much tighter schedules. 

If Stanford requires all materials to be submitted by March 15th, it’s wise to contact your potential letter writers as soon as possible after the previous semester. 

At the very latest, talk with your potential letter writer by January 15th and let them plan to work on your letter. 

Working early with a professor not only ensures that you’ll get a letter from your first choice but also gives the writer time to craft a stronger recommendation.

What is the Decision Date for Stanford Transfers?

Transfer applicants will learn of Stanford’s decision by May 15th each year. Those students then have until June 1st to reply to accept the school’s offer. 

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

Those two months of waiting can be pure torture. Fortunately, you don’t have to just sit around and wait for an answer. Instead, it would be wiser to use that time preparing.

Most importantly, those two months should be devoted to applying for financial aid. Schools such as Stanford offer several financial aid options for transfer students, which helps them get settled at their new school. 

Also, you may need to speak with financial aid specialists at your current institution about the process of closing your accounts there.

During this time, the worst thing you can do is contact the admissions office frequently to check on your status. 

Not only will the office be unable to release information before the committee is ready to go public with their decisions, but you’ll also only get yourself frustrated in the meantime.

Instead, use that time to put yourself in the best position to jump into Stanford should you be accepted, or to make the best of your current school if your application is rejected.

Deciding Whether You Should Transfer to Stanford University

Stanford University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Coming off the previous point, we must restate the good news. Every year Stanford University does accept students who want to transfer from another institution.

Should you try to be among them?

Only you know. 

It’s always a risk to apply to an institution of higher learning, especially one with a very low acceptance rate, like Stanford. 

On a pure numbers level, most people will not be accepted, even if they do everything right when putting in the work of filling out an application and securing letters of recommendation. 

Some people may decide that it simply isn’t worth the effort, especially if they’re happy with their current institution.

On the other hand, Stanford does certainly want to improve its student body by taking in the best possible learners, even if they come from other schools. 

For that reason, Stanford has several resources for transfer students, provided through the Office of Academic Advising.

One of the best supports for students switching to Stanford is Transfer 101. This student-led program helps incoming transfer students acclimate to the new school through small group discussions with other transfer students.

With supports such as these in place, applying to transfer is much less scary. That’s not to say that there is no risk at all, but these programs underscore the benefits of transferring.

But the risk of rejection still remains, and only you can decide if it’s worth it overall. There’s no denying that the reward is undoubtedly remarkable.

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

To review, it is possible to transfer from a program to Stanford University. As one of the most well-respected institutions in the world, 

Stanford draws applications from thousands of hopefuls, including students currently enrolled at a college.

Stanford does accept approximately 27 transfer students most years, but that number comes from a pool of thousands of applicants. 

In fact, Stanford has one of the most exclusive rates in the country, accepting just 1.15% of those who want to transfer to the institution.

With such a low acceptance rate, applicants must know what’s expected of them. Although Stanford doesn’t have a minimum GPA requirement, the school tends to accept those who earn A’s and a few B’s in classes at their current institution. 

More importantly, applicants should take advantage of the school’s holistic admissions process, securing strong letters of recommendation and using the materials to emphasize the talents they bring to Stanford.

Even by following these steps, there’s no guarantee that Stanford will accept your transfer application. As one of the world’s best institutions, Stanford is a dream school for thousands of students.

To best those students, you’ll have to put in a lot of work at your current institution. But if that work leads to upgrading to an excellent school like Stanford, it might be worth it.