• Contact the transfer advisor at the schools you’re interested in to ask if they limit transfer credits. Ask if there are other limitations–some schools, for example, don’t want to take students for a particular major. Others may take students in the fall but not in the spring. Some good questions to ask: “Are you currently taking students? Are you taking students for my major? Do I have to do something particular for my major at your school?” It’s important, though, to reach out to the transfer advisor at either your current school or the one you’re going to (whoever is most available). Listen for specifics and take lots of notes.

  • Some universities have an online database that includes all coursework they have previously granted credit for. (You can find these with a quick Google search or a call to a transfer counselor.)

  • Save your syllabi from previous college courses you’ve taken; some institutions might require you to submit these. 

2. Choose and prepare for your major.

First, must you pick a major? It depends on the school. Private institutions might let you delay the decision a bit, whereas University of California schools, which accept 17-18K transfer students per year, require a major. In short, find out the policy of each school you’re applying to.

It also depends on whether the major or the school is more important to you. Say you want to study film and you’re only interested in the most well-known film schools. If you really want to attend these schools more than you want to study film, you might have a better chance of getting in if you apply with a different major. (You can still meet film students and create with them!) If, on the other hand, you only want to transfer because of their film schools and you’d rather stay closer to home in Delaware if you aren’t accepted, then hey, go for it! And work really hard on your supplemental materials, by the way; those matter!   

Why is picking a major a good idea? 

“For one thing, not picking a major can potentially be expensive,” notes Dan Nannini, transfer coordinator at Santa Monica College for the past 17 years. “If you’ve just spent 70K on one year’s tuition at a private university, for example, you may want to focus on classes that fulfill a particular major so you can graduate in four years. That way your family doesn’t have to pay for five or six years of college. 

Completing major requirements can also make you a more attractive candidate for admission. And the sooner, the better! A student who has completed their courses earlier in the year–in the fall, for example–is more attractive to a school than a student who still has courses to complete–say, in the spring.

3. Keep your GPA up.

You’ve got to keep your grades up even if you’re already dreaming about the school you’ll transfer to. So make it happen.

4. Mind your test scores. 

Heads-up that the closer you are to high school, the more your standardized test scores will count (if they’re required as part of the application). Transferring as a junior can push these scores further back in the rearview mirror.

5. Engage in campus activities.

It’ll be important to show the school you’re transferring to how you’ll contribute to campus life once you arrive. The best way to do that? Contribute right now, right where you are–make the most of your current resources and opportunities. (It’ll also give you more to write about on the essay.)   

6. Interact with your professors and make sure they know you.

Why? For one, it up-levels your academic experience. More practically speaking, you may need them–depending on the school you’re transferring to–to write you a recommendation letter.

7. Make your summers count. 

Whether you work, volunteer, or create a project on your own, it’s important to show colleges how you engage with the world.

8. If possible, visit the campus.

If this is a planned transfer, make sure this is where you want to be. If it’s unplanned, make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.

9. Double-check your requirements.

Each school is different, so make sure you double-check these. And yes, I know that this was commandment #1. We’re re-emphasizing it here to make a point. 

10. Apply to multiple schools.

In the “How to Create a Great College List” post I mention having a range of “reach,” “maybe” and “likely” schools–probably two or three of each. The same applies here. Pro Tip: Find out how many transfers each school takes. Stanford, for example, takes fewer than 100 transfer students per year, whereas UCLA takes more than 3,000.

11. Write a great essay. 

For a *very* complete guide on how to write a great transfer essay, check out this post!