Transfer chances, ideas, and advice


I am writing on here because I applied as a first year from Northeastern University to transfer to a liberal arts college. It did not go well ( rejections from middlebury- top choice, Williams college, Amherst college) acceptance to brandeis and waitlisted to tufts.

I am disappointed in how this transfer season went and want to try again in the spring and fall.

I want to ask previous transfer applicants what I could do to make myself a better applicant.

Current stats - psychology major
(plan on declaring philosophy double major and thinking about Arabic minor)

HS GPA - 3.39 - private boarding school

  • part of and leader of the community service club
  • alumni student coordinator
  • tutoring and mentor programs
  • community service scholarship award
  • community award

College gpa - 4.0

  • 100+ community service hours Feb- April
  • Part of a mentor/ tutoring club
  • working on summer research at the university of Pittsburgh

Overall, I want to transfer because the school is too big for me and I feel as though there is no community within the campus. I feel isolated there and want something smaller to really feel connected to my school.

From Middlebury’s website: “The majority of transfer students are admitted as sophomores or first-semester juniors, and preference is given to those students who have completed at least a full year of college work upon entry. The high school record is weighed heavily and candidates must be in good standing at their current college. If your college does not give grades, written faculty appraisals must be submitted.”

These smaller LAC’s don’t lose a lot of students. In order for you to get in, someone has to drop out. The seats are finite.

Did you ask for financial aid?

I did not ask for financial aid

Then it was probably based on the fact that they had very very few seats available. I imagine they based your admission on your high school GPA. A lot of universities use the high school GPA, as an admission factor, for first year transfers. I think once you have another year under your belt you will have better chances.

This past pandemic year has been a nightmare such that people probably wanted stability and wanted to stay at their schools.

With larger schools, this past year was not a normal year, so you weren’t getting the regular, “full” experience. People wanting to make connections with classmates, in this socially distant year, didn’t happen. The schools appeared disorganized because this is the first time the universities had ever faced anything like this. I imagine it was pretty confusing for everyone.

At one of our local universities, that was used to having 40,000 students on campus, they allowed 1000 students to live on-campus and then they had several county-reported Covid clusters, so the University had to send those students home. This was not a normal year.

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Sorry to hear your outcomes weren’t what you hoped to achieve. However, Brandeis is a great school and I’d encourage you to consider it. Trying to transfer for half your college career will definitely impede a better at experience at NEU.

As far as your results: 4 of your 5 have very low acceptance rates and 2 of them seem to prioritize non-traditional applicants for acceptance. Also as a freshman transfer your HS GPA is given much more weight since you have very little for schools to assess in the way of college performance both academic and EC-wise. There are also so many more LACs that would fulfill your desire for campus community and connection. I’d suggest you expand your list the next time to include more than just the tippy top ones.

For the next round: keep up your grades and foster good relationships with professors for your LORs. Also take the time to research schools that meet your criteria and how best to convey that in your essays.

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Your application may be fine, but it needs to be sent to suitable destinations. In considering where to apply, research through Common Data Sets which schools appear to be transfer friendly. Williams, for example, recently accepted just 2.5% of its transfer applicants, which indicates they hold these applicants to a standard different from that for first-year applicants. As an example of a school that accepts first-year and transfer applicants on an equivalent basis, look into Hamilton, which recently registered a 20.5% acceptance rate for transfer applicants.


For further ideas, some of these colleges may be of interest:

If you apply after completing only one semester of university your high school GPA is quite important. As @aunt_bea says your high school GPA may have been the issue, along with a lack of seats.

If you apply after two or three semesters of university, your university GPA becomes more important. Obviously this helps you quite a bit as long as you continue to keep your GPA at 4.0. Your summer research also seems like a good addition.

Also of course this past year has been awful with the pandemic.

I think that you are doing well and just need to try again. You might want to add a few more schools. Alternately Brandeis is a reasonable option.

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I’ll offer some random thoughts:

Your intended majors suggest that you want the advantages of a university in an LAC environment. This is often found in the Honors Colleges at large public universities.

Kenyon College in Ohio would satisfy your desire for a much more intimate campus environment.

Davidson College in North Carolina might be of interest as venturing into the South should be invigorating as you would be experiencing a different region of the country while enjoying the close-knit atmosphere of an LAC with D-I basketball & a great lake for recreation nearby.

You may have been aiming too high when you targeted Williams, Amherst, & Middlebury–especially as a freshman transfer in a year which saw dramatic increases in applications to elite colleges & universities due to test optional admissions.

I do not know enough about you in order to be confident that any recommendation would be a strong match. Are you willing to share more information ?

It would be helpful to me to know which prep boarding school you attended & whether or not you would like to replicate that experience in a college environment.

Sorry for the disappointment. The small, elite LAC’s with very high retention rates just don’t have that many spots open for transfers.

Have you considered Wesleyan? It’s larger than your top choices but smaller than Brandeis, offers a small school experience, and takes enough transfers to have a nice cohort of entering transfer students, with a 24% transfer acceptance rate. The Arabic program looks reasonably robust, in addition to solid offerings in psych and philosophy.

Hamilton is a good suggestion too.


I was fully on campus this year. I understand that Covid could play a part in how I’m feeling but the overall sense of a small community is something I’m really used to and didn’t know the significance of until I had gone to college.

Do you think I should try for some schools in the spring or wait until the fall to try again?

I’m open to taking summer classes and getting more grades under my belt along with fall semester grades for a spring transfer.

I would like to replicate somewhat of my high school experience in college. I had really good relationships with teachers. The value of the discussion aspect of class and overall learning was also something I really loved. Additionally, I really liked how there were lots of students who wanted to learn.

Also I would give the name of my high school, but I prefer to do that through a private message.

Understandable. Feel free to PM me.

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You need to research the websites for the schools, that you hope to gain entry into, and see how transfer students are selected.

Apply broadly. If you apply to the same schools where you were just recently rejected, you’re probably going to get the same response. The schools typically don’t do “do-overs”. They will probably base your acceptance on space available and current letters of recommendation.

Those schools are small. You have to wait for someone to drop out, AND, assume that preference will probably go to a student from the local/regional community college that has an articulation agreement with that College.

I went to a large public in-state university in California. We had constant opinions and discussions. The students were very intelligent, enlightened and motivated to learn- even in my gen ed classes.

I have three children with varying college experiences. The eldest was in engineering and had no problem giving her opinion in large classes. The middle one was at a large university in STEM, but the class sizes were smaller; she had no problem having discussions with motivated students. My youngest went to a top 10 small research institution. He had no problem discussing his viewpoints.
The students are motivated to learn because they want to gain something after four years. Also, some competitive employers want to see GPAs on resumes with strong letters of recommendation.

I don’t think you can say that a Pandemic year shows the average experience at any school.
If you don’t like the school you are attending, and you are assuming a small school will be better for you, then review the college websites’ transfer requirements and go from there.

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In researching for this topic, it seems that Middlebury didn’t have a great year for transfer students either. Of the 18 women it accepted for last fall, for example, only 1 enrolled.


I saw that they have a pretty low enrollment rate. I wonder what this year looked like though.

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Last year was tricky due to the pandemic and uncertainty about in-person enrollment.

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If I plan on a spring transfer, should I take summer classes to add to my college work?

If you have academic interests that you would like to further during the summer, then this could be a good idea. Even without summer courses, however, you have doubled your excellent collegiate academic record compared to your first transfer attempt. With this as the case, your prospects for a successful transfer already should be substantially greater than they were previously, especially if, as suggested earlier, you apply to colleges that appear to welcome transfer applicants.

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