Transferring to colleges that rejected/waitlisted me

Hey everyone.

I was rejected/waitlisted by all my dream schools :sob:

I have stats that meet or exceed the 75th percentile at these T20 schools and I have very good ECs and leadership related to my major. But looking back, I guess I didn’t showcase all my achievements and potential properly. My common app essay for example wasn’t all that great (in hindsight).

But I have learned a lot these past few months and think I could do a lot better. I am considering re-applying to two of these schools next year as a transfer student.

My question is: will my transfer application be reviewed by itself and get a fresh look or will they go back and look at my original freshman application and outright reject me? Will I have a chance to present myself in a whole new light, with additional achievements from my year in college or will I be weighed down by my freshman app?

Am I wasting my time trying a second time to a school that rejected me? What about a school that waitlisted me?

Thank you!

As a sophomore transfer, your high school record* as well as what little college record you have will matter. Because your high school record did not result in admission as a frosh, it is unlikely to result in admission as a sophomore transfer.

Transferring as a junior would be less correlated to frosh results, since by then your college record will be the primary factor, with your high school record being much less important.

But most of those colleges will be difficult to get admitted to in any case, and some have specific demographics they target for transfer students. For example, some prefer those at comparably selective colleges, while others emphasize non-traditional students.

*By “record”, this means your entire set of college admission credentials, not just courses and grades.


Why are you worrying about transferring out a college you haven’t even started yet?

Go find one of the online student groups at your college; start getting excited, pick out a new comforter for your dorm.

The almost-guaranteed way for you to hate college is for you to have decided that you’re leaving before you even start. You won’t make friends, you won’t make connections with professors, you won’t join clubs or activities.

Why not focus on what you can control- getting ready for the college which has accepted you- and stop focusing on what you can’t control (getting in to a college which has rejected you)???


My advice as was already said love the college you are at. Focus on doing as well as can both academically and being hyper involved on campus. This should set you up well to attend graduate school at one of these ultra selective schools. If you go to a top tier graduate school no one will care where you went for undergrad. Just my perspective, take it for what it’s worth.


As were most of your fellow applicants, as will be the other transfer applicants.

You are headed to a top program in a very competitive field, so it’s not as though you are going to be at a meaningful disadvantage come graduation time.

So, for now, throw yourself into being a true star in your current school. Get to know your profs- be the student who works ahead, who gets a gig working with the prof. Ace your classes. Be a constructive member of the community. Don’t think about transferring at all until January 15.- live as a true believer that you have found your place and your people.

THEN. In mid-late January, sit down and list out what has gone well: classes you have liked, friends you have made, profs who have been good. After that, list out what you feel is missing from your college experience so far. Consider whether those can change (or are likely to- eg, intro 1st classes are rarely the best classes you ever take!). Finally, think about what schools & programs might be a better fit- and be specific about each dimension: social, academic, campus, etc. If you still think that the grass is greener, then apply for some transfers, knowing that 1) you have made a genuine go of it;; 2) your LoRs will be strong, b/c you have built the relationships with your profs and 3) your transcript will be strong, b/c you have put your back into your school work., so your app will be as competitive as you know how to make it.


Thank you for your honest reply. Does it make any difference that one of these two colleges waitlisted me (not rejected)?

I guess I’m going to be stuck with my 2nd tier college :pensive:

I’m not 100% sure I’ll transfer. But I’m thinking through my options.
It’s not that where I’m going is terrible, I just don’t feel excited about it. It wasn’t originally on my list, more of a late “safety” addition and I never thought that would be where I would end up. Maybe I’ll enjoy my time there, don’t know.

Right now I just feel like a big failure. I worked hard in school to pursue my interests and get top grades. I heard people say “don’t worry about what colleges want, just do what you’re passionate about”. I took that seriously not knowing that if the thing you’re passionate about is academic (like my interest in programming), not sports or music, then the colleges don’t value that.

So many others in my class are going to T20 schools and I feel like I could have done so much better. Some of my teachers told me in sophomore year that I was Ivy bound and that stuck in my head. I just can’t stop thinking about my disappointing admission results. I wanted to enjoy these last weeks of high school but I can’t get this out of my head. I dread graduation day when they’ll be reading out where everyone is going.

Thank you for the advice. I guess grad school is an option. But will my undergrad application weigh me down if I apply to those same schools?

Thank you! That is really good advice!
I will keep that in mind.

In general I think it is a terrible idea to start one college with the intent of transferring out. This will stand in the way of your making meaningful friendships, developing relationships with professors, and getting involved on campus. Then if your transfer doesn’t work out as planned you will be really stuck. I’d go to the college you enrolled in with the intent of staying all four years. It is unlikely that you will get into a T20 college that rejected you this year – but is fine to throw in a couple of transfer applications and see what happens.

I recommend you work to love the college that loved you back. If you go in with a poor attitude (ex. upset about attending “second tier college”) then you are likely to not make the most of your college opportunity and experience.

Take a deep breath. Understand that you can do GREAT things at many colleges and get wherever you want to go in life – you don’t need a top 20 school to accomplish this. Thousands of people all over the world would give anything for the opportunity to attend a 4 year college in the US. FWIW neither one of my kids attended T20 college – both had incredibly happy and successful college experiences, got into the grad school of their choice, and are extremely happy and successful professionals and people.


I have some friends/acquaintances who work as admissions officers, but not at top 20s but UCs and private’s. I’m assuming that their information is valid for you information.

In order for you to transfer into one of the top Ivies, they have to make room for you. This means a student has to “drop out” in order to have a seat open for you.

My experience with the Stanford admissions, years ago, was that they look for nontraditional students to fill their transfer spots (that means military, mom’s/dad’s coming back to school, people have who have worked in the industry, and never had degrees) that kind of thing. They also may have a need for a specific athlete, artist, performer, international social justice person, etc. to fill those five spots. So it would be even harder, as a transfer student, to get admitted, unless you’ve done something amazing in your time at your current university.

When you are waitlisted that just indicates that they liked what they saw but they just didn’t have the room for you and maybe someone else presented himself/herself as a better fit. It’s really specific to each university- they know what they want for fit.

I agree that it is not the way to start at a college. Best to go in with an open mind. However, I shall opine that life is short and if you really want to take another stab at a university or two then you should do it just because it will bring closure of some sort. Or, it might make the pain 2X worse.
If you must, do some research to see how many transfers they accept, demographics and such. Frankly, the juice might not be worth the squeeze.


OP, didn’t you choose UMD for CS? That’s not a 2nd tier program.


I don’t believe this is entirely true. While some ivies like Harvard or Yale might operate like this, places like Columbia explicitly state that they allocate approximately 100 spots for new transfers every year.




Hi OP,

I was in the exact same position as you last year. I think most top schools most likely have a neutral view on reapplicants. I was admitted to several schools that outright rejected me last year. And, speaking with other admitted transfer students at Penn and Johns Hopkins, a solid amount of people were also previous rejects.

I also happened to speak with a college admissions consultant about this issue (Scholargrade if you browse r/applyingtocollege). What they told me was that AOs generally don’t have the time to comb over your previous app. The most that they’ll do is take a look at the previous AO’s notes on your application. However, the majority of their time is spent on your new application.

Good luck to you and your journey. I agree with happy1. Coming into college with the intent on transferring out was a pretty terrible decision on my end that made my first year not as good as it could be. I’d encourage you to try and enjoy yourself at your new place. Earn good grades and get involved on campus, but don’t do it just for the sake of leaving. Start really doing your research and writing during or after winter break.


@Steminista I totally get it. My eldest D was rejected by all her favorite T20 schools. However, she was accepted to the Honors College at a public university that is Top 10 in her major. She was still upset.

I told her to turn the negative into a positive, because life isn’t fair and there will be plenty of setbacks, so control what you can control. Put a chip on your shoulder your freshman year to prove you can achieve the highest level, embrace the grind, and then the worst that can happen is you excel at this college which is Top 10 in your major.

Not only did she learn from the setback, less than 10 months later she earned a 3.9 GPA, and is running around the house with glee that she was accepted to her Top 20 college. Overcoming that early setback and embracing the new challenge will come in handy the rest of her life.

When Covid threw an unexpected curveball and killed both her job offers and likely meant a few months or more searching for other offers as the world collapsed, she immediately pivoted and applied, and then earned her Masters degree from her Top 20 college. So, here she is 6 years after those rejections in high school, loving her career, and living in LA (her first choice location) with good friends she met her freshmen year at that public university across the country.

You just never know. If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.


Thank you whippymop. Your story gives me a lot of hope! And I’m really happy things worked out for you!

And thank you everyone else for sharing your advice and experiences. I will keep all that in mind and focus on loving where I’m going and try to get over my immense disappointment.

I realize transfer chances are very low especially because (like Aunt Bea pointed out) the top schools all want athletes and artists and performers, not girls who can program in 3 computer languages. And I didn’t have a sob story to sell or an underprivileged background. Oh well! At least I was true to myself.

I will try and love the school I’m committed to.

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Yes I’m committed to UMD for CS, honors program.

My daughter just graduated from the honors program at UDel, it wasn’t her first choice but she needed merit. Not only did she have the time of her life and receive a great education, she got into every graduate program she applied to (is at BU with merit and thrilled to be there). I attending the honors convocation and was very impressed with the schools the graduates were heading to and the companies they would be employed at. MIT, Princeton, Cornell, NYU, Northwestern, Northeastern, UPENN… I was impressed. The only reason my kids didn’t consider UMD was the small merit award.

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