Can You Transfer to an Ivy League?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students talking in the school campus.

Can You Transfer to an Ivy League?

Every year, tens of thousands of Ivy League schools become flooded with applications from eager applicants across the country and the world. In fact, a recent record was set with over 300,000 people applying to the eight schools that comprise this highly esteemed group of top-tier universities. With a limited number of spots available, these schools naturally have to turn away a significant number of students. This contributes to the reputation that Ivies have for being notoriously selective and difficult to get into. Since all applicants face a high chance of not getting accepted, many wonder if you can transfer to an Ivy League school.

A group of students sharing their works

Good news! You can transfer to an Ivy League school such as Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. As a result, you shouldn’t get discouraged if you’ve received a denial letter after your first application, especially if you applied to one of the Ivies with a lower acceptance rate than others. Too many applicants give up after their initial rejection either because they assume it’s not possible to get into their dream college a second time around or because they don’t want to go through the process again because of their frustration. It’s understandable for applicants to feel down, but this temporary setback shouldn’t keep you from applying in the future.

Whether you decide to attend a community college to save money or a state university due to an initial rejection letter, you can always apply via transfer to an Ivy League school later on in your education. How do we know for sure? At AdmissionSight, we’ve supported countless students in their pursuit of an Ivy League education. While many of our students get into the Ivies right out of high school, others are applying for other universities with a remarkably high rate of success. Here, we’ll dispel all of the myths and confirm the truths by explaining how to transfer into Ivy League schools.

The Advantages of Transferring to an Ivy League School

After months of hard work gathering documents, writing essays, doing interviews, and completing all other tasks to finish your college application, it’s devastating to read those first opening lines of a rejection letter. The haunting words “We regret to inform you…” are enough to make even the most confident students feel discouraged. While you’ll be pleased to know that transferring into an Ivy League school is still a viable option to achieve your goals, it doesn’t quite make up for that initial pain of rejection. However, what you might not realize is that transferring into the Ivies comes with some advantages over entering right out of high school.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it’s true! Here are a few of the main advantages that transfer students can look forward to when applying to the Ivy League from another college or university.

Save Money

It’s no secret that college tuition rates have been rising steadily over the past few years. While this is a tough pill to swallow for any student or parents, Ivy League schools compound this issue as they’re typically more expensive than the average college in the country. Although that rejection letter might make you feel defeated, it could actually end up saving you a lot of money in the long-run.

College councillor talking to a student.

Most students who don’t get accepted into the Ivies their first time around but want to try again attend a community college or another affordable college. After attending this school for a year or so, you can then transfer into an Ivy League school. Despite not getting in right out of high school, you’ll end up saving money on each semester you go to a different college. However, you’ll still graduate with a degree from the Ivies. It’s really like getting an Ivy League education at a discount!

Improve Your Grades

Ivy League schools require applicants to have impressive grades in order to even have a chance of getting accepted. While academic factors are by no means the only things taken into consideration, they’re a critical part of the application process. If your grades were part of the reason you weren’t admitted to an Ivy League school, transferring from another institution gives you time to improve your grades. With better academic performance, you’re essentially increasing your chances of getting accepted.

Group of students talking in a room.

There’s also a good chance that the college you attend before attempting to transfer to the Ivies won’t be quite as challenging as these notoriously rigorous schools. This gives you an opportunity to really boost your grades to catch the attention of admissions staff when you decide to reapply. Whether you’re ……

Determine Your Academic Path

A common reason that Ivy League applicants don’t end up getting accepted is because of a lack of direction. Admissions officers at these top-tier universities want to see that students are committed, focused, and driven. While you don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to study and which profession you’re going to pursue, you at least need to have a clear plan of action. If you weren’t really positive about what direction you wanted to head in and this uncertainty was reflected in your application, it might have contributed to your denial. But don’t fret! This is yet another way in which a transfer can be an advantage.

Young woman holding her books while walking.

When you’re attending a different university before reapplying to the Ivies, you have more time to determine what area of study you want to pursue. You can explore a variety of subjects without feeling the pressure to stick to one field of study. It’s a perfect opportunity to get clear on what areas are not of interest and the ones about which you’re passionate. Better yet, you’re doing all of this exploring on a more affordable budget than you would at an Ivy League school. And by the time you reapply, you’ll have a renewed sense of focus and determination. Admissions staff will take notice of this clarity!

Get Some Collegiate Experience

There’s a big gap from high school to college. This jump is even greater for Ivy League schools. Even the premier high schools in the country can’t prepare students for the academic rigor of these top-tier universities. That’s partially the reason these universities are so selective. They want to make sure that admitted students have what it takes to perform well at their schools. After all, admitted students who end up dropping out due to difficulty will hurt their profits. Due to this high-level of competition, applicants who don’t get accepted during their first application cycle shouldn’t get discouraged. You’ll be better prepared the second time around. How?

Well, you’ll gain valuable collegiate experience by attending another university before reapplying to the Ivies. Since the gap between a college and an Ivy League school is much less daunting and more manageable, you’ll be in a better position to get accepted than you were right out of high school. Better yet, at this point, you’ll be an expert at the college admissions process, having experienced it multiple times. As a result, it’s advisable to learn as much as you can during the time you spend at another university before transferring to the Ivies. You’ll benefit from the experience and admissions counselors will notice the difference.

Percentage of Transfer Students Among Total Ivy League Admits

Before we dive into specifics about transferring to an Ivy League school, it’s important to put things into perspective. Transfer students only make up a small percentage of the total number of students accepted into the Ivies. As you can see, this percentage is in the single digits for seven of the eight universities in the Ivy League. This is primarily due to two realities. The first is that there are significantly more first-year applicants than there are students transferring from other schools. Secondly, it’s tougher for transfers to get into the Ivies than first years students.

School Transfers First-Years Total Transfer % of total
Harvard University 12 1659 1671 1%
Yale University 29 1360 1389 2%
Stanford University 29 1678 1707 2%
University of Pennsylvania 150 2425 2575 6%
Dartmouth College 14 1152 1166 1%
Brown University 51 1561 1612 3%
Cornell University 554 3225 3779 15%

What do I have to do to transfer into an Ivy League school?

If you’re wondering how to transfer into Ivy League schools, you’re in the right place. We’ve helped countless students get from community college — to the Ivy League! Any student who didn’t get admitted should follow these steps:

1. Determine What Went Wrong

The very first thing you need to do after getting denied from an Ivy League school is to figure out why. Unfortunately, most universities won’t provide any explanation as to why your application was rejected. However, this shouldn’t keep you from attempting to determine the cause. If there was a particular area you didn’t feel strongly about going into the application process, this is a good guess. If you can’t seem to figure it out, it’s advisable to work with a college admissions expert who can review your application and pinpoint weak spots that might have been the culprit.

Once you’ve figured out what went wrong, you’ll know what to improve upon. For example, if your academic performance was a little too low. You could retake the SAT or ACT and work towards higher grades at another college before reapplying. Maybe you didn’t have enough extracurricular participation. In this case, you could make an extra effort to become more active outside of the classroom. Without this information, you’re at a greater risk of making the same mistakes that got you rejected the first time you applied.

2. Find a School

Once you’ve determined which areas you need to improve upon, you can start looking for another college to attend. The last thing you want to do is take a gap year because your first application wasn’t accepted. Admissions officers want to see transfers who worked hard to improve their application. Simply resending in what you had before without any kind of development is a surefire way to get rejected again. The best thing you can do is attend the highest level university you’re able to get into. Whether that’s a top 10 university or a community college doesn’t matter. You’re only competing with yourself at this point.

3. Pursue an Area of Interest

If you already know what field you’d like to pursue, you should take this into account when choosing which college to attend. However, if you’re still uncertain about your academic path, this is the perfect opportunity to explore different options. Sign up for a diverse array of courses your first semester to get a feel for what might pique your interest and what you definitely have not interest in pursuing.

When you finally find the right field of study, you should pursue it as much as possible. Sign up for the right courses, participate in related extracurricular activities, and compete in field-specific competitions if available. By the time you apply again to the Ivy League, you want admissions officers to see that you’re confident in your academic trajectory. Colleges like to see this clarity and determination.

4. Make a Timeline

You have to be strategic about timing when transferring to an Ivy League school. If you apply too early, you might not have enough time to improve your application enough to warrant an acceptance letter. On the other hand, if you wait too long to reapply, admissions officers will wonder why a student about to graduate wants to complete their degree at an Ivy League university. Finding the sweet spot can greatly improve your chances of getting accepted while reducing your chances of getting that dreaded second denial letter.

We typically advise students to reapply to the Ivies for their sophomore or junior year. This gives you at least one or two years at another college to improve your grades, explore different academic areas, and clarify your path before sending in another application.

5. Reapply

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s finally time to reapply to the Ivy Leagues. At this point, you’re lightyears ahead of where you were in high school. Your academic performance is stellar, you’re clear on what you want to study, and you’ve earned your stripes at the collegiate level. You should start off by determining which Ivy League schools to which you want to apply. We’d recommend sticking to one or two in order to focus your efforts and ensure your applications are pristine. Next, check the deadlines and requirements for each of these universities and get buys completing the applications!


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