Study in USA as a Transfer Student


Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Apr 17, 2023 07:32 PM IST

Want to study abroad as a transfer student? Read the article to discover how to study in the US as a transfer student as well as from a non-US to a US university. Additionally, wade through the benefits for Indian students transferring to a US university and documentation requirements for transferring admission.

Study in USA as a Transfer Student

Did you know that when Barack Obama was a junior at Occidental College, he transferred to Columbia University? When it comes to studying abroad, transfer students have unique hurdles compared to native students. As a result, international students must be highly prepared and plan ahead of time to finish degree requirements on time.

Often, students who wish to study in the USA do not get admission to their first choice university and they settle for their second-best alternative. However, students can even transfer their admissions in the second or third year of college as well as to a university and course of their choice.

Many students opt to transfer from one US university to another in case their current university, course or curriculum does not align with their goals. However, they can only opt to transfer from one US university to another if they satisfy the eligibility criteria of both universities.

Candidates can transfer before the commencement of a semester or in-between academic sessions. Moreover, they would be required to adhere to certain rules and regulations to transfer. Thus, a student must be certain about his decision of changing universities before diving into the process.

According to the Washington Post's US News & World Report's National Universities List, the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of California-Berkeley (UCB) respectively admitted 3,167 and 2,187 transfer students in the fall of 2014.

The University of Southern California and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, on the other hand, were not too far behind, both admitting over 1,000 transfer students. In public universities, the numbers were higher. Despite the lack of specificity, it is a well-known fact that every year a considerable number of international students seek transfers, either between US schools or from a non-US college to a US college.

Transfer from One US University to Another

Every year, thousands of students seek to study in the United States as undergraduates. Due to average academic performance and low standardised test scores, individuals frequently have to compromise on either the programme of study or the university's rating.

As their freshman year performance improves, they desire to finish their remaining years at a university with a higher ranking or one that provides a major of their choosing. On the contrary, some students are unable to fit into the culture and environment of a certain institution despite being accepted into elite institutions. Some of them also struggle to adjust to environmental factors including location, weather or climatic conditions.

Another aspect that influences the decision to move is money, whether it be the availability of scholarships from other universities or financial restraints. Once the choice to transfer has been made, the next step is to establish proper communication with university officials, develop strategies to best project one's profile, and analyse reasons to shape one's declaration of the desire to transfer.

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Transfer from Non-US to US Colleges

There are numerous reasons to transfer from a non-US to a US college. One of the most prominent causes is the liberal arts education system of the US. Universities in the US permit students to study a varied range of wholly unrelated courses rather than the narrow focus of other countries. It is vital to remember that such transfers are handled on a one-by-one basis and at the discretion of each university.

Although each country and university has its grading system, it is critical for the student seeking transfer to guarantee that the credits earned at one university are accepted at the other. Furthermore, unlike other nations, the United States needs standardised test scores, therefore students must submit either their SAT scores or ACT scores. In addition to it, there might be other requirements stipulated by the desired university that students need to submit.

Transfer to US College as a Gap Year Student

Students from India typically apply to US universities after the admissions season for that year has ceased. Instead of abandoning their ambition of pursuing undergraduate courses in the US, they may apply as 'Gap' year students.

This practically implies that they enrol as a 'new student' or 'freshman' for the next year's Fall admission. That being the case, students will need to focus on enhancing various aspects of their curriculum vitae (CV) and application in the forthcoming months.

Aside from the regular application form, students must also write a statement explaining why they are dropping a year and demonstrating how the time available has been used.

Pros and Cons of Transfer Admission

While some transfer students may find it easy to acclimate to their new environment after attending a different university, others may struggle. There may not be enough available seats for transfer students at the top Ivy League universities. Many students, if determined and interested, may find the transfer procedure an easier path to admittance into other good universities, which may be one of their preferred institutions.

The most significant disadvantage of transferring is that the student must restart and acclimatise to a new campus and community. They must make new pals while leaving some behind. Furthermore, some students may also experience transfer shock, which is characterised by a decline in GPA during their first year after transferring.

What is the Transfer Acceptance Rate in US Universities?

At the most prestigious colleges, transfer admission rates are modest, if not non-existent or nearly zero. There are not enough available seats for transfer students because only a few students drop out or leave these universities. Transfer acceptance rates vary widely, although, in a typical year, the country's most prestigious institutions and Ivy League schools admit few, if any, transfer students.

According to the College Board, the transfer acceptance rate at Stanford University was 0% last year. Due to the smaller applicant pool, transferring to a less competitive college is frequently easier. On the other hand, transfer students also should be able to communicate their reasons for wanting to transfer to another college.

Students often seek transfer between US universities or between a US or Non-US university. Here is a mini guide that explains everything related to studying in the USA as a Transfer student:

What are the Advantages for Indian Students Transferring to a US College?

The main advantage of Indian students transferring to a US university in their second year is to attend their dream US university which they were unable to do in their first year. This opportunity allows them to complete their education in their chosen field of specialisation.

Students have the option to demonstrate to the institution how well they performed in coursework at another university. It gives them more time to improve their profile and add a stronger resume for the application, either through their course grades or additional work experience.

Eventually, because the pool of applications for transfer students is usually smaller, it may be simpler to stand out in one of the elite universities.

Documents Required to Transfer Universities Within the US

The following are the important documents required to transfer from one university to another in the US:

  • Students are required to carry a valid I-20 form

  • Students are required to have in possession an F1 student visa or J1 Visa

  • It is mandatory for students to clear all financial dues in their current university and meet all financial requirements from their new university

Note: Both US universities must be open to the policy of transferring students from one university to another.

Related Reads:

J1 to H1B and J1 to F1: How to Change Your Visa Status?

How are J, M, and F US Student Visas Different?

Tips for a Successful US F-1 Visa Interview

Legal Information for Students on F1 Visa in USA

H-1B vs EB-5: Which Visa is Ideal to Study or Work in the US?

Sections 221(g), 214(b), and 212(a) Under USA Student Visa Refusals

Can Students Switch Universities Once the F1 Visa is Issued?

Yes, students can switch universities after their F1 visa has been issued. A student can opt for a new university after having their F1 stamped. Once the student gets admitted to the new university, they can inform the original university that they wish to transfer their I-20.

After the student fills out the form and forwards it to the new university, they will make out a new I-20 and provide the applicant with a copy. A student can have the university provide another copy of the lost I-20 if the student accidentally loses one.

However, a student must keep in mind that their I-20 must not be terminated by any university. Once an I-20 is terminated, students must depart the US and return with a fresh I-20 to continue to reside. Additionally, students should not make out a fresh F-1 visa petition as it is not mandatory.

Transferring from one university to another may provide some difficulties, yet it comes with a mingling of pros and cons. An international student must preserve a copy of all cancellation and registration documentation handy. Lastly, students should contact the Department of Home Affairs with an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) certificate from their new university.

To sum up, transfer cases are challenging and must be handled with attention and discretion. While state institutions admit a substantial number of transfer students, on the other hand, top-ranked and niche private universities are extremely selective, with admission rates as low as 1%. Students must discover their abilities and present them in the most positive and persuasive way possible in their transfer applications and statements.

Interested to study in USA? Or, still confused about how to transfer from one university to another in US? Write to us at to get your queries answered by our experts!

Know More About International Student Transfer Policy!


Do US universities accept international student transfers?

Yes, US universities do accept international student transfers. The majority of US universities and colleges encourage students to have finished at least one year of study before enrolling as transfer students at their institution. However, this criterion differs from one university to another. Prior to graduation, most universities have a two-year residency requirement.

Can international transfer students get scholarships in USA?

Definitely, international transfer students can get scholarships in USA only if they fulfil the eligibility criteria pertaining to a particular scholarship they are wishing to apply for. Scholarship opportunities are available to all international as well as domestic students unless they expressly state that applicants must be from the United States (or any other particular nation).

Can I transfer to another US institution after the first year?

Yes, students can transfer to another US institution after the first year. However, this could differ depending on the regulations of the university you presently attend and the one you intend to transfer to. Some university programmes demand that you transfer to specific universities once your first year of the programme is through. You must enrol at a recognised college or university in your home country or the US and finish at least one semester of courses to be eligible to transfer universities.

Can I switch schools immediately after arriving in the US with an F-1 visa?

Yes, it can be said that international students can switch schools immediately after arriving in the US with an F-1 visa. For this, you must let the DSO know that you have arrived in the country and that you intend to switch right away to another SEVP-approved institution. You must provide evidence that your new school has accepted you. Within 30 days of your arrival in the United States, you must enlist in a complete course of study and report to your new school.

Why should I study in USA as a transfer student?

There are numerous reasons why one may wish to study in USA as a transfer student. Here are a few of them:

  • Due to a change in your financial standing, you now need to explore your alternative options.

  • You discovered a more fulfilling course of study at another college.

  • Your current university does not offer the new major you desire to pursue.

  • You wish to attend a university in a different setting or neighbourhood because you are experiencing culture shock.

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