Transfer Admission to US/Canada from India: A Mother’s Perspective

Editor’s Note: The transfer admission to US or any other foreign university is relatively uncommon in India and not many people are aware of it. Sunitha Prithviraj had approached us (back in December 2020) to get a few basic guidelines through our 1-on-1 sessions. Due to prior engagements and other constraints, we were not able to help her with the entire process (end-to-end). Mothers are known to be Superhumans. Sunitha did a lot of research on her made sure Malavika (her daughter) get a transfer to a top foreign university after her 2nd year (admits from UW-Madison, UT Austin & UBC). Here is her story!

Fast-forwarding to the Climax….. Conversation at the US Embassy (Visa Queue)

I was shocked and equally surprised when I stood in a queue outside the tall walls of the US Embassy in Chennai with my daughter last July (2021) for an F1 visa. The US Embassy had opened their slots only for students this time, right after the terrible second wave in India!

The queue for the 9.30 am slot was really long and there were parallel queues for the 9.00 am and 10 am slots too. This was just one day’s, three slots’ of people, all waiting for the US student visa interview.

So many young, ambitious, tensed students were anxiously waiting for their turn. We met few students who were going for Masters (MS) and few others who were going for an undergraduate degree.

Transfer Admission to US/Canada are Not Mainstream, Yet

My daughter’s case was a bit odd though. A curious parent asked me, “She must be going for MS, right?

I said, “ No, Sir. She is transferring abroad”.

He seemed a bit confused. He asked, “ Means…. She is…like…. Well, how does that work, Madam?”

I said, “She has completed her second year engineering here and will continue her education there for the next two years”.

Like any other person, he had several questions in loop. “Oh, is it possible? I thought that colleges with some tie-up with universities abroad can only do that. … will she be a student of that university? Will she graduate with their degree? And so on and so forth!

In fact, my daughter’s college principal too asked us the same questions. He suspected it to be a scam initially and warned us that we may not even get a visa. Though he later helped her through the exit procedures for which we are indebted forever.

Transfer Admission to US or Canada from India

Transferring to a university abroad may not be a common thing, but it is not unheard of, here in India. Students from top Indian institutes do that all the time but it is not a sought-after option. But my daughter had strong reasons to transfer and she in fact succeeded. She did have several hurdles to cross (that story is for another blog) but she anyways could do it!

Why Foreign Universities Accept Transfer Admission Applicants?

Firstly, we need to understand why US universities have this option of transferring from one college to another. By the way, Canadian and UK universities have this option too.

US education system is very flexible and it’s amazing to find how accommodating the universities are, for students to learn at their pace and pick their subjects. They believe that transfer students add diversity to their system.

Why do Students Opt for Transfer Admission?

Students transfer for various reasons all the time.

  • Some transfer because they had to go to community colleges initially due to lack of funds or since they weren’t accepted into their dream colleges.
  • Others transfer just because they don’t like the curriculum or weather or just because their boyfriend lives in the other town!
  • Many transfer, because they want to be in a better system or they are finding their present University very competitive and demanding.

The other countries are stringent when it comes to accepting transfer students. In Canada, a few top universities do accept transfer students but they want them to start all over as a freshman. In the US, different universities have different rules for international transfer students.

Challenges of Transfer Admission Application

Credit Transfer

The biggest challenge that you would face as an international transfer student is to transfer your credits earned at your current college.

Some universities may accept most of your credits except for few common subjects like Chemistry or English or Humanities, etc. But others may not accept most of your credits.

So, depending on these factors you may want to choose the right university!

In my daughter’s case, she got almost all her credits transferred and hence she joined as a junior (third-year student) there.

College/University Shortlisting

The second challenge that you may have to encounter is choosing the Universities that are apt for you. Remember, you are not applying as a freshman student.

You cannot choose few universities based on your profile and start applying. You will have to check their acceptance rate, credit transfers, whether they accept your college transcripts directly, or if you will have to get the transcripts evaluated by an agency like WES!

It is a lot of homework and you will have to start early to get all this sorted.

Low Acceptance Rate

Thirdly, the acceptance rate for transfer admission for international applicants is lower than the freshman applications.

The acceptance rates for international students are in the range of 2 – 10% at top US colleges. However, there are cases where transfer admission acceptance rates are higher than freshman admission (see the example of UW-Madison below).

An international transfer student’s chances of being accepted increase bifold if s/he has a strong profile that brags about her extracurriculars, internships, and most importantly good grades. The stronger your profile, the better your chances of getting accepted to a top 20 University.

The probability of an international undergraduate transferring into an elite Private US college is less than One Percent. There are not many openings, as very few students leave before graduating.

Tom Stagliano, MIT Alum & Admissions Officer
Freshman vs Transfer Admission at UW-Madison (Historical Data)
freshman vs transfer admission in us acceptance rate
transfer admission to us or canada
Source: UW-Madison

Transfering in 2nd-Year vs 3rd-Year

Fourthly, if you are a third-year student, you must remember that you need to gear up for a fast-paced two years ahead of you.

You will not have time to understand what’s going on around you in the new setup. Of course, every university has an amazing transfer group and support program and they really help you to sync in.

But you will have no time to socialize or make several friends since you are busy looking for internships, organizing time between classes, etc. That shouldn’t be a problem if you are focused and do your homework before you even reach there.

The last and most important thing that we must ask ourselves before even considering to transfer abroad is, do you really want to do this right now! Several people asked us this question. Why now? Why not for MS? In spite of this, If you have a strong reason to transfer, who can stop you?! Go ahead and try!

Advantages of Transfer Admission to US

There sure are a lot of challenges when you apply as a transfer student. But once you get in and sync in with the system, you will realize that your life will not be the same anymore!

  • One of the biggest benefits of transferring is the monetary benefit that you would reap. If you are accepted as a third-year student, it’s as good as getting a 50% scholarship for the program that you have enrolled in.
  • Undergraduate programs are expensive when in comparison to Masters programs due to the number of semesters you will have to enroll in. The more credits they accept, the better for a transfer student.
  • After your two years of undergraduate studies in the US (after completing the Bachelor’s degree), you could start working in a US-based company, pay off your loans and then plan to do your Masters.
  • This would significantly increase your chances for the H-1B lottery and you are also gaining more years of experience in a US-based company.

The transfer path is a bit complicated, but with the right guidance and meticulous effort, you would definitely not regret this decision!

In my next blog, I would be sharing the whole process of applying to a foreign university as an international student.

Need Help with Transfer Admission?

Book a 1-on-1 Consultation Session with Sunitha Prithviraj

Featured Image Credit: Shiksha

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