How to Transfer to a US University as an International Student

It is possible to transfer from an Indian college/university to a US university without losing all of your previous academic credits or starting over? So, how does transfer admission work, and what is the application process? In this post, we will summarize how to transfer to a US university as an international student.

Transfer Admission in USA for Indian & International Students

Co-authored by Tanmoy Ray

Transfer Admissions to USA

Over one million students every year, including international students enrolled at a non-US institution, transfer to a new US university each year. A report by National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in 2015 mentioned about 30% of students transferring at least once during the 6 years of college progress tracked from 2008 to 2014.

The flexibility of the credit system at US universities allows coursework completed at one institution to be recognized by another, provided certain criteria are met.

International students may consider transferring schools for reasons ranging from costs to not yet being prepared for a four-year university, or current college not being a good fit.

Transferring from one college to another college is not a big issue and the transfer process is well understood by the universities and many students who start college in the US.

My Transfer Admission Experience in USA

My college journey in the US started with me joining Texas A&M and transferring to the University of Texas at Austin after one semester (for my MS Computer Science program). This transfer allowed me to carry all my college courses and continue my further education at UT Austin. There are a number of students we have counseled who have started at one college and later transferred into another college after 1 year or even 2-year of the program.

Ramdas Sunder, my MBA batch-mate at Harvard and one of our top college admission counselors and transfer admissions counselors, had transferred to the University of Texas at Austin from IIT-Madras after one year. Sunitha Prithviraj, one of our new Counsellors helped her daughter with transfer admissions to USA & Canada (2021). 

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transfer to US college from India

Here are answers to a number of questions our readers and customers have often asked in terms of transferring colleges within the US or even from abroad into the US.

What is transfer admission?

Transfer admission is when a student decides to move from one college to another college for the same degree program i.e. Undergraduate studies, graduate studies, or Ph.D.

In this case, the student would have started his or her studies at one university but for some reason is interested in applying as a transfer student to another university. 

How does transfer admission to a US University work?

Every university has a process and admission cycle for transfer students. Applicants will likely need to supply their college transcript and letters of recommendation, among other requirements. Also, the number of open seats available for transfer students tends to be smaller than what is available for the general pool of students but also the application pool tends to be smaller.

Timeline and Deadlines for Transfer Applications

The application deadlines for transfer students are usually a few months later than the normal application deadlines. In order to apply as a transfer student, deadlines are typically Oct. 1 or Nov. 1 for the winter semester and March 15 for the fall of 2021.

For UC colleges, applications need to be submitted between November 1 and November 30.

Eligibility Criteria of Transfer Admission

The transfer application is intended for students who have finished high school and completed at least one year (two terms or semesters) of college. It’s also fine if you have finished 2 years (4 terms)./

US colleges do not accept transfer applications from students who at the time of entry will have finished less than one year or more than two and a half years (i.e., five terms) of college because of residency requirements.

Transfer students may only submit one application per entry year, meaning if you apply to enter in the spring term, you can not reapply for the fall term of the same calendar year.

What are the benefits of transferring to a US college for an Indian Student? 

The major benefit of transferring to a US college (or university) in the 2nd year is that it gives you an opportunity to attend your dream US college if you had somehow missed the opportunity in the first year.

You get an opportunity to show the university how you have performed at another university in the coursework. It gives you more time to build your profile and add a stronger resume for the application, either through the grades in your courses or additional work you may have done.

Lastly, the pool of applicants is usually smaller for transfer students so it may be easier to differentiate your application at one of the competitive colleges. Read the story of Vihan Patil, who transferred to a Top US College with a State Board Background.

Pros and Cons of Transfer Admission

The biggest con of a transfer is the student has to start again and adjust to a new college and community. They have to make new friends and leave a few behind.

Also, the top Ivy League colleges may not have enough open seats for transfer students. Usually, many students, if committed and interested, can find the transfer process an easier path to gain admission into other good universities that may be one of their chosen colleges or dream school.

How to prepare and build a profile for transfer applications?

To prepare your profile as a transfer student, the best thing you can do is to take rigorous courses in your current institution and do a fabulous job of earning high grades.

A strong academic performance at the college level shows the university that you are a student who can handle rigor and stress. Secondly, build your relationship with your professors to get a strong recommendation. A few other things you can show the college is your involvement with clubs at the university, on-campus jobs, or research work at a lab.

Colleges always feel good about students who can juggle a few things in addition to rigorous coursework and excel in the environment.

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transfer admission and transfer application process for Indian students

How hard are transfer admissions? What are the typical acceptance rates?

Transfer admission rates at the most selective colleges are minimal if not nearly zero. Since very few students leave these colleges there are not enough open seats for transfer students. While transfer admission rates vary greatly, the nation’s most selective colleges and Ivy League schools admit few, if any, transfer students in a typical year.

Last year, the transfer acceptance rate at Stanford University, for example, was 0%, according to the College Board. A transfer is usually easier at not-so-competitive colleges due to a smaller application pool. However, the student should be able to clearly articulate a story and reason on why they want to transfer and join another college.

Example: Transfer Admission at MIT

Over the last several years out of 35-50 who apply for the spring term, MIT have admitted from 0-5; for the fall term out of 400-500 applicants, MIT have admitted anywhere from 15-20. 

There’s no formula for gaining transfer admission to MIT. There’s no minimum required GPA, however, competitive applicants typically have a 3.5 GPA or above, and mostly As in math and science courses.

Transfer Application Process

The process is pretty much straightforward. Here is an example.

Example: Transfer Application at UT Austin

Online Application: Transfer applicants can submit either the ApplyTexas application or the Coalition for College application.

Application Fees: Pay the non-refundable application fee – $90 for international applicants —when you submit your ApplyTexas application. Fee waivers are available.

Applications Essays: Along with your ApplyTexas application or Coalition for College application, submit at least two essays. 

College Transcript: Send the official transcript(s) documenting all coursework you have attempted at the Indian college or university.

International students may also need to provide transcription evaluation reports from third-party evaluation agencies like

High School Transcript: If applicable, a high school transcript as well.

Resume: Submit an expanded résumé offering additional information about your achievements.

Major Specific Items: In addition to reviewing the prerequisites, submit any additional items required by the majors you’ve selected as your first and second choices.

Letter(s) of Recommendation: Ask someone who knows you well to write a letter about your character and accomplishments. Letters of recommendation are appreciated but not required.

English Language Scores: You also need to ask testing agencies to send official reports of scores you earned on the TOEFL or IELTS exams.

Application Deadline: Mar 1 for Fall Semester and Oct 1 for Spring intake.

Transfer Application Tips for International / Indian students

One tip for International and Indian students is to check with the college you are applying to in regards to how many course credits they will transfer or recognize. Many universities have a different policy on transfer students for International students.

Tips on Funding and Scholarships

There are not too many scholarships available for transfer students. However, if you are interested in studying at one of the more selective, expensive colleges, you can start at a cheaper, budgeted university and transfer after 1st or 2nd year. This may save you some on your cost of education.

Best Popular Colleges for Transfer Admission for Indian Students

  • Northwestern University
  • Cornell University
  • UCLA
  • UC Davis
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • New York University (NYU)
  • UT Austin
  • Texas A&M University
  • Emory University
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Florida
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Tulane University
  • UCSD
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • Boston College
  • Boston University

If you are interested in learning more about studying or applying to US universities, please schedule a 30 or 60 minutes online 1-on-1 counselling session with one of our experienced counselors.

Alternatively, send us an email at

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,7.

Featured Image Source: Vanderbilt University

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