How to apply as an international transfer student in the USA.

How to transfer universities in the USA as an International Student

Suppose you are an international student in the United States of America (USA), and you are looking to transfer from your current university to another university in the USA. In that case, this step-by-step guide will help you comprehend the application process, admission requirements for transfer students, transfer admission policies, immigration considerations as an international transfer student, and much more.

Transferring universities in the U.S. is more common than you might think. According to the National Clearing House Research Center, it is estimated that approximately 2.2 million university and college students transferred between universities last year. As an international student, you might also be considered a transfer student if you have completed college-level credits in your home country, and transferring from one U.S. university to another can be a very confusing and complicated process for any international student. This transfer guide is for international students, whether you are transferring inside the U.S. or another country.

International students have various reasons why they would like to transfer from one university or college to another. When you choose to transfer, you are deciding to leave your current university and continue your education in another one that is located in the same state or another state in the U.S. It is always essential that you understand the application requirements as a transfer student which can be significantly different than when you applied as a first-year student. International students choose to transfer to another university or college for various reasons; some students choose to move because they are not happy with their current institution and would like to have a better experience elsewhere. Others transfer because they want to apply to higher-ranked universities where they have better chances of being admitted as an international transfer student. Some may transfer because their financial situation has changed and they are looking for a more affordable college or university, and some transfer because they have decided to change their degree and pursue it in another institution. Whatever your reason is, know we are here to help you every step of the way.

Steps to apply as an international transfer student in the USA


Step One (1) Understanding application requirements

Applying as a transfer international student means that you have completed a number of college or university level credits and you would like to bring those credits with your to your new institution. However, keep mind you must check the criteria of what the new university considers makes you a transfer student. Many institution in the USA require a minimum number of credit hours for you to be considered a transfer student. Also know that some universities only allow students to transfer once they have completed two years of college credits which usually amounts to 60 credits and this is what some colleges refer as to upper level transfer student. In most cases universities will consider you a transfer student if you have completed a total of 24 credits which is usually two semesters.

English Proficiency Requirements

As an international student, you also need to understand that many colleges have different criteria for their English proficiency requirements. At the same time, the university you are currently at only requires you to have a TOEFL score of 60, and the new institution might need you to have a TOEFL score of 80 or above. Most international students assume that because they are now transfer students, English proficiency is optional, but this is rarely the case. Most universities usually require international students to have completed both English Composition I and English Composition II classes to waive the English proficiency requirement; some will also need you to have met both those classes and a specific number of credits. Other universities like Oregon State University only require you to have completed one English Composition class to waive the English proficiency. Other universities, like the University of Colorado Boulder, need the student to complete 30 credits at a U.S. college or university, regardless of the classes taken, and they will also waive their English proficiency requirement. It is essential to check and understand the English Proficiency requirements of the new institution and what criteria will allow you to waive this requirement.

Another issue international students may encounter when it comes to waiving their English Proficiency is that their current institutions may not offer both English Composition classes that are required for the new institution to waive English proficiency. For example, Michigan State University only offers one college-level English Composition class as part of their curriculum for most of their engineering programs; this can cause an issue if, for example, you want to transfer to Georgia Institute of Technology, which requires all transfer students to have completed both English Composition I and II classes. This would mean you will likely need to enroll in an online English composition class outside of your current university to take the English composition missing at your current university. Checking the English proficiency requirements and waivers is crucial for a smooth transition from one university to the next. If you need help with this process, you can always book an online meeting with one of our university advisors.

Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirements

Grade point average will be the most crucial factor in your admission process as an international transfer student. Unlike the application as a first-year international student, the majority of universities will only be looking at three factors when deciding your application for admission. One is English proficiency, two is your GPA, and three is your essays. However, the most emphasis is going to be given to the GPA of your current institution. Most universities will consider students for admission when they have achieved a GPA of 3.0 or above. Still, many universities will also accept GPAs of 2.0 or higher. It is usual for some universities to take international transfer students with a lower GPA than they would as first-year applicants. While this rule does not apply to all universities, many universities in the USA will accept transfer students with lower GPA requirements.

Having a high GPA at your current institution may be the only way you will be admitted to a high-ranking university. In California, for example, the University of California (U.C.) System is one of the most competitive admissions for international students as a first-year student. However, as an international transfer student, you sometimes have up to eight (8) times more chances of being admitted to one of the U.C. universities since it is only based on your GPA and the classes you have taken for your first two years. The U.C. System will only accept transfer students after they have completed 60 credits, otherwise known as upper-level transfers. The University of California Irvine is a great example, as they will have guaranteed admission for students who are part of the U.C. pathway program and have completed their first two years with a minimum GPA of 3.4.

Other universities have specific GPA requirements for transfer students for their programs; it is always important to check that you are meeting the GPA requirement because you need to complete this admission requirement. Your application will most likely be denied.

Essay Requirements

While most university applications for transfer students will not require essays, you must spend time on your essay answers for the universities that do. Usually, higher-ranked universities will require international transfer students to write a certain number of essays. Understand that if the university requires an essay, it is an integral part of their application process. Writing a great essay then becomes quite important, and you need to make sure that your essay has no grammatical errors, that you are answering the prompt with clarity, that it is engaging, and it is cohesive. Understand that you are no longer a student just out of high school, and you will be held to a higher standard regarding your writing skills as a transfer student.

Recommendation Letters

As an international student, you will sometimes be required to provide recommendation letters as part of your transfer application. In most cases, you must ask your current or past semester professors. Professors in U.S. universities are used to students asking for recommendation letters, and most professors will be happy to write a recommendation letter for you if you ask them. However, there are several things you should know when asking for a recommendation letter. The first thing you need to know is that you are asking the professor for a favor; they do not have any obligation to write a recommendation letter for you; you must be polite when asking for a professor to write a recommendation letter for you. Second, you should ask professors in the classes you have gotten good grades in; if you did poorly in a class, do not ask that professor to write a recommendation letter for you since they will either not write a recommendation letter for you or write a recommendation letter that will not help your application. Third, professors who write recommendations like to know the students they are recommending, so it is ideal that you request recommendation letters from professors you have gotten to know personally or that you know well enough to write a recommendation letter.


Step One (2) Choosing a university and semester

Once you have done all the research above and selected the universities you would like to apply to as an international transfer student. You need to pay special attention to their application deadlines. Universities usually have extended deadlines for transfer student applications, many of which will be later than the first-year student application deadline. You must also check that the university accepts transfer students for the semester you plan to begin. Many universities in the U.S.A. will take transfer students in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Still, some high-ranking universities will only accept students in the fall semester.

Another trick most international students need to learn is that applying for the Spring or Summer semester is usually less competitive than applying for the Fall semester. Universities work their admission cycles in cohorts, meaning they look at the number of applications they got for a particular semester and choose the best ones. Since the U.S. high school ends in June, the majority of applications each year for both transfer and first-year international applicants are for the fall semester intake. This means universities usually have fewer applications for the Summer and Spring semester intakes. As such, your chances of admission into a particular university might be higher if you apply for the spring or summer semester if it is available. No matter which semester you choose, please submit your application on or before the application deadline for transfer students. Otherwise, you will need to apply for the following semester if available.

Sending your official documents

Once you submit your application to the university, the first thing you need to do is request your official transcripts from your current institution. In the U.S., most universities use a secure document delivery system. In most cases, your university will be using the Parchment system or the National Clearing House System, and you must request your transcripts using your university’s document delivery system to send your official transcripts; otherwise, they will not be considered official, and the university will not accept them. Sending a copy of your official transcripts that you have downloaded will not be accepted either, so it is always best to request the transcripts through the secure document delivery system of your current university.
Suppose you must still meet the English proficiency waiver, and you have taken an official English proficiency exam. In that case, you must send those official exam results through the exam portal you have taken. You will need to log in to your TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo portal and request for your official exam results to be sent to the university you are applying to. Once again, sending a copy of your English proficiency exam via email is usually only accepted sometimes. While some universities may take a copy initially, they will all require an official exam result copy to be sent to them at some point.

Your recommendation letters must also be sent directly from the professors writing them for you. In most cases, you will need to enter the full name, email, and position of the person writing the recommendation letter through the application system of the university. In many cases, the application is only complete once the university receives the recommendation letters, so it is always important to check the status of the recommendation letters. Should you need to remind a professor to send your recommendation letter, please ensure you are polite and respectful to your professor or recommender, and always remember they are doing you a favor.

Step (3) Transferring Credits and Your Immigration Records

Once you have received an acceptance letter from the university to which you want to transfer, there are several things you need to know. As an international transfer student, your new university needs to process a ” transfer of credits evaluation report,” which will allow you to know how many credits were transferred to the new university and your new expected graduation date. You must pay special attention to this report and ensure which classes transfer into your study plan in the new university. Sometimes, the report can be misleading since it can show that you transfer all your credits, but your graduation date is farther. This is because while some universities will accept all your credits, they are not classes part of your study plan in the new university. Sometimes, you must take several classes you thought you did not have to take anymore. Also, in many cases, the ” transfer of credits evaluation report” is not something the university will give you before the start of the semester, which means you will have to begin in the new university without knowing how many classes transferred and how long it will take you to graduate; this can be especially risky as an international student since you could find out that many classes did not transfer, and you have to repeat a lot of classes you already took. Getting this report is something we do for all of our clients, and it is one of the reasons international students prefer to process their application as transfer students through our agency.

Aside from your credits, study plan, and graduation date, another essential part of transferring to your new university is your immigration record. As an international student under an F-1 Student Visa, you are given an I-20 form when you first got accepted into your previous university. You might remember that during the visa application process, you paid a” SEVIS Fee.” The Student Exchange Visa and Information System (SEVIS) is the system used to create your I-20 form, and it is also the system used by institutions in the US to maintain your immigration record as an international student. Once accepted to your new university, you must transfer your SEVIS Record from your previous university to your new university. Transferring your record will vary from university to university, and each university will have its forms or procedures to transfer your record out, as well as transferring your records into their system. Once your SEVIS record has been transferred to the new university, they can issue you a Transfer I-20 form. This I-20 form will have the information of your new institution and the new Designated School Officer (DSO) at your new university.

Types of international transfer students available?

If you are an international student, you are going to fall into one of the following transfer student categories:

  • Transfer student from your home country university to a U.S. university.
  • Transfer student from a U.S. two-year community college to a four-year university program.
  • Transfer student from a four-year university to another four-year university.

Depending on which option you choose, the procedures are different, and the number of credits that will transfer to the new university will also vary drastically. Here is a breakdown of each category:

International Transfer Student from your home country university to a U.S. University

Suppose you have credits and classes from a university in your home country or any country outside the U.S. In that case, you will fall under this category. This category is going to be the most difficult one for international students to transfer their classes. The education system in the United States is very different from that in other countries. As such, in most cases, the universities in the U.S. will only accept some of the classes and credits from universities from other countries. It is essential that if you intend on having your classes considered for transfer in credit, you request and save all of the syllabi of each of the classes you took in the university outside the U.S.A. You will also need to ensure you get an official translation of any syllabus that is not in English. Once you have all of the syllabi of all your classes along with the official translation, you email them to the U.S. university for them to consider them for transfer credit. Remember that even after providing all the documents needed, the university in the U.S. may not accept your classes for transfer credit.


International Transfer Student from U.S. Two-Year Community College to a Four-Year U.S. University

If you are an international student in a community college doing your associate degree, you will fall under this category. This category is usually the best category for international students to transfer since most of the community colleges have articulation agreements with the state universities that will allow you to transfer all of your credits and classes and allow you to continue your education at the university without losing a single class. Also, under this category, the state universities must accept you as a student as long as you meet the minimum G.P.A. requirements agreed upon between the community college and university. This is the best option to use if you plan to transfer to a university at a later point.


International Transfer Student from U.S. Four-Year U.S University to a Four-Year U.S. University

Suppose you are currently in a university in the U.S.A., and you are looking to transfer to another university. In that case, you will fall under this category. This is the second-best category to fall under since the universities in the U.S. usually have very similar classes for the first two years and can transfer many classes from one university to another. While this option does not give you a guaranteed transfer option as the community college option does. However, it is an option used by thousands of international students each year, and you will have a high likelihood of transferring your credits.


Ready to apply?

Suppose you need help with the process of applying as an international transfer student. In that case, we are here to help you. Book a free online meeting with one of our university advisors, and we will help you with your entire transfer application and immigration process. has helped thousands of international students transfer from universities outside and inside the United States of America, and we look forward to helping you, too.


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