Inside elite transfer admissions: From community college to U-Va. (2022)





CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The grades bounced around; a few C’s in high school, a couple of D’s mixed with A’s and B’s in community college. The ACT score, in the 20s, fell below the typical range for the University of Virginia. There were gaps in the general education courses needed for a degree. The first U-Va. admission officer to read this transfer application recommended denial: “Grades not competitive.”

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Yet Pierce Coughter, the second reader, spotted potential. The college grades averaged to a B with a challenging schedule. The ACT, to him, was irrelevant. The African American student had overcome financial barriers, cared for a relative at home and persisted through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m going back and forth,” the senior assistant dean of admission said one afternoon in April. He was impressed by the applicant’s accomplishments and resilience. “Grades aren’t awesome, but more than passing a really difficult semester.” Coughter was leaning toward admitting.


(Video) YCBK 239: Transfer Admissions from Community College to UVA

Last week, with electronic notifications accompanied by virtual confetti and balloons, U-Va. offered admission to this transfer applicant and more than 1,000 others. Nearly half the offers went to community college students. The university gave The Washington Post a rare look inside its admission deliberations to reveal how the transfer process works and how transfers help shape the student body of a public flagship.

The transfer pathway, long underrated and overlooked amid the frenzy of freshman admissions, is gaining support from leaders of prominent colleges and universities who view it as a powerful tool to diversify campuses across many dimensions, including age, income, race, social class and military service. Transfer admission rates are often much higher at these schools than freshman rates.

Three highly regarded public universities illuminate the point. The University of Michigan posted a freshman admission rate of 26 percent for the fall 2020 semester, compared with a transfer rate of 46 percent. For the University of California at Los Angeles, the freshman rate that year was 14 percent and the transfer rate, 24 percent.


Here at U-Va., the admission rates were 23 percent for freshmen and 40 percent for transfers. Freshman admission seems every year to grow more intensely competitive as ever more applicants swamp the university’s gatekeepers with formidable, A-studded transcripts. The transfer numbers are relatively modest. Incoming freshmen (about 3,900 a year) outnumber new transfer students in Charlottesville (about 700 to 750 a year) more than 5 to 1. But the transfers bring a much wider array of backgrounds to U-Va.

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Twenty-six percent of transfers last year had enough financial need to qualify for federal Pell grants, the university said, more than twice the Pell-eligible share of freshmen. Transfers were also more likely to be among the first in their families to go to college and to identify as underrepresented minorities. Federal data shows about 14 percent of U-Va. undergraduates are Black or Latino.

Chenelle Williams, 23, is a senior computer science major. Williams, whose mother is a nurse and father an auto technician, grew up in Jamaica, moved to Maryland and then to Virginia after high school. She transferred to U-Va. in 2020 after starting at Reynolds Community College in Richmond to build her educational résumé at low cost.

Williams, who mentors other transfer students at U-Va.’s engineering school, said she has lined up an internship with Amazon and expects to graduate in December. Now a permanent U.S. resident, with a green card, she said she is keenly aware that Black women are underrepresented on campus and in her field. “Lots of people know me as ‘the Jamaican girl in engineering,’” Williams joked. “That is my brand.”


(Video) College Admissions: Inside the Decision Room

U-Va. President James E. Ryan said university presidents across the state often talk about strengthening partnerships with community colleges. “It helps us fulfill our mission as a public university,” he said, “which is to be a place of opportunity, a place of social mobility.” Ryan said he believes U-Va. should do more to enroll community college students. The university is hiring a liaison to work with nearby Piedmont Virginia Community College, and it will consider similar steps with other colleges. “There’s room for growth,” Ryan said.

Experts agree.

A 2018 report from the Aspen Institute estimated that every year more than 50,000 high-achieving community college students do not transfer to a four-year college or university, and that 15,000 of those students have grade-point averages of 3.7 or higher. The reasons are many, but one factor is uneven outreach from four-year schools. Joshua Wyner, executive director of the institute’s college excellence program, said selective schools ought to do more. “It wouldn’t take that much to make a huge difference in the lives of these hard-working transfer students,” Wyner said.


At a time of intense debate over whether metrics such as admission test scores are valid for predicting academic potential, Wyner said community college students have tangible evidence of what they can do in college — because they’re already doing it. “I’ve got a much greater predictor of college success,” Wyner said. “It’s called college success.”

Community colleges enroll a large number of economically disadvantaged students and students of color. About 13 percent of their enrollment in 2019 was Black, according to analysts, and 26 percent was Hispanic. They could be a recruiting target for universities that want to diversify.

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For highly selective private colleges, transfer programs often function as an outlet for students to move from one prestigious four-year school to another. Some make a point of recruiting transfers who might be older and have military experience. Others, including the University of Southern California, draw heavily from community colleges.


Princeton University reinstated a transfer program in 2018 with a focus on military veterans, first-generation college students, low-income students and community college students. There are about 40 transfer students at Princeton out of 5,300 undergraduates. This year, the university will begin to expand that program, seeking to raise transfer enrollment to 100.

“They really are amazing students, both on paper and in person,” said Keith Shaw, director of transfer, veteran and nontraditional student programs at Princeton. They thrive in the demanding academic environment, he said. “The evidence is clear: Yes, they can hack it.”

Still, Princeton’s transfer numbers are small. UCLA’s are colossal.

(Video) Princeton University Virtual Information Session

A Washington Post analysis of fall 2020 enrollment data for schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 50 national universities found that UCLA had the most new transfer students, with 3,788. It was followed by five other UC campuses, a reflection of the high priority California gives to partnerships between UC and the state’s vast community college system.


Of new undergraduates at UCLA every fall, more than a third are transfers.

Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management, said UCLA’s transfer program aims to provide access for underrepresented communities. “It is a part of the university’s ethos and spirit,” she said. “The public understands that not every student graduates from high school ready for college. Students mature academically at different rates. Also, the lived experiences of students don’t always allow them to go straight from high school to college.”

Other schools, including the University of Central Florida, Arizona State University and George Mason University, are well known for transfer pipelines with local colleges. George Mason enrolls about 3,000 a year in a partnership with Northern Virginia Community College.


In Charlottesville, the community college connections are not as large, but they are durable.

In 2012 and 2013, U-Va. signed agreements that guarantee Virginia community college students will be admitted to its schools of nursing or engineering, or its college of arts and sciences, if they meet certain grade and course requirements. Dozens of students a year take that route. Williams was one.

But university officials stress that guaranteed admission is not the only way in. Community college students who meet many, but not all, of the criteria in those agreements are also admitted. In addition, hundreds of students at four-year colleges and universities transfer every year to U-Va. for various reasons.

The transfer operation at U-Va. is much smaller than its complex first-year admission machine. More than 50,000 high school students applied to enter as freshmen in the coming fall, a total that has risen sharply since the university halted SAT and ACT requirements in 2020. About 9,500 were admitted — 19 percent — in a process that culminated March 18.

By contrast, about 3,400 applied this year to transfer. More than 1,000 offers were released Thursday, and U-Va. projects the total will reach about 1,070. The university agreed to give The Post an inside look at the review of several transfer applications on the condition that applicants would remain anonymous and identifying details kept confidential.

(Video) How To Successfully Transfer From a Community College to a Top 25 University

Coughter, who graduated from U-Va. in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in history, has worked in the admission shop at Peabody Hall nearly 10 years and coordinates transfer admissions. Doug Hartog, U-Va.’s director of admission, also plays a major role in reading applications and, at the final stages, shaping the overall class. All applications get at least two reads. Experts in nursing, architecture and certain other fields also weigh in on admission to those specialized schools.


Transfer requirements are straightforward: Applicants must be on track to complete at least one year of college before enrolling at U-Va., submit all their high school and college transcripts and fill out a form that includes short essay questions. Recommendations from college professors are optional. So are SAT or ACT scores.

What does count heavily is whether applicants have completed in college all or most of the course requirements for specific schools they want to enter. That means, among other things, English composition, social sciences and intermediate foreign language proficiency for arts and sciences. Calculus, physics and chemistry for the engineering school. Economics and accounting for the commerce school. And so on.

College grades matter — U-Va. looks for an average of B or better — though high school grades can also factor in, particularly for applicants in their first year of college.

“There are plenty of students who are not strong in high school, or they have a slow start in college,” Hartog said. “And yet they plug away and improve.” He’s looking for those who excel in second and, sometimes, third chances.

Hartog clicked into an application that seemed on the bubble. The student had a rough time in high school. “Bs/Cs/Ds/Fs,” the first reader noted. The community college transcript started with a D in math. The first reader recommended that the applicant be placed on a waiting list.

Hartog scanned the high school record — “fairly bleak,” he agreed — but homed in on college grades trending upward to A’s and B’s. “They’re really close to having all the area requirements done,” he said. “We’re right there at that B, B-plus average. … I’ve read enough to know this is probably somebody we’d admit.” Ultimately, they did.

This happens a lot, Hartog said. “I probably admit a lot of students that the first readers wait-list.”

In some ways, it is the opposite of his role in freshman admissions. There, Hartog must whittle down the list of recommended admits because the first-year pool is stacked with academic standouts. Here, he is looking for opportunities to lift borderline cases that he believes will thrive. The pool is not quite as deep. B’s or C’s that might sink a first-year application matter much less, or not at all, for a transfer application.

For those on the outside, selective college admissions is an endless mystery, spawning speculation about factors that can tip the scales.

Thirty thousand applicants, one flagship: Inside admissions at U-Md.

For transfers, U-Va. officials say it upfront: Being from Virginia is a plus. Going to community college is a plus. Coping with financial difficulty is a plus. And race is one of many elements in a life story that admissions officers look at in the quest for campus diversity.

As for admission test scores? “We don’t use them really at all,” Hartog said.

The files Hartog and Coughter showed The Post told the stories of, among others, a military veteran in his 50s, an ROTC student, a part-time Walmart cashier and a former high school valedictorian with stellar grades who started at a college that turned out to be the wrong fit. All were aspiring to a life-changing decision from U-Va. Some waxed philosophical about the twists and turns of their educational path.

“Through my college experience thus far, I have been able to discover my strengths,” the valedictorian wrote in her essay. “I no longer view my decision to transfer as a failure or a disappointment; rather, I see it as a continuation of my character development. I eagerly anticipate this new chapter in my life.”

She got in.

(Video) College Transfer Tips: Best Bets and Worst Bets for Transfer Admissions!


Is it easier to get into UVA as a transfer student? ›

We tend to admit 35-40% of the transfer applicants who apply to start at UVA in the fall. Admission for the spring semester is more competitive. You may apply for the spring semester if you are interested in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Can you get rejected as a transfer student? ›

You can ask a four-year school to reconsider if you get rejected or wait-listed at first. You're understandably hurting if the transfer college at the top of your list just rejected you. But your crusade to get into your dream school isn't necessarily over.

Is acceptance rate higher for transfer students? ›

Transferring from one school to another is a wise or even necessary choice for many students, but it's not without obstacles. College transfer acceptance rates are actually lower than freshman acceptance rates, meaning competition is higher.

How hard is it to transfer to UA? ›

An average cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for all college-level work attempted is required for admission. UA accepts transfer work from postsecondary institutions that are fully accredited by regional accrediting agencies.

Are transfer admissions harder? ›

Looking broadly at four-year schools across the U.S., transfer students may have slightly more difficulty getting in. According to a report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the average rate of admission for a transfer applicant is 62 percent.

Does transfer approval guarantee admission? ›

Does JAMB transfer approval guarantee admission? Yes, admission is certain to the new course after accepting transfer approval.

Do test scores matter for transfer students? ›

ACT and SAT scores are used to predict college success. Since transfer students have proof of whether they can succeed in college in the form of their college transcripts, schools usually count SATs and ACTs less heavily than they do for freshman applicants.

Is it easier or harder to get in as a transfer? ›

#1 – It's easier to get admitted to a college as a transfer student than it is as a freshman. Colleges lose students every year so they need to fill those spots or they are losing expenses that are budgeted for.

Can you appeal a transfer rejection? ›

Some colleges offer the option of appealing a rejection, and while a reversal is rare, it could be worth pursuing. If your initial admissions circumstances have changed significantly, and you feel you have a strong case, there's a chance your appeal might prevail.

Which college accepts the most transfer students? ›

Colleges with the Most Transfer Students
National UniversityLa Jolla, CA3,300
California State Polytechnic University--PomonaPomona, CA3,274
Texas State UniversitySan Marcos, TX3,112
Eastern Illinois UniversityCharleston, IL2,871
17 more rows

What matters most for transfer students? ›

Good grades are one of the most important things admissions offices look for in transfer applications. If struggling in school is one of the reasons you want to transfer, be prepared to explain what steps you're taking to improve them in your college essay.

What is a good GPA for transfer students? ›

The average GPA of admitted transfer students is above 3.5 and admitted students have completed most or all major preparatory courses. We give highest priority to applicants from California community colleges and other UC campuses.

What GPA do you need to transfer to UD? ›

Transfer Application Requirements

Minimum GPA: minimum college grade point average is required of transfer applicants, specify as a 2.50. Some majors require a higher college grade point average and/or specific coursework.

Is it easier to get into UT as a transfer? ›

However, the competition for transfer admission at UT Austin is very steep, and therefore, the average transfer GPA is a 3.75. In order to transfer to UT Austin, a student must have completed at least 24 credit hours at their previous institution.

What GPA do you need to transfer to UOFA? ›

Applicants with a 2.0 cumulative GPA on all college coursework will be automatically admitted. Students who do not meet this requirement may apply and be reviewed by the Admissions and Appellate Board.

How can I increase my chances of getting my transfer? ›

5 Ways to Improve Your College Transfer Application
  1. Be mindful of deadlines. ...
  2. Collect all necessary documents and transcripts. ...
  3. Write a stellar application essay. ...
  4. Review all requirements. ...
  5. Connect with your admissions counselor.
12 Aug 2020

What do colleges look at when transferring? ›

Transfer students are evaluated on the basis of the GPA earned and the college work they have completed. If a student is right on the edge between being accepted or not, then in that case Letters of Recommendation may make an impact in the decision process.

How can I improve my transfer students chances? ›

  1. 10 Tips For Prospective College Transfer Students. ...
  2. Write Down Your Reasons for Transferring Universities. ...
  3. Research the Institution. ...
  4. Read the University Transfer Policy Carefully. ...
  5. Take Advantage of Your Second Chance. ...
  6. Take Care with Your Transfer Applications. ...
  7. Plan Financially for Your University Transfer.

What do admissions officers look for in transfer students? ›

Just like with first-year admissions, colleges want students who will be a good-fit for the school, contribute to campus community, and graduate on time. Similar to when building a freshman class, institutional needs are also taken into consideration.

How do I know if my transfer is approved? ›

Steps to Check transfer approval on JAMB CAPS
  1. Input your Jamb profile with your username and password.
  2. Click on “Check admission status”
  3. Select you examination year, input your JAMB registration number in the required column and then click on 'Access my CAPS' button.

Can you apply twice as a transfer? ›

Yes, you can transfer colleges twice, but there are potential downsides you should be aware of first. The factors you should consider when debating one or more college transfers are: How many of your credits will transfer to your new school?

What is a good score in transfer test? ›

The range of the standardised scores will be between 55 – 145, however in previous years the highest AQE score achieved is usually around 128, so 145 is more of a hypothetical maximum which would require the child to achieve 100% in both tests but would also require a very low average (so not realistic).

What is the highest score you can get in the transfer test? ›

Both papers are multiple choice format. Both papers are taken on the same day. There is no fee to register the assessment. GL scores use a standardised age score ranging from 69 to 141 with 100 as the mean (average) score.

Is 2.5 GPA good for transfer students? ›

The answer is No. The national average for a GPA is around 3.0 and a 2.5 GPA puts you below that average. A 2.5 GPA means that you've gotten only C-s and D+s in your high school classes so far. Since this GPA is significantly below a 2.0, it will make things very difficult for you in the college application process.

What is the best year to transfer college? ›

After two years can be a great time to transfer because you will have completed many prerequisite courses, and at your new school, can invest your time in fulfilling your major requirements. However, this is not a necessity. Many students transfer after one year of study, because their first school was not a great fit.

Do universities prefer transfer students? ›

According to NACAC's 2019 State of College Admission report, the average admit rate for transfer students was 61% compared to 66% for freshmen. This means your grades will play an even more important role in the viability of your transfer application than they did the last time you applied.

What is the lowest GPA you can transfer with? ›

If you're looking for advice on transferring colleges with bad grades, you're in luck. Many four year colleges and universities often require a minimum GPA of 2.0 and only accept transfer credit for courses with a grade of C or higher. Maybe you started in community college to save money?

Why do transfers get rejected? ›

There are a few reasons why your bank transfer can be rejected: The bank account you're transferring from may not have enough funds in it to make the transfer. The bank account you're transferring from may be closed. The login credentials for the bank account you're transferring from have been updated.

How many college appeals are successful? ›

Only 1 to 2 percent of appeals are successful. Some students may see this as overwhelming odds and decide against it. Others may see it as an opening, however small and decide to go for it. If they are lucky, they would be in that 1-2% who managed to get the admissions decision overturned.

Can you ask colleges why you got rejected? ›

There is no rule keeping denied students from asking admissions officers the reason for the decision. However, it's very much likely for them to get a generic response or none at all. It's a better idea for denied students to ask admissions officers what they could do for increased admissions chances.

Which community college transfer is best? ›

Here are the 20 best community colleges for transferring to a four-year school.
  • University of Pittsburgh-Titusville has a transfer rate of 50%. ...
  • T-4. ...
  • T-4. ...
  • Catawba Valley Community College has a transfer rate of 50%. ...
  • Dawson Community College has a transfer rate of 42%. ...
  • Marion Military Institute has a transfer rate of 55%.
25 Nov 2019

How common are transfer students? ›

Depending on the school, transfer students can account for anywhere from 15-40% of all newly enrolled undergraduates. You wouldn't be the first to come to this conclusion. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, around one-third of college students transfer schools before earning their degree.

Which Ivy Leagues accept community college transfers? ›

Apart from Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University both accept a large number of transfers, including those from community colleges.

What should I say for reason for transfer? ›

Reasons for requesting a job transfer
  • Life change. If you have recently undergone a significant life change, you may consider requesting a job transfer to stay with your company. ...
  • Seeking growth. ...
  • Improving chances for a promotion. ...
  • Improving job security. ...
  • Improving work-life balance.

What is a good reason for transfer? ›

Some good reasons for a transfer request are that you're relocating but want to stay with the company, that you have a desire to move to a different role, or that you dislike your boss or team but want to stay with the company.

What GPA do colleges look at transfer students? ›

Most schools don't post the average GPA of their transfer students, but in most cases it hovers just below the average GPA of successful regular admissions applicants. UC Berkeley, for example, says that the middle 50 percent of its transfer GPAs range from 3.71 to 4.0.

Is a 3.0 good enough to transfer? ›

Common application colleges tend to have higher transfer requirements, with some requiring a 2.5 to 3.0 GPA to transfer, with some program-specific requirements being even higher.

Is a 3.4 GPA good in community college? ›

To put it simply, yes. A 3.4 is on the verge of an A- and demonstrates consistently good test-taking, studying, and research skills. A 3.4 is comfortably above the national average GPA for high school graduates and is considered competitive at a majority of colleges and universities.

Is a 3.9 GPA good in community college? ›

So strictly speaking, a 3.9 GPA is just a tenth shy of a perfect score and demonstrates academic excellence in every class. A 3.9 GPA far exceeds the average GPA that most colleges use as their unspoken baseline for competitive admission (3.0) as well as the benchmark GPA for more selective colleges (3.5).

What GPA do I need to transfer to UVA? ›

Transfer Application Requirements

Minimum GPA: The minimum college grade point average required of transfer applicants is a 2.00. The average GPA for an admitted transfer student is 3.5.

What does UVA look for in transfer students? ›

Successful applicants ordinarily will have earned a cumulative grade point average of a 3.o or better at their previous colleges; they also will have completed, or come close to completing, the specific transfer requirements for the school and program they wish to enter.

How can I increase my chances of getting into UVA? ›

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into the University of Virginia
  1. Achieve at least a 4.31 average GPA while taking the most challenging classes available. ...
  2. Letters of Recommendation. ...
  3. Aim for a 1490 SAT and 34 ACT. ...
  4. Cultivate one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”) ...
  5. Write Compelling Essays.
16 Sept 2021

What is the lowest GPA UVA will accept? ›

We don't have a minimum GPA. We don't have a minimum SAT score.

Can I get into UVA with a 3.0 GPA? ›

Educational Requirements

Applicants must meet one of the following and have a minimum 2.0 Cumulative High School GPA: High School Class Rank - Top 50% 3.0 Cumulative High School GPA (4.0 Scale) 17 ACT Composite Score or 900 SAT Composite Score (test optional)

Is a 4.2 GPA good for UVA? ›

Average GPA: 4.32

The average GPA at UVA is 4.32. This makes UVA Extremely Competitive for GPAs. (Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.32, UVA requires you to be at the top of your class.

What do universities look for in a transfer student? ›

Transfer students are evaluated on the basis of the GPA earned and the college work they have completed. If a student is right on the edge between being accepted or not, then in that case Letters of Recommendation may make an impact in the decision process.

What makes a good transfer applicant? ›

They want to see a demonstrated effort to do well and commitment to a program, as well as a plan for how your new school will help you achieve your goals. A strong transfer application will look much like a strong freshman application, but with letters of recommendation and grades from college instead of high school.

Is a 3.0 good for a transfer student? ›

Common application colleges tend to have higher transfer requirements, with some requiring a 2.5 to 3.0 GPA to transfer, with some program-specific requirements being even higher.

What majors is UVA best known for? ›

The most popular majors at University of Virginia include: Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities; Social Sciences; Engineering; Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services; Psychology; ...

Can you get a full ride to UVA? ›

We meet 100% of financial need.

UVA meets the demonstrated financial need for all in-state and out-of-state students applying by the annual March 1st deadline, through a combination of scholarships, grants, work-study and need-based loans.

Is UVA as good as an Ivy? ›

The University of Virginia is often compared with many academic institutions in and outside the state of Virginia. Those who apply to it also apply to similar public and private schools. UVA is often compared with many elite schools, too, such as the Ivy Leagues, as it's considered a Public Ivy.

Does UVA prefer DE or AP? ›

Does UVA prefer AP, IB, Cambridge or dual enrolled curricula? We do not have a preference for one type of course. We suggest that students take advantage of advanced course options at their high school, regardless of the type of curriculum available.

Can I get into UVA with a 3.5 GPA? ›

According to the admissions office of the University of Virginia, the school has no minimum GPA requirement. This means that anyone can apply no matter the high school GPA. With a holistic admissions policy, UVA evaluates first-year applicants using many different factors other than the GPA.


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3. Inside California Education: Community Colleges – TAG, You’re It: Transfer Admission Guarantees
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