How to Transfer From a Community College to an Elite Four-Year School

by Si Kingston

Some public universities and colleges admit most in-state applicants who transfer from a community college as long as they've completed the prerequisites for their major program and maintained a specific GPA. Normally, these schools require a GPA of at least 2.5. Transferring to private, Ivy League institutions is not as easy. All applicants to elite colleges and universities like Harvard, Yale and Cornell face stiff competition for a small number of openings. Typically, only between two and five percent of transfer applicants get accepted.

Complete each class at your community college with an "A" grade. Most elite universities don't require that transfer applicants earn this grade in every class, but given the competitive selection process, it is in your best interest to earn this grade. Yale College recommends that you earn an average GPA of 3.8 or above.

Take challenging classes. Avoid taking classes just to fill your schedule. Yale College recommends that students earn a high GPA in a "demanding selection of courses." All chosen courses should satisfy your general requirements, expose your academic talents or satisfy your interests. Since many elite schools refuse students that have taken over a certain amount of credits, only take courses that benefit and highlight your academic skill.

Select a major program at the elite university that you plan to study. Some schools do not allow transfer students to come in as undeclared, especially junior transfer students. Once you pick a major of intended study, focus on the elite colleges that offer strong programs in that field. Research the classes required for that degree program and try to take similar classes at your community college.

Research transfer requirements. Harvard College, for instance, requires that you complete one continuous year of academic study, and not more than two full-time academic years. Applicants must also be proficient in expository writing and foreign languages. Many schools like Harvard College only admit transfer students for the fall semester. Cornell University admits transfer students for both fall and spring semesters. However, those majoring in engineering or architecture must be admitted for the fall semester. Cornell also requires that architectural majors complete a two-semester-long survey course in the history of architecture before applying.

Get involved to enhance your current interests and talents. Yale College's admissions committee gives serious consideration to those applicants who seem highly motivated, curious, show leadership ability and distinctive talents. Participate in activities such as athletics, charities or school organizations. Try to obtain leadership positions in these organizations. Consider accomplishing a goal to make your application stand out, such as organizing a charitable event, teaching in an underprivileged neighborhood or country, or starting your own business. The goal is to make you, the applicant, appear as an asset to the culture and climate of any campus.

Apply to the elite college or university by the specified deadline. Stanford University requires that applicants complete the common application and the "Stanford Supplement," which are both available online. Many applications require that you also submit an evaluation or recommendation (some schools require three recommendations), pay an application fee and submit an official transcript from your community college. Some colleges, like Cornell University, require that you also submit your official high school transcripts.

Complete your personal essay, which is an important part of your application. Some schools provide the essay topic. Within the essay, infuse examples of your leadership, energy, creativity and uniqueness. If you've overcome any adversity, had a life-changing experience, or accomplished a specific goal, then include those details in your essay.

Submit any supplemental materials. Cornell University requires that transfer applicants applying for the architecture, art, and planning majors submit portfolios and attend an interview. For the interview, prepare a portfolio of your academic work, an employment resume, awards, distinctions and personal recommendations. Dress professionally and prepare to sell yourself as a person who has a lot to offer that particular college.

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