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Articles / Applying to College / Do Admission Officials Look Down on Applicants Who Have Transferred Several Times?

Do Admission Officials Look Down on Applicants Who Have Transferred Several Times?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 27, 2019
Do Admission Officials Look Down on Applicants Who Have Transferred Several Times?
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I am wondering whether multiple transfers will hurt me. I went to community college for a while and transferred to a state school, but left there for financial reasons. Then I took some classes at a different state school for credit. So now I'm applying to a private college with transfer credits from three schools. Will the private college look down on this?

Having multiple colleges on your record certainly isn't an automatic deal-breaker, but admission officials (especially at private colleges) can be suspicious of “serial transfers." When they review your application, they may be tempted to wonder how long you will stick around this time. So you should make sure that your application explains why you've made so many moves. Your primary essay could be a good place to do this, but you can also submit an extra unsolicited letter or essay, if this information doesn't quite fit an essay prompt. (Most transfer essays ask you WHY you're transferring, so you can probably provide details of your entire college history here.)


Your application should offer your current target college (or colleges) details about why this school is right for you now. Be as specific as possible, with an emphasis on academic reasons. If a college offers an interview (either with a staff member or an alum), try to take advantage of this opportunity so you can spell out your commitment in person.

Some students in your shoes will omit one or more of their past colleges, hoping to start anew with a clean slate. But this is a really bad idea because such omissions, if discovered, can lead to expulsion. So your best strategy is to do as you plan. That is, submit transcripts from all three of your previous schools and then make a compelling case for how these different paths have led you to where you are today and where you hope to be in the future.

Good luck!

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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