How to Transfer to US, UK, and Irish Universities as an International Student

by | May 5, 2022 | Admissions

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Transferring from one school to another can seem hard and confusing. After all, most students tend to stick to one institution of higher education until they finish their degree programs. However, it’s possible to transfer from one institution to another and there are simple steps you can follow to do that.

Keep reading to find out the best way to transfer universities as an international student. 

There are good reasons to seek a transfer. Some of those reasons include the following: 

  • Political instability – A change in the geopolitical situation can necessitate a transfer of universities in order to complete your education. For example, the current conflict in Ukraine has cut short the education of many international students who were studying in Ukrainian universities. For these students to complete their studies on time, it is essential to transfer to universities based in other countries. Transfer offices strongly encourage students to share information about special circumstances such as these–when the university you are interested in transferring to is fully aware of your motivation for transferring, it is likely to make the most favorable decision. 
  • Bad fit – Sometimes when you go to your dream university, you learn that it is not exactly what you wanted. You may discover, for example, that the social life is poor and you have few opportunities to network. You may also find that the classes offered are not as challenging as you initially imagined they would be. In such cases, you may consider transferring to another university that offers the experiences that you are looking for. 
  • Cost – While you may have been able to afford the first semester or first year of your studies, a sudden change in financial circumstances can make it critical for you to transfer universities. In the United States, for example, private college education is very expensive, and a slight change in your financial situation may require changing institutions. Cost is also a factor for transfer students who pursue their initial studies at a local, often less renowned institution, to complete their required coursework before transferring to a more prestigious (and likely more expensive university). This strategy can help them cut the costs of their education by a large margin. 
  • Flexibility – Due to change in circumstances, you may find out that you are no longer able to follow a rigid course schedule. In such situations, you may prefer the option of studying part-time or pursuing distance learning. If your current university does not allow this, transferring to a more flexible institution might be the best option. 
  • Career prospects – In the course of your studies, you may discover that the university you are currently attending is not preparing you well for the career of interest. If you are looking for better networking opportunities for the sake of your career, you may consider transferring to a university that facilitates those kinds of opportunities. 

Transferring to Universities in the United States

Why Transfer to the United States?

The United States is one of the most popular destinations for international students. Every year, thousands of students from all parts of the world travel to the United States to pursue their college education. In 2020 alone, there were approximately one million international students enrolled in American universities. 

What makes colleges in America so popular with international students and why might one consider transferring there? Here are a few reasons why the United States is such a popular study destination: 

  • Top ranked universities – The United States has dozens of top ranked universities in the world. According to QS Rankings, half of the top ten universities in the world are all located in the United States. These include Harvard, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Chicago. Attending these prestigious schools gives one excellent opportunity to network with prominent alumni and make use of the cutting-edge facilities that they have. 
  • Diversity – Over the past few years, American universities have been making great efforts to diversify their student bodies. This means that there are deliberate measures in place to attract students from a wide range of races, economic backgrounds, etc. These efforts have made many American universities more attractive to international students. 
  • Work opportunities –  Studying in the United States enables international students to take advantage of the CPT and OPT programs which allow foreign students to gain work experience related to their study fields. Many international students successfully intern and even take up full-time roles in major American companies such as Google, Apple, and Goldman Sachs. 

Once you have settled on the United States as your preferred country for completing your college education, the next step involves identifying specific universities that you want to attend. 

Step 1 – Conduct Thorough College Research

Some students make the mistake of applying to universities without doing proper research about them. As a result, their applications lack depth and often lead to rejections. The first step you should take if you want to succeed in your transfer application is conduct proper research into several universities. 

There are a number of important factors you need to consider in the course of your college research. Below are some of them: 

  • Degree of Interest – The first thing you need to look at when conducting your research is whether the university offers the degree program that you want to study. The last thing you need to do is to attend a university only to learn that it does not offer programs that you are interested in. For instance, most liberal arts colleges in America do not offer professional degree programs. This means that in a school such as Williams College, you cannot study law or engineering. If you want to pursue such fields, it is important to make sure that the universities you apply to offer those specific degree programs. 
  • Cost – The cost of tuition and living expenses is another important factor to consider as you do your research on potential universities. It is important to note that some universities offer financial aid to transfer students while others reserve their aid to freshman students only. 
  • Academic resources – Along with majors of interest and cost, you also need to think about the academic resources that are available to transfer students. What kinds of academic resources do transfer students have? Is there academic support specifically meant for transfer students? Are there office hours that you can attend and get to work more closely with your professors? These are important questions that you should aim to answer in the course of your research. 
  • Social life – Before you decide to apply to a given college, you should consider its social life. In other words, you need to find out what kinds of activities students get involved in and whether these are aligned with your own interests. For instance, some universities are big on athletics– they offer students numerous opportunities to get involved in sports. If you are interested in such areas, then those universities may be ideal for you.
  • Support for transfer students – Some universities have dedicated programs for transfer students while others do not. In your research, you need to check what kinds of resources are available to transfer students. Is there an orientation for transfer students? Is there an office that specifically deals with transfer students? Ensure you have answers to these questions before you proceed with your application. 

To get started on your college research, check out our 8B Platform that provides detailed information about universities costs, rankings, location, and other essential information. In addition, don’t forget to visit individual university websites. 

Step 2 – Review the Required Documentation

Once you have conducted your college research and settled on your colleges and universities of interest, your next step is to review their requirements for transfer applications. There is no one standard application procedure that will apply to all universities– each university has its own criteria on how to handle transfer applications. It is up to you to carefully review what is required and act accordingly. 

Keep in mind that even if you don’t have all the listed documents, you can still get in touch with the university officials and seek an exemption where applicable. For example, if your university has been shut down because of political disturbances and you cannot access your transcripts, make sure that the university you are interested in is aware of this. 

Below, we outline some examples of what different universities in the United States require from students who want to transfer. 

Example 1: Transfer Process at University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. The institution is often ranked among the best universities in the world. Because of its good reputation, the competition to gain admission there is very stiff. 

If you have completed at least one academic term at another university, you are eligible to apply for admission as a transfer student at the University of Chicago. 

If you meet the above criteria, the next step is to gather the required documents which include the following: 

  • Transfer application form using the Coalition App 
  • University of Chicago writing supplements
  • Final high school transcript
  • Optional standardized test scores (ACT/SAT/IB/AP) 
  • College report
  • Official college transcripts
  • Two recommendation letters from professors/college instructors
  • Optional supplemental materials such as research papers, creative projects, and results from tests such as the SAT subject test

University of Chicago carefully reviews your transcripts and decides which credits are transferable from your previous university. In general, credits are granted for liberal arts courses that students have taken in the past and have passed with a grade C or higher. 

While financial aid is available to transfer students who are American citizens, University of Chicago does not usually offer aid to international transfer students. 

Example 2: Transfer Process at Smith College

Smith College is a women-only college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. According to their admissions statistics, Smith accepts about 100 transfer students every year. Transfer applicants can join Smith either in the Spring semester (which starts in January) or the Fall semester (which starts in September). 

To be considered as a transfer student at Smith, you must have completed at least one semester of academic work at another accredited institution. If you have already completed a bachelor’s degree elsewhere, you will not be considered as a transfer student. 

Smith requires the following documents for anyone who wants to be considered as a transfer student: 

  • A complete transfer form submitted via the Common Application
  • College transcripts
  • High school transcript
  • Transfer mid-term report for applicants who are currently enrolled in college-level courses
  • Transfer college report
  • Two letters of recommendation from previous college instructors
  • Copies of course descriptions for all courses taken
  • Proof of English proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS/PTE/Duolingo Test)
  • Optional Standardized Tests (SAT/ACT/IB/AP)
  • Optional interview

Financial support is available to transfer students. However, international students who wish to be considered for need-based financial aid at Smith cannot apply for the January entrance. 

Step 3 – Submit Your Transfer Application by the Correct Deadlines

Having reviewed the documentation required by the colleges of your interest, the next step is to prepare and submit the materials by the stated deadlines. 

Failure to submit your application and correct documentation will result in rejection or lack of financial support from the college. In general, transfer application deadlines depend on the colleges. For example, the University of Chicago admits transfer students in two rounds. The first round of applications is known as Transfer Early Decision. If you want to be considered for this round, you should submit your application by February 10. Decisions are released by mid-April.

The second type of transfer application at UChicago is known as Transfer Rolling Decision. If you want to be considered for this round, you are encouraged to submit your application by March 1 although applications will be considered until June 1. 

Smith College admits transfer students for both Fall and Spring semesters. For students who want to enter Smith in Spring semester, applications must be submitted by November 15.  For those who intend to join in the Fall semester, applications should preferably be submitted by April 15 – although applications are accepted until May 1. 

As you can see, deadlines for transfer applications vary depending on the institution you choose to apply to. As a potential transfer student, it is your responsibility to confirm all the deadlines and submit your documentation at the right time. 

Transferring to Universities in the United Kingdom

Why Transfer to Universities in the United Kingdom?

Just like the United States, the United Kingdom is one of the most common destinations for international students who are seeking high quality college education. Recent data indicates that more than half a million international students are currently pursuing their university education in the United Kingdom. 

As a potential transfer student, here are some reasons why you should consider universities in the United Kingdom: 

  • Reputable institutions – The United Kingdom is home to some of the best universities in the world. Schools such as Oxford, Cambridge, and London School of Economics are often ranked in the top ten list of the best universities in the world.
  • Cheaper education – Compared to the United States, education is relatively cheaper in the United Kingdom. While it is common for students in private colleges to pay up to sixty thousand dollars in tuition fees per year in the United States, fees are generally lower by as much as a third in the United Kingdom. 
  • Work opportunities – At the end of their studies, international students in the United Kingdom are allowed to work via a program known as the Graduate Route. This is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable work experience that can make it easier for a student to get more opportunities in the future. 

Step 1: Do Your Research

The first step to take before you start preparing your transfer application is conducting proper research into several universities in the United Kingdom. In addition to our Ladder Platform, there are a number of online resources that you can use for this purpose. Some of these include the following: 

  • UCAS – This is the official website that most undergraduate students use for applications to the United Kingdom. Besides its official purpose, this website is also an excellent source of information about universities in the United Kingdom, the courses they offer, and the cost of study. 
  • The British Council – The British Council offers excellent information about universities in the United Kingdom. You have the ability to filter by degree program, level of studies, etc. You can also search for scholarships within their database. 
  • The UniGuide – This is another good resource that you can consult in the course of your research. UniGuide provides information about universities and the success of their alumni. 

Once you have identified universities that interest you using the resources above, the next step is going to their individual websites and doing further research. Make sure you check out their academic resources, their social life, availability of scholarships, location, etc. Once you have a good understanding of what each university offers you, it is time to take the next step. 

Step 2 – Review Required Documentation

Once you have identified your universities of interest, you now have to find out what you need to provide so that you can be admitted as a transfer student. Just like the United States, you will discover that the policy around transfer students depends on the university. Unlike applications for first-year entry, there is no standard route for transfer students. For this reason, you must take your time to carefully review the instructions provided by each university. 

Below we outline examples of what two universities in the United Kingdom require to admit transfer students. 

Example 1: Transfer Process at the University of Edinburgh

Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, the University of Edinburgh is one of the best universities in the United Kingdom. If you want to transfer to the University of Edinburgh from another university, you need to keep a few guidelines in mind: 

  • Transfer applications to the University of Edinburgh must be filed using the UCAS application system that first-year students use to submit their applications. In the UCAS application, you will need to fill out your personal information, write a personal statement, and request for a reference letter from your previous instructors. 
  • You must confirm that the degree programme of your interest is accepting transfer applications because not all programs do
  • Your transfer application will be given the same level of priority as the applications for first-year admission 
  • If you were mistakenly taking a degree programme at another university for a period of one year or less, your application may be classified as “false start,” meaning you will join the University of Edinburgh as a first year student. 
  • You can only apply to join year 1 or year 2. The University of Edinburgh does not accept applications for transfer students who want to join year 3 or beyond. 
  • It is not possible to transfer into medicine or veterinary medicine programmes unless you were enrolled in preclinical studies at Cambridge, Oxford, or the University of St. Andrews

The University of Edinburgh strongly encourages students who are considering applying as transfer students to get in touch with the admissions office before they submit their applications via the UCAS platform. Engaging with the admissions office is important because it enables you to explore all the options available. 

Example 2: Transfer Process at the University of Sussex

Located in Yorkshire, England, the University of Sussex is ranked among the best 100 universities in the world according to QS rankings. University of Sussex accepts transfer students who want to join degree programmes in the first and second years. However, if you want to study law, medicine, psychology, or social work, you cannot be considered to join the university in the second year or later – you can only be considered for the first year. 

In addition, you must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Must confirm that you meet the entry requirements for the courses offered at the University of Sussex
  • Have 120 UK credits (60 ECTS) if you want to join University of Sussex at year 2
  • File your application using the UCAS system 
  • Provide details of all the classes you have taken so far
  • Provide a reference letter from your university instructor

Transfer applications are evaluated based on your personal statement that should elaborate the reasons for your desire to transfer, the classes you have taken and the grades you have achieved in them, as well as the reference letter from your university instructor. 

Step 3 – Submit Your Application by the Relevant Deadline

Since most transfer applications in the United Kingdom are done via the UCAS system, you will need to submit your application by October 15th if applying to Oxford and Cambridge, or January 26th for most universities. However, make sure you check with the admissions office of the universities that you are interested in before you send your application.

Transferring to Universities in the Republic of Ireland

Why Transfer to Universities in Ireland?

While not as popular as the United States and the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland is another common destination for international students. According to a report from 2019, there are more than 20,000 international students from countries outside the EU who are pursuing their college education in Ireland. 

As an international student who is considering the transfer option, there are a few reasons why Ireland should be on your list. Some of these include the following: 

  • Highly ranked universities – According to QS rankings, Ireland is home to five universities that are ranked among the best 500 institutions of higher education in the world. These include Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, National University of Ireland, Galway; University College Cork, and Dublin City University. 
  • Work opportunities – Under Irish law, international students are allowed to remain in the country for a period of up to two years while seeking employment. Graduates from Irish universities are also allowed to seek work permits and remain in the country as permanent residents once they have fulfilled the necessary requirements. 

Once you have settled on Ireland as your desired destination for higher education, you can now go ahead and do the most essential thing: conduct research about individual universities in that country. 

Step 1: Researching Universities and Degree Programs in Ireland

There are specific websites that can provide you with excellent information about schools in Ireland. These include: 

  • Education in Ireland – This site provides detailed information about universities based in Ireland, available degree programs, and general life in Ireland. 
  • Topuniversities.com – This platform also provides valuable information about the best Irish universities and their rankings on key metrics. 

Once you have identified a number of universities above resources and similar ones, you also need to take time and review the individual university sites. Find out as much as you can about important factors such as social life, class sizes, academic resources, alumni success in the employment market, etc. 

Step 2: Review Required Documentation

The procedures for the transfer process vary depending on the university that you choose. As such, you will need to carefully review the documentation required and the application steps provided by each institution. 

Example 1: Transfer Application Process at University College Dublin

University College Dublin is Ireland’s largest university. It enrolls more than 30,000 students in dozens of degree programs. Every year, the University College Dublin admits a small number of transfer students for the degree programs that have open spaces. To be considered for the transfer application at the university, you need to adhere by the following guidelines: 

  • If intending to enter year 2 or year 3, the transfer student must meet all the subject entry requirements
  • Student must have passing grades in classes equivalent to 60 ECTS preceding the year that one wants to enter
  • Must have an equivalent of 300 points in one’s leaving certificate
  • Must check that the degree program one is interested in has available spaces

Applications can be made directly via the University College Dublin’s application portal.  

Example 2: Transfer Application Process at the University of Limerick

Located in Limerick, Ireland, the University of Limerick is a public research university that enrolled more than 15,000 students. The university welcomes transfer students in most of its degree programs. Prospective transfer students are encouraged to contact the official who heads the department in which the student’s course of study is affiliated with. 

In addition, potential transfer students should abide by the following guidelines: 

  • Meet the subject requirements of the course they are interested in
  • Must check to ensure that there are places available before submitting an application
  • Have sufficient credits to proceed to the year one is intent on joining 
  • Must provide the following: an online application form, a copy of secondary school results, a transcript from the current institution, details of the completed classes or modules, and a copy of passport. 

Once you have gathered all the documents you need for your application, the next step is to submit your application in a timely manner. 

Step 3: Submit Your Application by the Stated Deadline

Just like universities in the United Kingdom and the United States, universities in Ireland do not have one deadline for all transfer applications. You need to check with each university you are interested in and make sure you don’t miss their deadline. For example, if you are planning to enter into University of Limerick for the Fall semester, you should plan to submit your application by the February 1 deadline, although late applications can be accepted up to May. 

Next Steps

Though not a common route for many students, there are many reasons why someone would need to transfer universities. In light of the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine, the world has witnessed thousands of international students being forced to cut short their studies and leave the country. The transfer route is ideal for such students because it helps them continue their studies without having to begin from scratch. 

The United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland are some of the best destinations for foreign students. With their renowned universities, academic programs, and work opportunities, these countries are worth considering for prospective international transfer students. To learn more about the transfer process, ensure you take time to do thorough research on each university, review the required documents, and submit your application by the stated deadlines. And as always, feel free to contact the admissions office of any university that you are interested in with any questions. 

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