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10 Colleges That Enroll the Most Transfer Students

Josh Moody

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

For many students, college isn't a straight path -- there may be a few twists along the way. These moves can often be intentional, with a student transferring from a community college to a four-year school, or the result of a student switching schools for a better fit.

Regardless of the reason, transferring schools is quite common. A National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report from 2019 found that nearly a third of students in the 2012 cohort who first enrolled at a community college transferred to a four-year school within six years.

[See: 9 Things Prospective College Transfer Students Need to Know.]

A challenge that remains for transfer students is getting into highly selective schools. A report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a scholarship organization, found that schools with highly competitive admissions are less likely to accept transfer students from community colleges.

The most selective institutions often have acceptance rates in the single digits for first-year students. For transfers, that can be even lower. One such example is Princeton University in New Jersey, which enrolled only nine new transfer students in 2018, or 1% of transfer applicants, per U.S. News data.

But transfer students are highly prized at some colleges. In fact, according to a 2019 poll of admissions directors conducted by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup, 72% of respondents said their college will increase efforts to recruit transfer students.

The average acceptance rate for new transfer students in fall 2018 was 63%, per U.S. News data collected from 1,159 ranked universities in an annual survey. These schools enrolled, on average, around 486 new transfers.

[Read: 10 Colleges That Received the Most Applications.]

By comparison, among the 10 schools that enrolled the most transfer students in fall 2018, the average acceptance rate was the same -- 63% -- but the average number of new transfers enrolled was significantly higher: 5,424.

Nine of these 10 schools are public universities. The lone exception is Liberty University in Virginia. Most of these schools are also National Universities, institutions that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

Below is a list of the 10 schools that enrolled the largest number of new transfer students in fall 2018. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (state) New transfer students enrolled New transfer acceptance rate U.S. News rank and category
University of Washington 7,096 49% 62 (tie), National Universities
University of Central Florida 6,907 68% 166 (tie), National Universities
Florida International University 6,629 76% 218 (tie), National Universities
University of Texas--Arlington 5,748 95% 293-381, National Universities
California State University--Northridge 5,634 54% 49 (tie), Regional Universities (West)
University of Houston 5,324 91% 185 (tie), National Universities
Liberty University (VA) 4,927 33% 293-381, National Universities
California State University--Long Beach 4,220 33% 20 (tie), Regional Universities (West)
University of North Texas 3,892 81% 281 (tie), National Universities
San Jose State University (CA) 3,867 53% 24, Regional Universities (West)

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find college transfer statistics, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.

U.S. News surveyed more than 1,900 colleges and universities for our 2019 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The transfer data above is correct as of Jan. 28, 2020.

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