Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Help! I Need a Plan B: University Admission through Transfer

By Kay Gunyon
Undergraduate International Admissions Coordinator, University of Indianapolis

Step into the minds of prospective international students and you’ll find the educational plans they have outlined for themselves. Let’s check in on how these plans are coming along for a few students:

Marco’s TOEFL score of 59 isn’t high enough to get into his college of choice. He’s discouraged and may give up on the whole idea of studying in the U.S.

Sarah’s family has saved up some money for his education but they can’t afford to send him to the university he has chosen for all four years.

Can you substitute your own name for Marco or Sarah? If so, you should know that students like you achieve their dreams every day by developing a PLAN B.

What’s your PLAN B?

For many students:

PLAN B = Attend an English as a Second Language program, community college or other college/university and then TRANSFER to your chosen college or university. Outlined here is PLAN B--the steps to take toward achieving your dream by transferring into your college or university of choice.

Read more blog posts that may interest you:

Selecting an English as a Second Language Program

The university you are aiming for may have one or more ESL programs affiliated with it. If so, there will be benefits to attending an affiliated ESL program. As an affiliated program student, you may be able to enroll in certain university courses through a bridge program before completing ESL. Most importantly, the university’s English proficiency exam requirement may be waived for students achieving a certain level in the ESL program.

Selecting a First College or University

If you are choosing a community college or other institution to attend before transfer, you’ll want to be sure to select one that is regionally accredited. Otherwise, your courses will probably not transfer in. The university you hope to attend may have articulation agreements with one or more community colleges. An articulation agreement will specify what courses will transfer in and what courses remain for you to take at the university.

Academic Considerations

Whether or not you attend a college or university with an articulation agreement, you will want to choose your courses carefully. In general, general education or lower division courses are more likely to transfer. If possible you should check with your chosen university to make sure that particular courses will transfer in. Note that courses and credits transfer but generally grades do not; however, this doesn’t mean that you can slack off at your first institution. You will want to earn the highest GPA possible to increase your chances of being awarded admission or a scholarship at your chosen university. If you are failing or not in “good standing” at your current college, it will be very difficult to transfer to any institution.

Note: scholarships for transfer students are generally smaller than scholarships for first-year students. Investigate financial options at your chosen university and take this into consideration in determining affordability.

The Academic Transfer Process

Up to one year before you hope to transfer, you will want to start the transfer process by completing an application for admission at your chosen institution. Be mindful of deadlines and all admission requirements. If attending a college, you will need to request an official transcript from the registrar’s office and have it sent directly to the university you are applying to. Your high school transcript may also be required in addition to other items such as English proficiency results, personal statement and/or letters of recommendation. If you are accepted for admission, any college courses you have taken will be considered for transfer. Allow plenty of time at this stage because this process can take a few weeks or more.

The I-20 Transfer Process

It is possible to transfer from one institution’s I-20 to another’s without leaving the U.S. or applying for a new visa, but in order to do so you need to comply with certain requirements. First, you must stay “in status” at the institution issuing your I-20 by remaining enrolled full-time and by not violating the terms of your student visa, such as by working off campus. In addition to being academically accepted for admission at your target university, you will need to submit financial documentation showing that your educational and living expenses will be covered while enrolled there.

You will also need to give the university you are transferring to copies of your current I-20, any previous I-20s (Note: Keep copies of ALL of your I-20s), your passport identity and visa pages, and your I-94 record (which you access online after entering the U.S.). Your target university may have a transfer-in form which you will ask your current institution to complete. You will inform your current institution that you wish to transfer to a specific college or university and show them your admission letter. At the end of your current academic program, your current institution will transfer you to the new institution in SEVIS, the government’s tracking system, and your new university can issue your new I-20. At the very latest, you must be transferred in SEVIS within 60 days of the end date of your current program. Assuming that you follow this transfer process properly, you will not need to get a new visa and you may stay in the US up to 5 months between your studies at the transfer-out and transfer-in institutions. Within 15 days of the start of your new academic program, you must report to the international office at your new institution to complete the transfer process.

Entering your chosen U.S. college or university through transfer can be an excellent option. Sometimes Plan B is the best plan of all.


Kay Gunyon coordinates undergraduate international admission for the University of Indianapolis. She has been helping international students come to the United States since 1998, and previous to that she spent four years teaching English in Niigata, Japan. Kay holds Master’s degrees Rehabilitation Counseling and in Teaching English as a Second Language.

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea to reinforce and practise using English. I am considering doing volunteer work in my community by teaching ESL

    TOEFL reading questions


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