Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.
Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.

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Transferring Universities: A Guide for International Students

campus life
By Azara Lantra
Last updated on March 18, 2021

If you are an international student planning to transfer to a university in the US, this step-by-step guide can help you understand the application process, entry requirements, transfer policies, and more.

A male international student sits at a table in front of an open textbook

According to Inside Higher Ed, about one-third of all students will change universities at least once before earning their bachelor’s degree. Whether you are transferring universities in your home country or within the US, understanding how the process works can be challenging. This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about the university transfer process and set you up for success.

To be eligible to transfer, you need to be enrolled in an accredited college or university in your home country or the US and complete at least one semester of coursework. As an international student, there are many factors you need to consider when transferring to a US university, including application requirements and both the transfer policies of your current university and the university you are planning to transfer to.

Let’s get started!

What Are the Different Transfer Options Available?

There are three transfer options available for international students:

  1. Transferring from a local university outside the US

  2. Transferring from a US two-year community college to a four-year institution

  3. Transferring from a four-year US university to another US university

Requirements may differ depending on the type of transfer and the particular school. If you need help determining which option works best for you, you can always reach out to a Shorelight student advisor.

What is the Transfer Process for International Students?

Here is what the general application process looks like for international transfer students. Since the requirements for each university may be different, start your preparations at least a year in advance — this will provide you with enough time to complete everything you need for the process.

Research Prospective Transfer Schools and Their Credit Transfer Policies

Before deciding which university to transfer to, it is important to research the minimum entry requirements for the transfer program, application deadlines, and transfer credit policies. Transfer credit policies help you understand the minimum amount of credits you need to have completed at your current university to be eligible as a transfer student, and how many credits can be transferred to the university you have selected. If your credits cannot be transferred, you may have to repeat some courses. 

For credits completed at accredited universities outside the US, some universities may require a foreign transcript evaluation (or course-by-course evaluation). Please visit the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) website to find an organization that can help you. 

Need help researching US universities accepting international transfer students? Contact a Shorelight advisor!

Gather Required Documentation for the Application Process

Once you have completed your research and selected the university you are planning to transfer to, it is time to start applying! Entry requirements and documentation will be different depending on the university and the degree — remember to check the university website for full details about the program or major that interests you.

Here are general requirements when applying to transfer as an international student: 

  • Your academic credentials or transcripts from the local institution you attended (if your transcript is in another language, it has to be translated into English)

  • Standardized English language tests such as the TOEFL and IELTS

  • SAT/ACT or GRE or scores

  • Letter of recommendation

  • Application fee

Apply for an F-1 Student Visa

After you receive your offer letter, you need to apply for an F-1 visa, a type of visa issued for students who will be non-permanent residents and do not plan to immigrate to the US. (Refer to our guide to US visas for international students for detailed information on the visa application process.)

If you are already in the US, you need to make sure you update your SEVIS information by speaking with a Designated School Official (DSO) at your current university.

Transfer to the US With American Collegiate

American Collegiate helps international students earn recognized credits that can be applied toward a transfer to a top-ranked US university. Program options include digital learning, on campus, or Honors. 

  • Digital learning: With just a laptop and internet connection, you can start your US university degree program from home and stay on track — no study delays or interruptions. The award-nominated American Collegiate Live digital classroom experience lets international students earn recognized credits and learn in real time with top faculty at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a nationally ranked university.

  • On campus: Spend your first year at American University in Washington, DC, or at UCLA Extension School in Los Angeles, California, earning undergraduate-level credits you can apply toward a transfer to a top-ranked US university

  • Honors: Earn up to one year of recognized undergraduate credits at top-ranked North American universities remotely from home, and take advantage of our Honors Guarantee* to transfer with confidence to a top-fifty university in the US.

Transfer With Transfer Direct

An additional option for transfer students is the Transfer Direct program, part of Shorelight’s exclusive Signature Student Experience offerings. With Transfer Direct, counselors work with you to estimate your qualifying transfer credits and then create an individualized study plan, including identifying which universities may be the best fit for your transfer, submitting applications, and completing the enrollment process.

Now that you know how the US transfer process works for international students, be confident and plan your journey to the US! Remember, each university may have different transfer requirements, so speak to an advisor to get the best advice for you and your goals.

See how a Shorelight counselor can help you transfer successfully to a US university >