Can Community College Students Transfer to Ivy League?

It’s not easy to get into an Ivy League school but most of them are actively recruiting community college students in order to broaden their student body. However, getting into an Ivy League school requires a lot of effort.
Yes. As a transfer student from a community college, getting into Ivy League schools is absolutely achievable. This guide will show you step-by-step how to improve your chances of admittance to these prestigious schools.
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Did you know, for example, that 228 community college students have transferred to Cornell University in the last two years alone?

Cornell accepts the most community college transfers of any Ivy League university, and it is also the only school that discloses data on how many students transfer from community colleges.

Other IVY League schools are also opening up to community college students because they are now realizing the depth and diversity these students bring to their student populations.


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Can you transfer to Ivy League from community college?

Yes! Community college transfer students are accepted by Ivy League schools on merit. Applicants can be accepted into Ivy League schools as transferees whether or not they have already completed their associate degrees, as long as their college applications fulfill or even exceed the admissions requirements.

Apart from Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University both accept a large number of transfers, including those from community colleges.

Can you transfer to Harvard from community college?

While Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth accept fewer overall transfers in total (due to the limited amount of transfer seats available), community college students are among those accepted to these selective universities each year.

In fact, Princeton, which had not accepted any transfers in many years, reopened its transfer program in 2018, with a focus on community college students.

Students from community schools such as Miami Dade College in Florida, Fresno City College in California, and Tompkins Cortland Community College in New York were among the 13 students in their first transfer class.

Princeton's relaunch reflects a trend among elite private universities. They're starting to notice the unique contributions you may make in the classroom and to the broader campus community as a former community college student.

IVY league University
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Why should you go to a community college first?

One of the best things about going to a community college before applying to an Ivy League school or any other prestigious college or university is that it helps you to achieve a good enough GPA to be accepted.

If you are unhappy with your high school GPA, think of it as a second chance to have a GPA you can be proud of.

Going to a community college before applying to another university not only improves your GPA, but if you are willing to work hard, it also gives you the potential to have a SAT or ACT score that could impress admissions authorities at an Ivy school.

All of this is on top of the savings you will be getting on tuition. If you want to know more about that here is a great article on Free community college: Everything you need to know

Is it possible to take the SAT or ACT while attending community college?

Yes, you can. Standardized tests are available to students in college. Even non-high school students are permitted to take standardized tests, according to the College Board and ACT, Inc., which established and administer the SAT and ACT, respectively.

Students attending community colleges can take the SAT or ACT before or after graduation. Don't assume that students in their sophomore and junior years of high school are the only ones who can take standardized tests to meet college admissions standards.

The SAT or ACT can be taken by anybody over the age of sixteen. When it comes to very young pupils who want to take standardized tests, however, just keep in mind that right now federal restrictions prevent anybody under the age of 13 from registering for or taking the SAT.

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Do colleges require transferees to submit test scores?

Many schools and institutions in the United States, as of this writing, enable transfer applicants to choose whether or not to submit their standardized test scores. Ivy League universities are among them. 

Despite being test-optional, some competitive institutions recommend submitting SAT or ACT scores, and doing so might improve your chances of admission.

Related: How to transfer from community college to university?

Having a test-optional admissions policy is not uncommon among today's higher education institutions. They include prestigious colleges that formerly only accepted applicants with high standardized exam scores.

You have the option of submitting your exam score or keeping it to yourself if you are going to transfer to an Ivy League school. This is because, as of now, all Ivy League schools do not need students to take a test.

If you are particularly pleased with your high standardized test score then it's still a good idea to submit it. This is because SAT or ACT results will be taken into account by Ivy League admissions officers if they are submitted. 

Transfer applicants who opt not to submit theirs, on the other hand, will not be penalized in the admissions process.

For transferees applying to Ivy League colleges, check out this application checklist:

Brown University

  • Application fee of $75 or a fee waiver
  • Common App
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • College report
  • Mid-term report
  • Two evaluations from faculty members who have taught applicant at current college (one may be replaced with a recommendation from a teacher from the applicant’s senior year of high school)
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

Cornell University

  • Application fee of $80 or a fee waiver
  • Common App
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • Academic evaluation
  • College report
  • Mid-term report
  • Cornell University transfer questions
  • Writing supplement
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

Columbia University

Application fee of $85 or a fee waiver

  • Coalition App (Common App is for first-year applicants only)
  • Coalition App transfer report
  • Coalition App curriculum report
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • Two college academic recommendations
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

Dartmouth College

  • Application fee of $90 or a fee waiver
  • Application through Dartmouth College’s very own transfer application
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • College report
  • Two evaluations from college instructors
  • Two essays
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

Harvard University

  • Application fee of $75 fee or a fee waiver
  • Coalition App or Common App
  • Coalition App or Common App writing supplement
  • Harvard College Questions
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • College report (or Dean’s report or Registrar’s report)
  • SAT or ACT score: optional (submission is strongly recommended)

Princeton University

  • Application fee of $70 fee or a fee waiver
  • Coalition App or Common App
  • Princeton’s transfer supplement (submitted via the Coalition App or Common App website)
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • College report
  • Mid-term report
  • Graded written paper
  • Two academic recommendations (at least one from a college instructor)
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

University of Pennsylvania

  • Application fee of $75 or a fee waiver
  • Common App or Coalition App
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • College report
  • Mid-term report
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Penn-specific essay
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

Yale University

  • Application fee of $80 or a fee waiver
  • Common App or Coalition App
  • Official copy of high school transcript
  • Official copy of college transcript
  • College report
  • Mid-term report
  • Two evaluations from college faculty members or teaching assistants
  • Yale-specific questions
  • SAT or ACT score: optional

When is the best time to transfer to an Ivy League?

Transferring to Ivy League can be done at any time but it is much more beneficial to complete your associate degree first. Approximately 82% of community college students who complete their associate's degree program go on to earn a bachelor's degree successfully. 

The prospect of joining an Ivy League institution can be exciting and many students are eager to quickly move on from community college to their prestigious university. As a result, after only a few semesters at a community college, you may be tempted to apply to your ideal school.

Consider completing your associate's degree first, before applying to an Ivy League institution or even to any other college or university. There are benefits that come with doing so that you may not be able to take advantage of if you transfer before graduation. 

Here are two great reasons for you to consider completing your associate’s program:

  • Cheaper tuition costs. 
    Completing an associate degree program at a community college allows you to transfer more credits at lower tuition, which reduces your overall tuition costs.
  • Increased job market value. 
    Do you have plans to work to pay for college while pursuing a bachelor's degree? Well, you can apply for employment with better pay if you have an associate's degree.

If you want to look at all the benefits of going to a community college here is a great article we have dedicated to the subject.

Ivy League admission deadlines

When applying to an Ivy League, it's not enough to simply have an associate's degree. It's also crucial to submit your application on time before the deadline. 

This is true since transfer spaces are relatively scarce, especially at highly elite colleges like Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and the rest of the Ivy Leagues.

As a general rule, the earlier you apply as a transferee, the better your chances of being accepted. 

Check out these transfer application dates to ensure that you may submit your application on time and avoid applying to the Ivy League of your choice the next semester:

Table for Ivy League admission deadlines
Table for Ivy League admission deadlines


Are transfer students' acceptance rates lower than freshmen students'?

In general, acceptance rates for transfer students are significantly lower than those for incoming first-year students at most schools and universities.

This is especially true for selective colleges like the Ivy Leagues, which are notorious for having some of the lowest acceptance rates in the country.

Only a small percentage of first-year applications are usually accepted by universities. When it comes to admissions, unfortunately, these universities accept an even smaller fraction of first-year transfers.

One of the reasons for this is that transfer seats are limited, as they are at the Ivy Leagues and other prominent colleges where the majority of applicants do not easily meet the admissions requirements.

Check out this table comparing the acceptance percentages for transferees and freshman applications at the Ivy leagues to get an idea of how picky top colleges and universities can be when it comes to enrolling transfer students:

Table for Students' acceptance rates
Table for students' acceptance rates


Final Word

Each fall, every Ivy League school is on the lookout for bright community college students to transfer to their campuses.

Apart from the Ivy League's eight schools, the "Public Ivies," as well as other prestigious public and private universities, value the experience community college students may bring to their undergraduate communities.

It is certainly possible to transfer from a community college to an Ivy League university as long as you establish a clear academic route and demonstrate your academic preparation. Your background will be seen as a strength rather than a weakness by admissions officers.

We wish you all the best in your endeavors!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do any Ivy League schools accept transfer students?

Can I go to a community college then transfer to Harvard?

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