The Common App for Transfer Students

Last year, the Common App unveiled an entirely new website and interface for transfer applicants. As you begin the application process, you will use the same initial website to create your account but will then be redirected to a new, transfer-specific dashboard, which looks and functions differently than the first-year Common App you’ve seen before. This redesigned transfer Common App is made to better support a wide range of applicants including community college students, new and returning adult learners, and veterans/active military members, in addition to “4-year to 4-year transfers.” More than 650 colleges and universities use this new, more inclusive Common App for transfer applications as member institutions.

According to the Common App press release, some of the new enhancements on the redesigned website include an extended profile “that allows for tailored pathways based on age, goals, degree status, and credits earned,” an expanded document collection portal to centralize the collection of documents (especially transcripts), a more inclusive “experiences” section where applicants can report volunteer, internship, and work experience, as well as any awards or honors, and a streamlined recommendation portal where applicants can choose recommender types. Your application dashboard will consist of four primary sections: “Personal Information,” “Academic History,” “Supporting Information,” and “Program Materials.” Since each of these sections includes between 1-11 sub-categories, it’s important to begin your application as early as possible, and to read the directions carefully. Time management and organization are key components of the transfer admissions process, since you will not have the same administrative support at your current college or university as you may have had from your high school college counselor.

In spite of its many improvements, the redesigned Common App can still be a bit difficult to navigate, as can the entire transfer process. Need help? Check out our Transfer Analysis and Guidance program. This program includes a personalized transfer report, follow-up strategy call, 3 hours of essay guidance, and the Top Tier Admissions Transfer e-Guide.


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Step 1: Personal Information

The first section of the Common App includes fairly straightforward biographic information, contact information, citizenship information, questions about race & ethnicity, as well as military history. You are also invited to share more about your gender identity in a 100-character text box.

Within the Personal Information section, the seventh tab, “Other Information,” includes a question about your career interests. Unlike the first-year Common App, however, you are given 100 characters to provide a more specific description of your future plans, rather than relying on the drop-down options alone.

Step 2: Academic History

The second part of the transfer Common App asks for detailed information regarding your academic history such as high schools attended, colleges attended, college coursework, GPA, standardized tests, continuing education courses, SAT subject tests, APs, IBs, CLEP (College Level Examination Program), and Senior Secondary Leaving Examinations (for students attending secondary school outside the United States). You are able to edit existing college or degree information after the submission of your application, if needed.

You are also able to self-report your test scores in this section and list any tests you plan to take. Under the “Continuing Education Courses” tab, you will be asked to upload a copy of your course certificate, so make sure you have that downloaded and readily accessible. This is a great place to list any online courses (such as Coursera) you have taken in high school or since graduation.

If official college transcripts are required for a program to which you are applying, you can learn more about the options for providing those transcripts by mail or electronically within this FAQ.

Step 3: Supporting Information

The third step, “Supporting Information,” includes four sections: “Experiences,” “Achievements,” “Documents,” and “Affirmation Statements” (affirming the veracity of your application, authorizing the Registrar to send your records, etc.)


  • This section is similar to the “Activities” section of the first-year Common App, but here, you are given far more flexibility and space. In terms of “experience type” you can select one of five categories: Employment, Research, Extracurricular Activities, Volunteer, or Internship. There is also a place to add your supervisor’s name, title, and contact info, making it much easier to highlight your employment history and work experience, if applicable. You are given 600 characters to describe each experience, including your key responsibilities.


  • Achievements can fall under three categories: “Honors,” “Awards,” or “Publications.” As with the “Experiences” section, you have 600 characters to describe each achievement, unlike the first-year Common App which only allows 150 characters per entry (including spaces). You can update your achievements any time prior to submission and even after submission, you can add more achievements. However, you cannot update or delete completed achievements once you submit.

Note: Unlike the first-year Common App, which only allows space for 10 activities, there is no limit to the number of experiences and achievements you can list in your transfer application.

According to a Common App representative: “You don’t have any limits. However, although you can enter any experiences that you believe are relevant to your application, we recommend focusing on those experiences within the last 10 years and at the collegiate level and above. Enter only current and in-progress experiences, and check your program’s requirements regarding documentation.”


  • This is where you will upload any relevant supporting documentation, specifically if you are a member of the armed services. Possible categories include CV/Resume, DD214, (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty), Green Card, and Joint Services Transcript.

Step 4: Program Materials

Once you have selected your list of colleges, this section will organize each school’s supplemental materials and let you know if they require additional supporting documents.

The following documents should be submitted to the specific school directly:

  • The Academic Evaluation (CA) or Professor Recommendation (UCA) form must be completed by one or more instructors who have taught you in a full-credit college course.
    • Note: A high school teacher’s recommendation should not take the place of a recommendation by a college instructor. This can be submitted online via the application site, or by mail.
    • You are also allowed to invite an appropriate high school official to submit a high school transcript on your behalf by adding the high school official as a “recommender.”
  • The College Report collects information about your standing at your current institution. You may need to contact your advisor, dean, or registrar to find out who has access to your academic and disciplinary records. This should be printed from your online application account, completed, and submitted by mail.
  • The Mid-Term Report collects information about the courses in which you are currently enrolled. This form is completed by your current instructors. If midterm grades are not available to submit with your application, the Mid-Term Report should be submitted as soon as possible when grades are available.
    • Note: If your college does not assign midterm grades, you will need to ask your professors to assess your current performance in class.

Do not save these forms for the last minute!

  • The Personal Essay
    • Although there is no mandatory “Personal Essay” on the central Common App, many programs require a personal statement, which you will upload under “Program Materials.” This statement helps colleges get to know you better as a person and as a student, specifically your reasons for transferring from your current institution (in about 650 words).
    • Some programs may require additional essays in addition to, or in lieu of, the personal statement. Be sure to review the individual requirements for each program.

Need help with your essays? Our College Transfer Essay Program includes 5 hours of one-on-one essay guidance, detailed written edits, and phone/video chat time to brainstorm and discuss your ideas.


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