Common Data Set

Transferring: Opportunities and Challenges

Transferring from one 4-year university to another requires planning.  

It’s important to research transfer requirements and your admissions chances before sending out transfer applications.

A good place to start researching is at a college’s Common Data Set (CDS), which can be found by Googling ‘school name Common Data Set’. Transfer information is in section D. Some schools, however, don’t release their CDSs (University of Chicago and USC immediately come to mind). In such cases you can go to College Board’s Big Future website ( On each school’s profile site you’ll find a ‘for transfer students’ button. Click on it to get the transfer application deadline, minimum number of college credits needed to transfer, required GPA, the set of transfer requirements, the number of students who tried to transfer last year, and the number who were accepted and enrolled.

A quick glance of the transfer information for Harvard, Carleton College (MN), and UC San Diego gives a taste of the transfer world. Harvard, recently, had 1486 transfer applicants; 15 were accepted, for about a 1% admissions rate. Carleton had 267 applicants with 8 admits for a 3-4% admissions rate, while UCSD had 15,269 applicants of whom 6,869 were admitted for a 45% admissions rate. In short, at the highly selective private colleges, which have low student attrition rates, vying for transfer spots is extremely competitive. For the state schools, many of which are quite accommodating to transfer students, the competition is less stiff. (All the top ten schools for transfer students are public.)  

The next transfer challenge is assuring the credits you’ve already earned will transfer. The school you’re transferring from should be accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is the primary accreditation agency in the US. But there is more to it than that. There are differences among schools and their general education requirements, core requirements, and departmental and major requirements. It’s important to understand all these factors before transferring or you might get a rude awakening when after you transfer you’ve become a sophomore instead of a junior. It’s best to contact the college directly to get all this sorted out. The University of Chicago, for example, offers a pre-admission transcript evaluation: that would be wise to take advantage of.  

Another transfer challenge is securing recommendations. Many students believe that the faculty at their current college will feel slighted that a student wants to transfer. Most professors, however, understand the need for fit among their students. Few if any will penalize your recommendation because you’ve changed your mind and are electing to enter another college. Just remember to treat any of your recommenders politely and graciously. If they’ve elected to assist your transfer efforts with a recommendation send them a thank you note and keep them apprised of your efforts.

Unfortunately, as a transfer student, you are usually last in line for financial aid, or what remains of it. Colleges like to reserve their best packages in competing for first year students. Many schools, though, such as the University of Arizona, have transfer advisors who are aware of financial scholarships and tools available to its extensive transfer student base. 

These advisors can also ease the social adjustments surrounding transferring. One suggestion is to live on campus. Campus housing is a good way to meet other students. Better, get involved directly in the campus activities of your new college. Work in a club, a sport, a newspaper, or a theater group…whatever you’re interested in; pursue it at your new campus. Activities are the best means of integrating into a new campus.

If you’re preparing to transfer, know what you’re up against. If an Ivy League school is on your list realize transferring to it will probably be as difficult as applying to medical school. Also, know the requirements and get apprised of how your current transcript will be received at potential transfer schools. Moreover, recognize there are social and financial costs involved with your transfer. Be prepared to search for scholarships, and to create your own social network. Transferring isn’t easy, but planning makes it easier.

The Common Data Set, a Useful Tool

  • Its Origins
  • How to find it
  • How to use it

Do you want to find out how many students transferred to Cornell University last year? Or, how many students received financial aid (institutional and government grants) at Pomona College, and how much each actually got? Or, do you want to find out the real student to faculty ratio at Dartmouth? If you do there are two places to go to answer many of these questions accurately and efficiently: College Navigator is one (and it has been profiled by me often. If you haven’t had a chance, you really need to go to its website and take a look at some of the schools you have under consideration. ( This is one example of our tax dollars well-spent; it’s truly a veritable goldmine of valuable college information.

The other tool of equal utility is the Common Data Set (CDS), and it is in today’s spotlight. The CDS is a collaboration among the vast universe of colleges and universities, the College Board, Peterson’s (an eminent educational publisher), and US News and World Report to standardize, improve, and make transparent information about higher education. In essence, the CDS standardizes, into a convenient 32 page report (approximately), a huge amount of data. Each college (most colleges-a word about this shortly) makes available its information on:

  • Average financial aid award
  • Break down of loans versus grants in average financial aid packages (very valuable when you’re attempting to figure out how much grant support your application may garner)
  • % of financial need met for typical student
  • Amount of merit money (if any) for affluent students who don’t qualify for need-based aid
  • Academic profile of freshman class—including GPA and SAT/ACT scores
  • Criteria for admission
  • Undergraduate class sizes
  • Accurate faculty/student ratio
  • Cost of attending
  • Retention rate and 4-year graduation rate

The quality and quantity of information you can obtain from a school’s CDS far outstrips anything you’d find in a standard college guide, such as Fiske or Princeton Review. Better still, getting a copy of the Common Data Set is as easy as logging on your computer and Googling up: Common Data Set <Name of School>.  In many cases, the CDS, as with Pomona College, will come up as a PDF file that you can easily search. Better still, once you’ve accessed information on Pomona College, you can then turn to another CDS for, say Stanford University, and the format is identical.

When I was doing research for a student wishing to submit a transfer application to Cornell University, RPI, and Northwestern, I was able to go to section D of the CDS for each of the schools and immediately learn whether the school accepts transfers for the fall, how many transfer applicants each had, what portion were admitted, and what number actually enrolled. It also clearly explained all the items required for transfer students to apply for admission. Before the CDS became available, this type of research would require, in most cases, me to call each individual institution and pray I might find someone in admissions who actually could supply me with this information.

There are schools which, for whatever reason, don’t make their CDS available. Two I’m aware of are Washington University in St; Louis, and USC. Fortunately, Amherst College, Northwestern, Penn State, Yale, Centre College, NYU, UC Berkeley, to name but a few, do.  Brown’s CDS even includes specific numbers on its wait list in section C2: 1,500 applicants were offered a place on Brown’s waiting list, 500 accepted, and 82 made it off it. Where else can you find such information? If you don’t review the CDS for each of the colleges on your short list for the financial grant information alone, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

유용한 도구인 CDS (Common Data Set)

  • 출처
  • 찾는 방법
  • 사용법

혹시 작년에 Cornell 대학으로 전학한 학생수가 궁금하지 않는지?  아니면, Pomona 대학에서 장학금 혜택을 받은 학생수와 실제 얼마씩 받았는지 알고 싶은지?  또한, Dartmouth 대학의 교수 대 학생 비율이 궁금하지 않는지?  그렇다면, 정답을 효과적으로 찾을 수 있는 곳이 두 군데 있다.  먼저, College Navigator는 필자가 자주 인용하는 곳이다.  아직 접할 기회가 없었다면, 꼭 여러분이 가고자 하는 대학을 찾아보길 바란다 (  세금을 제대로 쓰고 있는 정부싸이트이며, 대학에 대한 값진 보고이다. 

유용한 다른 한 곳은 Common Data Set (CDS) 이며, 오늘 집중 거론하고자 한다.  이곳은 여러 대학들과, College Board, Peterson 출판사, US News and World Report를 결집하여, 표준화된 명확한 정보를 알려주고 있다.  핵심적으로 CDS에서는 표준화된 엄청난 자료의 32쪽의 보고서이다. 각 대학들은 아래의 유용한 정보내용을 담고 있다:

  • 평균 재정보조
  • 그랜트와 론을 분리함(그랜트에 대한 매우 유용한 정보임)
  • 평균적으로 학생들이 필요로 하는 재정보조률
  • 필요기준이 아닌 학생들을 위한 장학금
  • 신입생 학업 프로파일 정보-GPA, SAT/ACT 성적
  • 입학 기준
  • 학부 클라스 크기
  • 교수 대 학생 비율
  • 대학 등록의 값
  • 보유률과 4년 졸업률

CDS에서 얻을 수 잇는 정보의 량과 질은 일반 대학 가이드인 Fiske, Princeton Review를 훨씬 능가한다.  또한 이곳에서 정보를 얻는 일은 여러분의 컴퓨터에서 구글로 가서 로그인만하면 된다: Common Data Set <Name of School>.  예를 들면 Pomona 대학처럼 CDS에서는 PDF파일로 자료가 나타난다.  Pomona 대학을 조사한 후, 바로 Stanford University 로 가면 된다.

필자가 Cornell University, RPI, Northwesstern으로 전학가고자 하는 학생을 상담할 때, CDS의 D section에서 이번 가을학기의 전학생의 수, 전학 가능한 학교, 등록한 전학생의 수 등을 알아낼 수 있었다.  CDS 가 가능하지 않았을 때는 필자는 개개의 대학에 전화로 문의하면서, 답을 줄 수 있는 담당자와 연결이 되길 기도해야만 했었다.

한편, 아직 CDS에서 정보를 얻을 수 없는 대학들도 있다.  Washington University in St. Louis와 USC 이다.   Amherst College, Northwestern, Penn State, Yale, Centre College, NUY, UC Berkeley 등은 가능하다.  Brown 대학은 CDS 의 C2 section에서 대기자 정보를 포함시키고 있다: 1500명이 대기자순에 있었으며, 500명이 입학허가 되었으며, 82명은 포기했다.  어디에서 이런 자세한 정보를 얻을 수 있겠는가?  여러분의 대학 리스트에 있는 대학들을 CDS에서 찾아보지 않는다면, 본인에게 해야 할 일을 하지 않는 것과 같다.