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Do You Need ACT Scores to Transfer Colleges? A Guide


One of the most complicated parts of transferring colleges is determining what the requirements are, especially when it comes to standardized tests. Unfortunately, there's no simple answer to the question of whether you need to take the ACT as a transfer student, but this guide will walk you through how different school policies vary and explain how much SAT and ACT scores count when applying as a transfer.


Do You Need ACT Scores to Apply to College as a Transfer Student?

The short answer is that it varies. What's required of transfer applicants differs depending on the school you're interested in and how many credits you've completed so far. Generally speaking, the smaller and more selective the school and the fewer credits you've completed, the more likely it is that you'll need to submit test scores.

To give you a sense of the range of policies, the following chart outlines the test score policies for a handful of schools. The far right column gives circumstances in which ACT scores are not needed for transfer students.


School Requires ACT? ACT Scores Not Needed If:
USC Yes Student has at least 30 credit hours. ACT scores optional for 2023-2024 applicants due to COVID-19.
UT Austin No  
CU Boulder Yes Student has at least 24 credit hours. 
University of Illinois Yes Student has at least 30 credit hours (but test scores are still recommended). 
Harvard Yes ACT scores recommended but optional for Fall 2023 applicants.
University of California No  
Dartmouth Yes Dartmouth usually requires test scores, but the ACT is optional for Class of 2027 applicants.
Middlebury No  
Georgetown Yes Student is at least 5 years out of high school. 
University of Washington No  


As you can see, schools' policies vary quite a bit, so your best bet is to look up each school's rules about whether transfer applicants need to submit standardized test scores. Figuring out how to find that information can be a bit tricky, so here are some places to start:

  • Look at the section of the website for transfer applicants. There might be a specific page about standardized scores; otherwise, try the application checklist or the FAQ page.

  • Another approach is to search for "[school name] transfer ACT scores." You may have to try a couple of the links before you find the information you need, however.

  • Because many schools have adopted test optional policies over the past couple of years, you can also try searching for “[school name] testing policy.” Doing this may give you more context for the SAT/ACT score requirements for transfer applicants.

  • If you're still having trouble, just call the admission office and ask! They'll be able to answer any questions you have about the transfer process.


How Important Are ACT Scores as a Transfer Student?

The other big question most students have about standardized tests is whether scores count as much for transfer admissions as they do for freshmen applicants. Happily, test scores generally don't matter as much when you apply as an upperclassman transfer.

ACT and SAT scores are used to predict college success. Since transfer students have proof of whether they can succeed in college in the form of their college transcripts, schools usually count SATs and ACTs less heavily than they do for freshman applicants. "If a student is transferring after one semester in college or a year, schools usually want the SAT [or ACT] and high school GPA, but the further away from high school, the less schools rely on them," college counselor Deborah Shames told US News.

Again, though, the answer to this question is somewhat dependent on which schools you're applying to—more competitive schools care more about test scores than less competitive ones.

Meanwhile, if you're transferring from community college, your school may have a guaranteed admission agreement with the local state university. The majority of these programs don't require test scores, but some do.





What's Next?

If you have more questions about transferring colleges, read our complete guide to the transfer process.

Thinking about transferring, but not sure where you want to go? Use these college search sites to find the school that's right for you.

Or maybe you need help with another part of the application, like writing about extracurriculars or asking for recommendation letters.


Disappointed with your ACT scores? Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.

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Alex Heimbach
About the Author

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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