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Do You Need SAT Scores to Transfer Colleges?

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Jul 24, 2017 6:30:00 PM

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Determining all the different requirements for transferring colleges can be a huge hassle. One of the most common questions students have is whether they need to submit SAT scores to apply as transfer students.

There’s no single answer to this question, but this guide will explain some common policies about SAT scores for transfer applicants, how to determine whether you need to submit SAT scores, and how much attention schools pay to these scores when they also have your grades from another college.


Do You Need to Submit SAT Scores as a Transfer Applicant?

As I touched on above, the answer to this question really depends on the school you’re applying to: some schools don’t require SAT scores for any transfer students, some only ask for standardized test results from students who haven’t completed a minimum number of credits, and some require test scores for all applicants.

In general, very selective schools and small liberal arts colleges are more likely to require test scores, while bigger state universities are more likely to waive the requirement. Also, if you’ve been out of high school for more than five years or if taking the ACT represents an undue financial burden, most schools will waive any SAT requirements.

The following chart details the transfer applicant test score requirements for a range of schools, to give you a sense of the type of policies you may encounter. All credits are in semesters.



Requires SATs

Exceptions and Notes



Exempt if you've completed at least 30 semester units of college work

UT Austin



CU Boulder


Exempt if you've completed at least 24 college credit hours

University of Illinois


Exempt if you've completed 30 college semester hours (but test scores are still recommended for under 59 graded credit hours)




University of California








Must send original high school scores



Exempt if you graduated high school at least 5 years before you intend to matriculate 

University of Washington


Exempt if you have 40 or more transferable credits


Obviously, this chart is far from comprehensive. Since, as you can see, the policies vary quite a bit, you’ll need to find out whether the schools you’re applying to require you to submit SAT scores to transfer.

As obvious as this might sound, start by checking the section of the website for transfer applicants. Some schools have a specific page about standardized test scores; if not, try the application checklist or the FAQ page. If you’re really struggling to find the information, try a web search for “[your school] transfer SAT scores.” You may have to try a couple of the links, but usually this approach will get you the page that you need.

If you’re transferring from community college, keep in mind that your school may have a guaranteed admission agreement with the state university--these programs often don’t require test scores (but sometimes do).

Of course, you can always call or email the admissions office if you have questions. They’re there to help!


How Important Are SAT Scores as a Transfer Student?

Most colleges weight SAT scores less heavily for transfer applicants than they do for freshmen because transfer students already have proof of their ability to succeed in college: their transcript. "If a student is transferring after one semester in college or a year, schools usually want the SAT and high school GPA, but the further away from high school, the less schools rely on them," college counselor Deborah Shames told US News.

There are definitely some exceptions, however. Very selective schools tend to care more about test scores. You’re also likely to be judged more on your SAT scores if your grades aren’t that impressive.

If you're concerned about your SAT scores, you can see if the school you're interested in provides a transfer student profile: this will list the middle 50% range of ACT and SAT scores for transfer students. (As an example, check out Georgetown's.) If your score is toward the high end of that range (or above), you're set. If you're in the lower end (or below), you may want to consider putting in some focused prep time and retaking the SAT.


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 scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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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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