- Only 6% of college transfer applicants who used the Common App in the last four years have lived in zip codes with the lowest median household income.
- That’s according to data released Monday by the Common App, the online portal enabling students to use a single form to apply to hundreds of institutions. It also found public flagship institutions and large, private nonprofit colleges were the most popular destinations for transfer applicants.
- The number of transfer applications has ticked up since the platform started offering them in the 2018-19 academic year. Common App saw 216,590 transfer applications that year, rising 17.2% to 253,815 in 2021-22, the most recent year available.
Researching application behavior among college transfers is notoriously difficult, in part because federal sources of information — like the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS — don't collect applicant data on students who aren’t enrolling for the first time.
Colleges’ Common Data sets contain some of this information, but institutions must publish it voluntarily. These are summaries of enrollment, application and retention numbers, as well as the factors colleges consider during admissions.
Thus, the Common App report summarizing transfer findings provides a glimpse into trends that aren’t completely understood.
The organization said in the report that it is “somewhat concerning” wealthier students are primarily the ones taking advantage of the transfer process. Transfer processes “should reflect educational mobility for all students, especially for historically excluded groups,” the report states.
In the 2021-22 year, nearly 70% of the Common App’s member colleges that use it for first-year students also relied on it for transfer applicants.
Colleges with admit rates under 25% received the largest share of transfer applications annually for the last four years. For 2021-22, 3 in 10 transfer applications went to institutions with admit rates under 25%, while the smallest share, 16%, went to colleges with admit rates between 25% and 50%.
The organization noted in its report that “the tendency to apply to large, selective institutions is not a new phenomenon for Common App applicants, transfer or first-year.”
About one-fourth of applicants year to year were from underrepresented minority groups, which Common App considers to be students who are Black, Latino, Native American, Alaska Native and Pacific Islander.
More than half of applicants every year were from zip codes with the highest median household income, the organization found.