Who is a Transfer Student?

The Eligibility Coach gets a lot of questions about transferring to and from colleges and universities in various sports. That is to be expected as approximately one-third of all college students transfer institutions before graduation according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

To determine if transfer rules apply to your situation, you need to understand exactly who is considered a transfer student by the NCAA. Many believe that there are rules regarding transferring from a Division I school to a Division II school or Division III school. However, it is not the Division of the institution you originally attend that matters. Transfers are governed by whether they are transferring from a two-year or a four-year school. It also does not matter if the original institution is a member of the NAIA.

Who is a Transfer Student?

A transfer student is one who leaves one collegiate institution after meeting ANY of the following conditions at the initial institution:

  • The student was officially registered and enrolled in a minimum, full-time program of studies in ANY quarter or semester of an academic year, provided the student was present at the institution on the first day of classes as certified by the university registrar.
  • The student attended a class or classes in any quarter or semester in which the student was enrolled in a minimum full-time program of study, even if the enrollment was on a provisional basis and the student was later determined by the initial institution not to be admissible.
  • The student is or was enrolled in an institution in a minimum full-time program of studies in a night school that is considered to have regular terms [semesters or quarters] the same as the institution’s day school, and the student is or was considered by the institution to be a regularly matriculated student.
  • The student attended a branch school that does not conduct an intercollegiate athletic program but the student had been enrolled in another collegiate institution prior to attendance at the branch school.
  • The student attended a branch school that conducted intercollegiate athletic program then transfers to an institution other than the parent institution.
  • The student reported for a regular squad practice [including practice or conditioning activities that occur prior to compliance certification], prior to the beginning of any quarter or semester, as certified by the athletic director. Participation only in picture-day activities would not constitute ‘regular practice.”
  • The student participated in practice or competed in a given sport even though the student was enrolled in less than a minimum full-time program of studies.
  • The student received institutional financial aid while attending a summer term, summer school, or summer-orientation program. A recruited student who received institutional aid is subject to transfer provisions, except that a prospective student-athlete [recruited or non-recruited] who is denied admission to the institution for full-time enrollment shall be permitted to enroll at another institution without being considered a transfer student.

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Anthony arrives on campus August 5th for soccer practice. August 6th Anthony completes all compliance paperwork and receives a physical examination. The university has a “Meet the Soccer Team” function and held picture day on August 7th. Anthony completed pre-season practice, but decides he does not want to attend Kicker University after all and goes home. Anthony decides to attend Goal College and walk on to the soccer team. Is Anthony a transfer student?

Courtney attends summer school at Great State University in a provisional program. She receives financial aid to pay for her summer school tuition and fees but pays her own room and board costs. Courtney does not successfully complete the provisional program and is subsequently denied admission to Great State University. Is Courtney a transfer student?

Anthony is a transfer student because he participated in activities other than just the picture day. Therefore, Anthony will be certified using transfer eligibility rules at Goal College.

Courtney is not a transfer student because she was denied admission for full-time enrollment at Great State. Therefore, Courtney will be certified using initial eligibility certification rules at the institution she attends.

Transfer Rules

The general rule for transfer students is that once a student-athlete transfers, he/she must sit a semester in residence at the new university BEFORE being able to compete at the new institution. There are exceptions depending on different circumstances.

For more general information on successfully navigating the transfer process read The Athletic $cholarship Eligibility Coach: A How-To Guide for the Eligibility Certification Game. Purchase your copy at Amazon.com today.

If you need more specific information call 919-408-7431 for a complimentary consultation. If you would like one-on-one assistance with this process, you may purchase an individualized Game Plan designed specifically for you. Call 919-408-7431 for more information.


The Eligibility Coach is preparing a book specifically detailing the transfer process for students who want to transfer from a two-year school to a four-year school, or want to transfer from one four-year institution to another four-year institution. More information to come shortly.

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