Did you know that 1 in 3 students who enroll in either a 4-year or 2-year college will probably transfer at some point, according to a report issued by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
If you are one of those students transferring colleges, application essays offer an invaluable opportunity for you to present yourself to admissions officers—and they are the one piece of your application over which you have total control.
Regardless of your grades, scores, or extracurriculars, essays give you the flexibility to show who you are and what you care about in your search for a new school. An original, thoughtful, genuine essay can delight and impress admissions officers. In an applicant pool full of transfer students with great grades and interesting college resumes, the essay could even be the one element that sets you apart from your fellow applicants.
College essays are an unusual genre: they are intensely personal, but have a specific purpose, an academic focus, and a specific audience. Your goal is to express who you are, but in a way that shows colleges that you are a good fit for them intellectually, emotionally, ethically, and otherwise.
As a transfer student, this idea of fit is even more important than it was the first time around: you’re already in a college, so why is this new school valuable and necessary for your education, and why are you a beneficial and instrumental addition to the student community there? What have you DONE in a specific academic area to show your depth as a scholar?
Remember, you’re not the only one seeking to transfer into a college you are targeting. Transfer applications are up and the number of students seeking to transfer is increasing.
OUR TOP TIPS FOR WRITING SUCCESSFUL TRANSFER APPLICATION ESSAYS:
- Use the main essay as an opportunity to show academic heft and focus. We worked with a young man who attended a strong liberal arts college in CA but he had an interest in poetry and couldn’t find professors to mentor him or rich enough course options in poetry. He transferred to Bowdoin College, which was a better academic fit. In his transfer application essay he wrote:After the rich depth of poetry and literature classes, discussion, and mentoring during high school, X College feels like a step backwards—there is no poet-in-residence, no class in Creative Writing, and scant students who share my interest in poetry. X College prizes its tight focus on economics, history, and government at the expense of other programs. The words “Lit Major” are spoken with a slight turn of the lip.
- Think of the supplemental essays as opportunities to share an aspect of your life that is missing from other parts of your application. Maybe you want to illustrate your sense of humor, your expertise in an additional area not highlighted on your resume or activity sheet, an unusual hobby you have, a difficult family situation, or a remarkable emotional or intellectual discovery you made.
- Plan for the “Why are You Transferring” essay question that appears on all transfer applications. Don’t diss your current school or say something about the social scene; instead focus on why the school isn’t a great academic fit for you.
- Make your essay memorable and unique. The essays that stand out are typically those that approach a subject from an unusual angle or follow a student’s interests from childhood by illuminating a specific vignette. Be concise and SHOW don’t TELL. As a transfer student, it’s in your best interest to write about something that has happened in the past year or so while you were in college.
- Organize! Decide exactly what qualities you want to stress then make sure your essay is structured to highlight these traits. Be careful, however, of writing a chronological essay. You might start there, but then go back and rework it so it’s not a mini autobiography.
- Be specific and concrete using details that will allow the reader a more vivid picture of who you are.
- Don’t choose a style with which you aren’t comfortable. Your reader will ‘smell a rat’ if your prose is pretentious or overly edited. Remain natural and write in your own voice.
- The best essays expand a small ‘slice of life’ into an essay. You may want to choose a specific moment or incident in your life that changed the way you think and explain how that change took place.
- Steer clear of clichés in both your essay topic and your writing. Focus on your academic interests and avoid the Outward Bound—“I made it up the mountain and didn’t die.” As a transfer student, your essays will be judged to a higher standard than your original college application essays. You’re a college student now, and your writing needs to match the standards of the school you’re applying to.
- Find your voice and hook your reader through a strong opening.
Consider our transfer admissions consulting programs for additional help! The transfer deadline for many colleges is March 1.
Transfer essays are different because transfers are different! As we used to say at Georgetown, every transfer has a story to tell…and the essay is their opportunity to do it!
The most frequent essay question for transfer applicants is “Why do you want to transfer to X School?” This is a two-sided question. It’s asking not only why you want to go to X school, but also why the school you currently attend isn’t a good fit. There are two key points you always want to keep in mind when answering this question:
- NEVER, EVER slam the institution you are leaving. Even if you hate it with a passion and can’t understand why anyone would like it there, don’t be negative. That will be the kiss of death for your application. Be honest when you can, but be kind to the institution you are leaving. It is a good fit for some, just not you.
- Make a solid and specific point as to why X school will be a better fit. If you think Boston University was “too big” and “too impersonal” but are applying to transfer to another school equally as large, you can’t use those as reasons. The admissions officer ultimately wants to know why their school is a better fit and what you’re going to bring to the table.
In general, transfers are less predictable in their applications. They often have had a serious incident happen in their life and/or a scattered academic record. The essay is, therefore, an excellent vehicle for explaining anything that might raise red flags. If you have anything that will stand out as odd in your application—address it head on! Don’t let your application reader guess why you flunked four classes or why your high school transcript is a disaster even though you have fabulous SAT scores. Be honest, be genuine, and tell your story. Don’t whine and don’t skirt around answers. Take ownership, but also tell your reader why she should take a chance on you. Admissions officers love the comeback kid. If that’s you, tell your reader!
Generally speaking, at Georgetown we wanted two of the three following items to be decent in a transfer application: high school transcript, SAT/ACT scores, or your college transcript. If you did fabulously in high school and on your SATs, we might be able to attribute lower college grades because you hated the place (hence, your transfer application). Alternatively, we could understand higher SATs and decent college grades with lower high school grades, as you might be truly bright but were a slacker in high school. Two factors on the low end, however, is not ideal because it insinuates that you may not be well qualified and may end up having to transfer yet again, which is what an admission officer wants to avoid.
Finally, visit, visit, visit! The best way to be able to answer “Why do you want to transfer to X school?” is to have visited and be able to give a very specific answer. The application reader wants to know that lots of thought and consideration has gone into your transfer process and that you’ve really clarified what you need out of an institution.