Transfer (Essay) Tips

Transferring colleges can seem a daunting process and rightfully so considering most school’s transfer admit rates. That said, we’ve compiled an invaluable list of transfer tips and specifics on writing the transfer essay.

Many transfer deadlines have passed, but many schools are March 1!

As a transfer student, the 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 would you be 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? Harvard admits a very small number of transfer students (12 per year on average) and specifically lists on their site that they require ‘a clearly defined academic need to transfer.’

A few transfer plan pointers:

Know Your Place… and Do Your Research

Schools vary on their transfer specifics, some don’t accept junior transfers at all and some such as Brown accepts sophomores and first semester juniors. Yale also will consider a sophomore and junior transfer, though they typically have only 20-30 spaces to fill with 1,000+ applicants. Community college students, veterans, and hooked students may take priority. Do your research ahead of time if you’re contemplating a move.

NO Regrets –Go Big Or Go Home

If you’re unhappy at your current school, you aren’t comfortable there, the environment, academic or otherwise is not your cup of tea, you don’t feel you’ve found your niche and never will or simply want one more chance at your dream school(s) then absolutely consider transferring keeping in mind the next tip…

college Transfer Essay insights

Go In With Eyes Wide Open

Transfer admissions is more difficult and the admissions rates are lower (especially at the Ivies) than first-time applicants which in today’s admissions world speaks volumes to the abysmally low admissions rates! Like many top schools, Stanford’s transfer admit rates tend to be between 1 and 4 percent. For instance, 42 out of 1,959 transfer students were admitted to Stanford in fall 2016 for a 2.1% admit rate. Princeton does not even accept transfer applicants though that tide is turning as they’ve recently stated that by 2018 they will have a new transfer plan in place. Transfer admissions is not a walk in the park but it is doable as evidenced by the hundreds of students who successfully transfer schools each year. Just be wise and cast a wide application net.

Be Confident

Be confident in yourself. Be confident in your decisions and be confident in your essays and application as a whole. We can help you get there! As a transfer student, this isn’t your first rodeo; you’ve done this before and now you should have a clearer picture of the exact right school for you! That said, if it didn’t work out for you at a specific college the first time you applied and nothing has changed in your details (new test scores, high grades freshman year in college, awards) then don’t expect you will magically get in this time.

college transfer essay strategy

Kill It With Your Transfer Essay

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.

  • 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.