Students applying to transfer to a different college usually don’t have to worry about taking the SATs or balancing AP classes like you did in your high school days. But you’ll probably still need to write essays as part of your applications. That’s actually good news.
Transferring schools is a significant decision, and you probably have very good reasons for making it. The fact that colleges want you to tell them more is your opportunity to help them understand what led you to make this choice, and to explain it in a way that your transcript alone cannot. Whatever the prompt for your specific transfer applications, look for opportunities to share one or more of these five insights. You don’t necessarily have to jam all of them into one essay unless the prompt makes it easy to do so. But the more you can shed light on what led to this change, and what you envision happening next, the better you’ll be able to help colleges know more about the applicant behind the application.
1. Why did you choose your current college?
Maybe you chose your current college based on reasons that made sense at the time. Maybe you made assumptions that you’d love that school as much as everyone else seemed to. Maybe you didn’t consider factors that you should have. Whatever the reason, you don’t have defend it—just explain it. It’s an interesting part of your story. It gives readers insight into who you were before to compare with who you are now, and who you’re likely to be if you end up on their campus.
2. Why are you seeking a change now?
You’re seeking to transfer for a reason, probably a very good one. Why are you and this school no longer a good fit together? Where is the mismatch? What didn’t work that you hoped would have? The tricky part here is that you need to do this without sounding overly critical or resentful of your school. The best way to do that is to focus on yourself. Take a posture acknowledging that many other students are happy and successful here, and that it’s not an inherently bad place—it’s just not the right place for you. This is especially effective if you can demonstrate any efforts you’ve made to improve your situation along the way. There’s nothing wrong with you deciding that you’d like to be someplace else. Just make sure you don’t sound like you’re going through a bad break up and claiming it was entirely the fault of your ex.
3. What draws you to this new school?
What is it about this college that makes you believe it’s a good fit for you? Unlike a high school senior who’s yet to really experience college, you’ve taken a long test drive at another school. So try to get specific about what’s drawing you to this one. Is it a major or program that interests you? Is this school a more affordable option for your family? Have you reimagined what you want from college and decided you can find it here? Show the reader that this decision is about more than wanting to leave where you are—give them a sense of what’s drawing you to where they are.
4. What will be different about you?
No matter what a college offers, it’s up to the student to take advantage of it. How do you plan to do that as a transfer student? If you say you want more personal attention, or a different major, or a particular program that matches a new interest, you’ve shown what you’re interested in, but not yet how you’ll take advantage of it. Many students treat college like a roller coaster ride where they are a passenger with no control over the experience. But successful college students drive their own education. Make sure you explain how you plan to drive yours as a successful transfer student.
5. What are your future plans?
Some transfer students have identified the path they want to pursue after graduation, maybe even as a compelling reason they are transferring. If that’s the case for you, describe those future plans. Do you have a new career in mind? Do you want to attend graduate school? Are you hoping to develop a new skill or interest that you plan to apply in the future? It’s OK if you still have some exploring to do before you can answer these questions. But graduation is presumably closer for you now than it was when you applied to college before. And it’s helpful to show a transfer admissions reader that you’ve begun thinking about your future and the role your new college will play in helping you get there.
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