Bye! Hello!


Please update your bookmarks to, which is where we’ll be moving all of the content of this site.

This site will remain where you can buy The Transfer Book, at least for now. We’re very excited about the Transferweb project. There are already more features on that site; for example, a lot of you have asked about forums and we have that there. As before, you can ask any question you like and we’ll still get back to you quickly, but this time you don’t have to post your question on a random blogpost that may or may not be relevant to what you want to say.

We’re rapidly working on building even more features for the site. Pretty soon, you should see a directory of colleges with transfer-specific information, a tool to help you decide if transferring is right for you, community college transfer policies on a state-by-state basis, and more.

It’s been a wild ride so far. This site, with what little content it has, serves literally tens of thousands of students a month. Thousands of students have picked up The Transfer Book, and we’ve helped a lot of students one-on-one with their applications. We still get back messages and reviews like the ones on the reviews page. Our goal has been to help many students as much as possible with the process of transferring colleges, and the new site should help do even better by that goal.

So one last thing before we flip the switch and start redirecting everyone to the new site.

As this transfer application season draws to a close, if we’ve helped you out at all, whether through one-on-one consulting, the books, or just using the site, would you consider taking a moment to say something here: How Have We Helped You?

We’re collecting kind words from The Transfer Book community so that we can potentially share them with book publishers, conference organizers, and other people who could help grow The Transfer Book/Transferweb project, which in turn will allow us to help you and other transfer students even more. You don’t have to give us your real name if you don’t want to, all that matters is what you say is real (but if you’re willing to have your real details on the site, that would definitely help!).

Thanks everyone! We hope we’ve helped you out with the transfer process. For those of you still going through it, or about to go through it, we hope to help you even more with the new site. Once again: Onward and upward!

Customize Your Common Application “Why Transfer” Essay as Needed

Transfer college

We have been getting a lot of questions regarding what to write for the Common Application main “why do you want to transfer” essay. Our advice is to customize your essay if doing so would tell the story you want to tell the reader, keeping in mind the rest of your application. You might then ask, “What?  I can tailor my Common App essay?  But the Common App instructions says to NOT customize my essay.” You would be correct, in that the Common App main essay instructions say this:

Note: The Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Members that wish to review custom essay responses will request them on their Supplement form.

However, you can actually customize the Common App essay if you want to. The technicalities of the Common App allows you to submit different versions of your application and essay to different schools. Here are the Common App’s instructions for submitting an “alternate version” of your application:

The standard functionality of the Common Application allows an applicant to submit a single  application to many Common Application member institutions using one application. In the event that an applicant chooses to provide slightly different information from institution to institution, she may do so by creating alternate versions of their application.

You can download the complete instructions for submitting alternate versions of your Common App here:

We think that the Common App’s instruction not to mention a particular school in the main essay is incredibly awkward: it’s strange to ask students to explain why they want to transfer but at the same time tell them that they can’t mention where they want to transfer to. If it were up to us, we would do away with the Common App and have a simple separate application for each school, allowing the student to explain clearly and exactly to each school why he or she wants to transfer to it.

Like we said in our previous blog post on the Common App essay vs. the school supplement essay, depending on the story that you want to tell each school you’re applying to, you should customize your Common App for each particular school. That means that you might want to submit the same “why transfer” essay to some of the schools you’re applying to. At the same time, you might want to customize your “why transfer” essay for, say, Dartmouth, which doesn’t ask for a school supplement essay where you can talk about why you want to specifically transfer to Dartmouth.  We’ve seen both general and customized main essays work for admission to the most selective schools in the country.

Let us know which approach to the Common App “why transfer” essay you take and how it works out for you!

(Photo: dennis)

The Common Application is Flawed

We’ve received many emails and comments from worried transfer applicants who are having trouble with the Common Application. We’ve dug through the Common App to expose some of the issues that you’ll come across as you complete the application.

Discrepancies between the PDF and Online Applications

We would expect that the Common App would be exactly the same whether you’re looking at the PDF version or the online form, but the two are NOT the same. The most confusing part is the instructions for the Personal Essay (“why transfer” essay) in the Writing section. The online form says this:

Please provide a statement (250 words minimum) that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve.

However, the PDF version of the application says this:

Please provide a statement of 250 – 500 words that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve, and attach it to your application before submission.

Why doesn’t the online form tell you that there is a 500-word limit for the “why transfer” essay? Technically, the number of words you use can’t be limited because you get to upload your essay, and no one is going to count the number of words in your essay. However, we recommend that you stick close to the 500-word limit. If you need to go over, write no more than about 600 words. Otherwise, for an admissions officer that has to read hundreds of application essays, your essay will seem too long.

“Your Response May Be Cut Off”

We found three parts of the online form that you need to check extra carefully before submitting your application online:

  1. Honors (in the Academics section)
  2. Extracurricular Activities and Work Experience (in the Activities section)
  3. Short Answer: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below (1000 character maximum). (in the Writing section)

Each of these three parts come with a warning message that says:


When you click on this message, you get this explanation:

Some text may be cut off when your application is printed.

Not all answers that ‘fit’ on the online application will ‘fit’ on the PDF of the Common App. While the answers you provide on the online application are at or below the character limit for a given field, it is possible that those answers may be cut off when the PDF of your Common App is generated. There is often very limited space on the PDF of the Common App. In these cases every attempt has been made to fit the maximum amount of text but still preserve the readability of the information.

It is critical that you preview your Common App and check for truncated information. If you preview the Common App and find some of your text is missing, you should attempt to shorten your response to fit within the available space. If necessary, you can add more information in the Additional Information section of the Common App. Colleges that use the Common App are aware that there is limited space on the PDF.

This is a silly glitch that doesn’t seem difficult to fix, yet it hasn’t been fixed, though the Common App people are very aware of this problem. The best you can do is to carefully preview your application to make sure that nothing is cut off.  Click on “Preview” in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen:

When previewing your application, pay special attention to the three parts we’ve indicated above.

Concluding Thoughts:

Applying to transfer is already hard enough, so you shouldn’t have to deal with glitches in the online application. We hope the Common App people will fix these problems soon. Until then, let us know if you see anything else in the Common App that should be fixed!

(Photo: Terwilliger911)

College Transfer Q&A: Common Application General Transfer Essay vs School Supplement Essay?


When I looked at the common application, I noticed that there is a generic “why transfer” essay and a supplement for each school that asks, “Why do you want to transfer here?” What should be included in one versus the other?


Before we get into the differences between the two essays, we think the most important overarching thing to remember is that each application to each school has to tell the story you want to tell that school. If the common app “why transfer” essay that you wrote for one application that has a supplement doesn’t make sense for another application without a supplement, then, by all means, customize your common app essay for that school.

That said, here are the differences between the two essays.

The Common Application “Why Transfer” Essay

There are two ways to tackle this essay:

1) Write a general essay: You may provide reasons for your desire to transfer in general, not your reasons for applying to a particular school, and submit the same essay for each school you’re applying to. For much of this essay, you might end up explaining that, though your current school has provided you with many opportunities, it is lacking in certain aspects. Here are some examples of points you might include in this essay:

  • an explanation discussing why your current school won’t help you meet your short-term and long-term goals
  • a discussion of how the courses in your major are limited in range and level
  • an explanation of the lack of opportunities to conduct research at your current school
  • an earnest explanation of the lack of a community among the student body that fits your needs and interests in terms of your academic, intellectual, and/or social life

Warning: Be tactful and avoid sounding like you’re just whining about your current school.

2) Write an essay specific to the school you’re applying to: You can write a separate version of the “why transfer” essay for each school you’re applying to. Consider tailoring the common application essay, especially if the school’s application doesn’t require a supplement essay. For example, Washington University in St. Louis doesn’t ask for a supplement essay. In that case, this would be your only chance to directly discuss why you want to transfer to that specific school.

If the school’s application does require a supplement essay, you might still want to tailor the common application essay to that school if you feel that doing so would help you to tell the story that you want to tell in your overall application. If you take this route, carefully consider what you want to include in the common application essay as compared to the supplement essay to avoid being redundant.

We’ve seen students get into the most selective schools in the country both by writing general “why transfer” essays and by writing school-specific “why transfer” essays. Bottom line: always step back, look at the whole application, and ask yourself at the end if the application tells the story you want to tell the school. If it doesn’t, revise and, if necessary, customize.

The School Supplement Essay

The supplement essay for a particular school usually asks, “Why do you want to transfer to THIS school (as opposed to another school)?” If you’re applying to, say, Brandeis, then you would write about why Brandeis would be the ideal place for you to transfer to and how the university would meet your needs. Here are some examples of points you might include in the school supplement essay:

  • the specific major at the school you want to transfer to and what
  • distinguishes that program from programs offered at other schools
  • particular professors and/or classes you’re interested in
  • particular resources and opportunities offered at that school but not elsewhere
  • characteristics that make you a good fit for the school and its student body

These points are just some examples of what you might write for each essay.  Start with information that is most relevant to your situation and you should be on your way to solid essays.

(Photo: Jinx!)

Transfer Admissions Rates for US News 2012 Added

We just added the recently released Fall 2010 transfer admissions numbers for some of the top schools in the US (the “2012” Top 50 National Universities according to US News).

Check it out by clicking here, or by hovering over the “Stats” tab at the top of the page and clicking on the first option in the dropdown menu.

Additionally – because we love you, obviously – we also put together a table comparing the transfer admissions rates in 2010 and 2009 at the same schools. Click here to check it out, or hover over the “Stats” menu and click on the second dropdown. It’s one thing to see what a college’s transfer admission rate was in a given year, but it’s even more helpful – we hope – to see how consistent (or not) the admissions rates are over a period of time.

Generally speaking, it looks like the trend of shrinking admissions rates continues this year.

20 of the 50 schools had higher transfer admissions rates than freshman admissions rates, while 29 of the 50 had lower transfer admissions rates versus freshman admissions (Princeton, which doesn’t take any transfers, is the remaining school).

21 of the 50 colleges had their transfer admissions rates increase versus last year, while more schools (27 of the 50) became more selective. Harvard began admitting transfers again as of Fall 2010, so their rate went from 0% in 2009 to 2% this year. We could not get previous year data for George Washington University, which was not in the Top 50 last year, so we couldn’t track how their transfer admission rate changed.

Looking at the largest moves, Lehigh University’s transfer admissions rate shrank from 70% last year to 36% this year, while UC Davis’s increased to 66% from 37%.

Obviously the transfer admissions rates are a function of a large number of factors (the quality of the applicant pool, the number of students that choose to apply, the spaces available given the admitting colleges’ own dropout/transfer out rates, etc.). So, just use the stats as a metric to get a roundabout sense of how hard it may be to transfer to a particular school, knowing that the numbers can change fairly significantly, but not too dramatically in any given year. Either way, if you’re targeting a school and have good reason to transfer to it (such as any of the many successful real stories mentioned in the book), the stats shouldn’t affect your approach too much either way.

Question of the Day: Do you see any interesting patterns in the stats? Surprised that a particular school has a particular transfer admissions rate? Intrigued that a certain college’s transfer admissions rate changed so much? Let us know in the comments! We plan on following up with some of the schools to better understand their particular policies toward transfer admissions.

(Photo: kkoshy)

The College Transfer Essay: How to Begin and How to End

The introduction and conclusion are often the hardest parts of the transfer essay to write.  The introduction needs to “hook” the reader while the conclusion serves to end the essay “with a bang.”  We recommend saving the introduction and the conclusion to write after you have written the body paragraphs.  We think the best way to conclude your essay is to tie it back to your introduction to give your essay a feeling of completeness and roundness.

We came across some great tips on writing conclusions in the book, College Writing 4 (English for Academic Success) (Bk. 4), by Li-Lee Tunceren and Sharon Cavusgil.  Consider how you might apply these tips to your transfer essays:

One way to write a successful concluding paragraph is to make a clear reference to a specific idea from the introduction. Mentioning an example or detail from the start of your essay gives your paper a sense of wholeness and finality. For example:

  • lf you started with a quotation, return to that quote or add another relevant one by the same person in your conclusion
  • lf you started with a brief story, you might relate how the story ends
  • lf you used numbers or statistics in your introduction, you can mention those in your conclusion as well
  • lf you developed your introduction in a chronological manner, you might end with a prediction for the future
  • lf you began with an interesting statement or comment, you might state the action you want the readers to take
  • lf you focused on a problem, you can suggest a solution to that problem

To start you off, here are some examples of the application of this tie-back model to the transfer essay:


  • Something you accomplished at your current college
  • How elements of that accomplishment would fit in with the college you want to transfer to
  • Who you were when you first started your undergrad career
  • Who you are now and how the college you want to transfer to will help you become who you want to be
  • Your first arrival to your current college
  • Your readiness and enthusiasm to continue with your journey elsewhere (i.e. another college)
  • An anecdote from your childhood
  • An anecdote that fast-forwards to where you are now and where you want to go or what you want to do (e.g. which college and why)


How have you applied the tie-back model to your transfer essays?  Drop us a comment!

(Photo: Yogma)

College Transfer Q&A: Too Many Course Credits?


I’ve just finished one academic year at my current university. Because of my heavy course load during both fall and spring semesters, I’ve accumulated 3 semesters’ worth of credit. I want to apply to transfer Spring 2012. Should I apply as a sophomore or junior transfer? If I don’t get into any school for Spring 2012, I want to apply for Fall 2012, but I’m afraid that I’ll have too many credits by then. Should I take a semester off while applying to transfer?


Depending on which college/university you apply to, the answer may be different, but we’ll offer a general response that applies to many schools. If you will have 3 semesters of coursework by the time you enter as a spring transfer student, then you should apply as a sophomore. If you will have 4, then you should apply as a junior. You should avoid going beyond 4 semesters of coursework credit because then you would have a higher standing than junior status, and many schools don’t accept transfer students who are beyond junior standing.

You currently have two shots at applying to transfer: the Spring 2012 round of applications and the Fall 2012 round. Here’s a road map that you may follow:

  • Continue attending your current university during Fall 2011, and take a regular course load.
  • Complete transfer applications for Spring 2012, applying as a sophomore.
  • If you don’t get into any of the schools you apply to, take the Spring 2012 semester off and do something productive: intern, work, conduct research, etc. The more closely the work aligns with your major or area of expertise, the better. In the meantime, work on your transfer applications for Fall 2012.

Call each school you’re interested in to confirm that this plan makes sense. There may be a school out there that wouldn’t mind if you had more than 4 semesters of course credit, allowing you to avoid taking time off.

Notes about taking time off: taking time off during college may sound like a scary prospect. However, doing so may actually be quite beneficial. Lan took two terms off while she was an undergrad at Stanford (Stanford is on the quarter system and has 3 terms per academic year, plus the summer term). During one term, she studied Japanese language in Japan. During another term, she took time off to intern at a major electronics company, again in Japan. She found those experiences worthwhile, and they were not detrimental to her record. If anything, those experiences bolstered her profile, not to mention the fact that they provided her with opportunities for great professional, academic, and personal development. Just be sure to do something meaningful and productive during your time off. Also, before returning to school, prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to again immerse yourself in college life.

(Photo: Lee J Haywood)

Big Announcement: is Coming

Hi everyone! In response to emails and comments like the ones on this post, we’ve been working for a while now on a major project that we’re really excited about and that we think will be a huge step toward making transferring a lot easier for many of the millions of students that transfer each year. Transferweb is almost ready to be unveiled and we’re inviting the readers of this blog to sign up there for special access. We’ll be asking you for suggestions and feedback on features, and, as it says over there, the more people you invite using your invite link, the more extras we’ll be offering you as thanks. Click here to visit the sign-up page.

Just to be clear, The Transfer Book will always be the most complete and up-to-date source of our best information. We’re still figuring out what features to implement on Transferweb, but we’re definitely using it for things that just don’t work in a book, like discussions, social-networking, more stats, and certain kinds of articles (for example, step-by-step breakdowns of how to transfer between community colleges and state schools in each of the 50 states).

Lan will be be back in a couple of weeks with a great post covering questions we got from a one-on-one help client who shall remain anonymous (of course), and who agreed to let us post our answer to some of her questions about possibly having too many credits to transfer and what taking time off between colleges would entail.

Here’s the link to the Transferweb’s sign up page one more time: click here to sign up for special access.

Any thoughts or suggestions? Post them in the comments below! (Or you can email them to authors (at)


What to Do if You’re on the College Transfer Waitlist

This post is in response to the emails we’ve been getting from students asking us for advice about what to do if they’re placed on the transfer waitlist. Here are some strategies to give your application a boost and relieve some of your stress.

Gather information: For your own peace of mind, gather information. Politely call the admission office to find out how many applicants are on the list and if the college ranks wait-listed students or if it has a priority list. The higher you rank on the list the better your chances of being accepted. Understand that some colleges will not give you any information. Brown University, for example, will not tell you how many students are on the list and the university also doesn’t rank its wait-listed applicants.

Respond to the school: Some schools require that wait-listed applicants send them notification that they would like to remain active on the list. If the school sends you a commitment card or a similar document, be sure to reply to the school.

Write a letter: Write a letter and email it to the dean of admission and Cc it to the office of admission general email address. Begin by thanking the office of admission for their time and consideration. In the letter, include something along the lines of this: “If removed from the waitlist and admitted to X University, I will definitely attend the university.” It’s important to send your personal letter as soon as you can and say that you will definitely enroll if you’re accepted because the school wouldn’t want to “waste” an offer on someone who chose the school only as a back-up. Include anything new that wasn’t in your transfer application, such as updates on achievements, awards, and extra-curricular activities.  If you landed a summer internship or job, include that, too. End by succinctly explaining why you want to go to that school, pointing out the match of your character and objectives to the school’s program, educational approach, and community.

Send additional credentials: Depending on the school, consider sending additional credentials. Use your discretion in taking this approach because bombarding the school with too much unsolicited information might backfire. Assuming that you applied to transfer the following fall, additional credentials you might send include your spring semester transcript and one recommendation letter from a professor who taught you in the spring.

Even after taking all of these steps, much of the process is still out of your control. Schools generally wait to see what their freshmen and transfer enrollment numbers are before admitting students on the transfer waitlist. Regardless of what happens, you should be proud that you’ve made it this far. If you’ve just finished your freshman year and didn’t get into your first choice school, you can stay at your current school and try applying again during the next application season.

(Photo: puuikibeach)

Transfer Requirements: Cornell University Case Study

Meeting requirements for the transfer application is crucial; missing even one item could disqualify your application from being considered. Unfortunately, the requirements are not always straightforward. This post examines the process of determining course requirements for transfer applicants using Cornell University as a case study.

Specifically, let’s say you want to apply to transfer as a junior into the Applied Economics and Management program, a highly competitive major, within the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Begin by following this website pathway: CALS Home > Prospective Students > Admissions > Transfer > External > Required Coursework. You’ll end up on this page showing required coursework for external transfer students.

The top of the page tells you that transfer applicants to most majors within CALS need

  • one full academic year of intro Biology with hands-on labs
  • and two college Writing/English Composition courses or one Writing/English Composition course and one Public Speaking course.

Those requirements sound quite specific already, but look closely at the requirements for particular majors. Click on the one you’re interested in, here, Applied Economics and Management. Now the list is extremely detailed and there are different requirements depending on whether you’re applying as a sophomore or junior transfer. Here are the requirements for students that want to transfer as sophomores:

  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I
    • Encouraged (but not required):
      • Public Speaking
      • One full year of Introductory Biology (labs not required)
      • One course in either Chemistry or Physics

The requirements for junior transfers are similar, but there are many more required courses, given that you would have two full years of college before transferring:

  • Three College Writing/English Composition courses
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Calculus I
  • Statistics

The list looks cumbersome. Note that taking the “encouraged” courses will give you a competitive edge.

Let’s further investigate the College Writing/English Composition requirement because it looks like a major hurdle. Three College Writing/English Composition courses is a lot. However, if you dig carefully enough, you’ll find some semblance of loopholes on the AP credit, transfers, and substitutions page.
Here are the key points about applying AP credit toward this writing course requirement:

All students who score 5 on the Princeton Advanced Placement Examination in English receive 3 credits… Of students who score 4, only Agriculture and Life Sciences students may apply their 3 credits toward the writing requirements of their college.

For most majors, the university will accept nothing but a 5. For students in CALS, a 4 on one of the AP English exams will cover one writing course requirement. Going back to the example of trying to transfer as a junior, even with a 4 on one of the AP English exams, you still have two more required writing courses to fill, so you’ll have to take actual college writing courses. Here’s key information about college transfer credit for these writing courses:

… students must provide evidence that the course was offered on a college campus as part of its normal curriculum and that the work done was comparable to that in a First-Year Writing Seminar (see the guidelines–it is not sufficient to write, say, one 30-page term paper). Courses not taken in the academic year must be at least six weeks long. Students must earn a B+ or better in the course.

Cornell seems “picky” about these writing/composition courses. Now it’s time for you to look at the course catalogue of your current college and seek writing courses that are comparable to Cornell’s First-Year Writing Seminar courses. You can download the spring 2011 brochure of these classes here.

Even after looking at Cornell’s brochure and the brochure of your current school, you may still not be quite sure if writing courses at your college will count toward Cornell’s writing requirement. Try calling the office of admission or registrar, and, if you really want to keep things honest, take notes on whom you speak to, when, and what they tell you. You can keep a log of phone calls (or emails) in an Excel spreadsheet with the following column headings:

School | Name | Position | Date | Notes

If any doubt remains, use the “additional information” section in the Common Application or school-specific application to explain that you did all you could to meet all the transfer requirements and include information about when you called the school and what they told you.

Each school has its own requirements for transfer applicants. With a keen eye, you can be sure to meet every requirement and even go beyond them to put together the best possible application possible.

(Photo: Joe Shlabotnik)