The College Transfer Application Essay: “Why Transfer” Example

In this post, we analyze an essay example excerpted from College Admission Essays for Dummies by Geraldine Woods to complement the example for the University of Pennsylvania that we’ve previously critiqued. The essay we’ll analyze here leaves a lot of room for improvement, though it has some positive aspects. We’ll tell you what you can do to write a much better essay and give you advice on writing a winning piece. Lastly, we have no idea whether the application that this essay was a part of was successful or not, or even if this essay was actually written by a student applying to a school. If you want other examples, our book provides examples of actual successful transfer essays (and stats) for Stanford, UPenn, Columbia, Cornell, and other schools.

The essay here includes reasons for transferring to a specific four-year school, Northern State. Many colleges and universities now use the Common Application for transfer applications, requiring transfer applicants to write a Common Application essay describing the reasons for transferring and to also write several school-specific supplement essays. The prompt for this essay wasn’t included, but it was probably for a school-specific essay. We’ll critique the essay as is and explain parts that might fit into the Common Application essay or a school-specific essay. We’ll analyze the essay one paragraph at a time.

Paragraph 1:

No, I am not homesick. I have friends. The work is not overwhelming. Nor has it interfered with my involvement in extracurricular activities. My first semester has been a time of transition as it is for most college freshmen. Making decisions regarding course selection, seeking advice from advisors, and utilizing time efficiently have all been part of the process, accomplished at a distance from the familiar support structures and cues of both home and high school. As a result, I have developed a greater sense of myself and my abilities, both academic and social. The experience has been satisfying. However, with all due introspection and now retrospection, I feel a change is necessary.

This opening is fairly weak because it is very general. I learned very little about this applicant from this paragraph, which could be entirely omitted to reduce the number of unnecessary words. Admission officers have many applications to read; there’s no need to burden them with excessive words. Some of the best Common Application transfer essays I’ve read started with a brief “a slice of life” anecdote, a short narrative that captures an episode in one’s life. If you decide to feature an anecdote in your introduction, create a vivid image (or movie) of a piece of your life in the reader’s mind. You would then have a hook. Other than including a short transition, avoid dragging this story into the next paragraph. Don’t make this episode the sole content of your essay. For school-specific essays, which often have a tight word limit, writing an anecdote might not be the best use of the limited space. Instead, consider writing one or two introductory sentences and then diving right into your specific reasons for wanting to transfer.

Paragraph 2:

Sociologist Lev Vygotsky believed that peers play a major role in an individual’s development and learning. The students and friends with whom I grew up were extraordinarily bright, competitive, and creative. In high school, discussions and opinions on almost any subject were spontaneous and interesting. At Central State, the small class size and the seminar formats have presented a great setting in which to learn. The highly motivated professors, who encourage participation, have been the highlight of my experience thus far. However, the level of student interaction has not been gratifying. Conversations concerning classroom topics and related materials have been limited. I have not been sufficiently challenged or stimulated by my peers.

This paragraph has an interesting topic sentence. Also, the applicant writes positively about her current school, citing, for example, its small class size and the seminar formats. Avoid sounding overly negative about your current school because you don’t want to badmouth any school. Despite its positive aspects, this paragraph lacks concrete details. Why is it that “the level of student interaction has not been gratifying”? What did the writer mean in stating, “Conversations concerning classroom topics and related materials have been limited”? Adhering to the word limit, make sure to reserve space for specific details that will help the reader understand exactly why you want to transfer.

If you’re writing a general Common Application transfer essay that is not about a specific school, you should include this type of information so that much of your essay will discuss why your current school isn’t your best fit (but don’t be too negative!). On the other hand, a school-specific “why transfer” essay needs to focus on the aspects of that particular school that align with your needs or the type of college experience that you seek. See more information on our blog post about writing the Common Application main transfer essay versus the school-specific supplemental essay.

Paragraph 3:

During my first semester, I have come to realize the influence a community has on my learning and growth. At Central State, the campus is active from around eleven in the morning until three in the afternoon, Monday through Friday. One Saturday in October, while walking to the dining hall, I realized that I was one of five people on campus. With the majority of undergraduates living in on-campus dorms, the campus of Northern State fosters a unique intimacy. The campus is lively throughout the day. Such activity creates a comfortable environment that promotes interaction and the formation of strong bonds between members of the community. Having experienced a year of college and dorm life, I am more aware of what is best for me. As a transfer student, I would appreciate this style of living even more.

The type of information in this paragraph is well-suited for a school-specific transfer essay. The writer has now moved from focusing on classes to discussing campus life. The statement, “One Saturday in October, while walking to the dining hall, I realized that I was one of five people on campus” provides clear imagery of a negative aspect of the applicant’s current school in terms of the applicant’s needs or desires. Brief examples should be included to show how Northern State “fosters a unique intimacy” and how it is “lively throughout the day.” To conclude this paragraph, the applicant writes, “As a transfer student, I would appreciate this style of living even more.” I wonder what she plans to do to take advantage of this style of living so that she can be more appreciative of it.

Paragraph 4:

Based on conversations with current students, it is my understanding that members of the Northern State community make it a unique place to live and learn. Many renowned professors choose to teach at the undergraduate level. Having the chance to interact with an instructor such as Avery Marks, whose passion and mastery of botany are unrivaled, would be quite an experience. The most defining aspect of Northern State’s faculty, however, is the manner in which they approach their role in influencing a student’s life. Professors, instructors, and advisors guide the student so that he/she can make independent decisions.

By the end of the paragraph, we still don’t know how “members of the Northern State community make it a unique place to live and learn,” but as you’ll see, she gives a clear example in the next paragraph. Here, the applicant includes interesting, specific examples to show that she knows about the school and has compelling reasons to want to transfer there. Mentioning a specific professor that you’re interested in would show that you’ve researched the school. If you plan to major in biology and you’re especially interested in plants, highlighting a professor who specializes in botany, as in this paragraph, would be appropriate, but avoid empty name-dropping. Your interest in, say biology or botany, should also be apparent in other parts of your application. The last sentence regarding student guidance does not seem to be substantiated anywhere in the paragraph or essay.

Paragraph 5:

Furthermore, the structure and aspects of Northern State’s residential colleges foster the formation of relationships. For the remainder of my undergraduate years I want to return “home” to a very close group of friends for nightly dinners and conversations concerning daily activities. The strong bonds that are formed within a diverse group of people who make up these individual communities create an optimal atmosphere in which to grow, socially and intellectually.

This paragraph, which emphasizes a unique aspect of Northern State, provides an example of information to include in a school-specific transfer essay.

Concluding paragraph:

All aspects of Northern State seem to enhance learning. Guidance from faculty members and challenges from peers within Northern’s close-knit community create a setting in which I can pursue current interests and discover new one while simultaneously discovering my future direction. This is the purpose of the undergraduate experience.

The best part of this conclusion is its brevity. I’m not sure what “this” refers to in the last sentence; many writing guides suggest that you place a noun after “this” to avoid ambiguity. Though every essay does not need to end with a “bang,” conclusions should be at least interesting. One strategy for writing a good conclusion is to tie it to the introduction, a strategy that could not be used in this essay due to its weak, general introduction. We talk about this tie-back strategy in our post about writing an introduction and conclusion to your transfer essay.

Concluding words: Each transfer application is unique, and therefore, we cannot provide an exhaustive list of details and information that should be included. Use this analysis as a guideline for writing your Common Application and school supplemental essays and try to critique your own essays in the manner we’ve done here.

(Photo: xelcise)

University of Michigan: Transfer Spotlight

When people refer to the University of Michigan (U-M), they almost always mean the Ann Arbor campus. From here on, “U-M” denotes the main (Ann Arbor) campus. Note that though U-M-Dearborn and U-M-Flint are also part of the University of Michigan system, transfer students from those schools to U-M are considered new transfers. In this post, we highlight key points primarily for community college transfer applicants.

Brief Background

U-M is a large public, four-year institution with 19 schools and colleges, offering a vast array of areas of study. Sixty-two percent of the students are in-state, which means they benefit from in-state tuition. Nonetheless, a good portion of students are out-of-state, so don’t pass up this school just because you’re not a Michigan resident. You can apply to transfer to one of eleven undergraduate schools or colleges, but you must choose beforehand because the admission process is school/college-specific.

Community College Transfers and U-M

If you’re a community college student looking to transfer to a four-year institution of academic prestige, consider U-M, which is usually considered to be well within the top 50 national universities. Depending on who you ask, U-M may be considered one of the “New Ivies,” comparable to NYU and Northwestern. Very few schools of this caliber have a website devoted exclusively to community college students. Among other useful pieces of information, the website explains that transfers from community colleges are eligible for federal, state, and institutional financial aid, just like other incoming students. In the MythBusters section, FAQs and useful answers are covered. One of the best points covered is closely related to our post on how to overcome a weak high school GPA (click on the link to see our take):

MYTH: Even though I am getting straight As at my community college, my high school grades were bad, which will prevent me from getting into Michigan.

FACT: Not so! We look at the whole person when reviewing applications for admission, not just high-school grades. The fact that your college grades are so much improved will actually work in your favor, because it tells us that you are moving in the right direction. Talking about your struggles in high school and how you overcame them can also be an important part of your essay.

To be a competitive transfer applicant, strive to get straight As in your community college courses. There are over 1,200 incoming U-M transfer students each year, which may sound like a large number, but given the sheer number of transfer applicants–about 3,000 annually–transfer admissions is competitive. Also, consider the bigger picture: in 2006, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a major supporter of community college transfers, reported that the number of community college students transferring to the most competitive institutions had decreased. In 1984, 22.8 percent transferred to the most competitive public universities, but in 2002, the percentage dropped to 18.8.

Transfer Credit

U-M provides detailed information on transfer credit. The vast majority of undergrads are in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts (LSA). Current (and future) community college students in Michigan aiming to transfer to LSA should carefully review the transfer guide for their specific community college here. We highly recommend that Michigan community college students enter a transfer agreement with your community college. If you’re experiencing difficulty deciphering the guidelines, be sure to visit the transfer counselor at your college.

For students at out-of-state community colleges or other institutions, this page has a list of the general education requirements at LSA. Although not strictly required, these are classes that you really should take to make yourself a more competitive transfer applicant. If you want to apply to other U-M schools or colleges, carefully read the information here. The College of Engineering, for example, has a list of specific prerequisites that you must fulfill to be considered for transfer admission.


Applying to U-M can be a great opportunity, but don’t miss your chance by not adhering to transfer admissions guidelines. Visit the links embedded in this post to get more information!

(Photo: snre)

Transfer Friendly College Spotlight: Emory University

Emory University is a four-year private institution in Atlanta, GA with a total of 5,268 undergraduates. Within the larger university is Emory College of Arts and Sciences, which accounts for most of the undergrads. The college offers majors typical of a liberal arts school with degrees ranging from a BS in Computer Science to a BA in Italian Studies. After thoroughly examining Emory’s website and other sources, we have determined that Emory is transfer friendly for many reasons, which we’ll go over now.


Whereas many top schools only allow transfer admissions in the fall, you have several options on when to apply to Emory.  You can apply to enter either in the fall, spring, or summer. If flexibility in timing is what you’re looking for, put Emory on your list.

A Second Shot

Did you apply to Emory as a freshman but got rejected? If you were placed on the waiting list and offered a conditional acceptance, hang on tight and you can still get in. Under Emory’s Conditional Transfer Admission program, as long as you remain active on the waiting list, complete your freshman year somewhere else, and meet a set of requirements, you can transfer to Emory as a sophomore. What a great deal if you still have your heart set on Emory after a year!

Increase in Number of Transfer Students

Emory’s undergrad transfer acceptance rate was actually higher than the freshman acceptance rate in 2009.  That year, 39.5% of transfer applicants was accepted, while 29.7% of freshman applicants was accepted. According to this article in the Emory student newspaper, Emory received 704 transfer applications for fall 2010, up from 550 the previous year. Of those that were admitted, 170 actually chose to enroll in Emory, while school had a declared goal of bringing in 235 transfer students. Why does Emory want more transfer students? The article quotes Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Joanne Brzinski :

[The] University set a goal to increase the number of transfer students, especially through the conditional admission program, after observing an overall increase in the quality of applicants, leaving numerous good students on the wait-list.

In addition, the Dean of Admissions there, Jean Jordan, is quoted as writing the following:

A recent analysis had also shown that the academic performance of transfer students paralleled that of those joining the undergraduate population as first year students…

Basically, the university is receiving higher quality applicants across the board (and it wants to admit more of them), and transfer students do as well as students that entered as freshmen.

Need-based Financial Aid for Everyone, including Transfer Students

Emory has a strong reputation for financial aid. For one, as of February 2010, the school’s endowment was $4.3 billion. To give you some perspective, NYU’s endowment was $2.43 billion as of October 2010. Note that NYU’s undergraduate population is MUCH bigger than that of Emory: NYU has over 21,000 undergraduates in total, which means that it’s endowment has to stretch a lot further than Emory’s.

With it’s sizable endowment, Emory can offer need-based financial aid to students, including transfer students.  This aid can be in the form of a grant that you don’t need to repay, money for doing a work-study job, and low-interest loans.  Get an overview of financial aid at Emory here.  Committed to helping transfer students, Emory has a step-by-step guide on how prospective transfers can apply for financial aid.  You can find that info here.

Help for Transfer Applicants

Probably due to the school’s goal to increase their transfer student population, they have a designated transfer admission counselor. This person also happens to be the Assistant Dean of Admission.

A Warm Welcome to Transfers

Once you’re in, you’re treated to a transfer student orientation where you can meet other transfer students and get to know the school without feeling like a freshman again.

On-campus housing is available for incoming transfer students, who are treated as second-year students. (Many schools leave transfer students to find off-campus housing on their own.) Here’s housing info specifically for incoming transfer students.

Last Words

A transfer friendly college/university is often characterized by a willingness to first take you in and then take care of you once you’re in. Emory has both of those qualities. If you like what you’ve seen so far, we encourage you to spend more time learning about Emory.

Is Emory a really transfer-friendly school? Did you or anyone you know transfer there? Let us know in the comments below! Thanks!

(Photo: Nrbelex)

The Transfer Book Survey Results and Odds and Ends

Hope everyone had a great holiday! We thought people might be curious about some of the results of the survey so here are some of our findings. Thanks again to everyone who participated! It’s really helpful for us to get feedback like this (please keep leaving comments!) so we know if we’re hitting the mark or not. We’re definitely using this information to prioritize what we put out there.

The Transfer Book Blog Readers

What Readers Want to Know About

Surprised? Want to stress that there should still be more information for community college students? Or maybe you totally agree that you want to know more about writing the essay? Let us know your thoughts below!

Odds and Ends

Our three giveaway winners were:


Congratulations! By now, you should have all received emails regarding your prizes. In case anyone is curious, we used to generate the winners.

Also, while we’re dealing with random bits and pieces, we just wanted to point out that there’s a really active discussion (16 comments so far!) going on at this post: Transferring Colleges: Three Ways to Overcome a Weak High School GPA (even though it’s not showing up on our most popular posts sidebars).

Thanks for reading – and for the feedback – now we’ll get back to posting more on the transfer topics you’re interested in.  In fact, Lan’s got a great post spotlighting a really academically strong, transfer-friendly school coming up very soon.

If you’ve got a second, chip in your two cents about what you’re interested in seeing more of on the blog in the comments! Thanks!

Transfer Deadlines Table Added (UCs coming up pretty soon)

U Toronto

We just added a table that goes through the transfer application deadlines (for both fall and spring entry, if applicable) for some of the top schools in the US (the Top 50 National Universities according to US News). We also threw in – because, you guessed it, we love you – whether or not the college uses the common application and the application fee for each college (though bear in mind all the colleges listed accept fee waivers for financial hardship). (Starting to use a bit too many parentheses here, but we chose the image above because we thought it was appropriately ominous given the subject of deadlines.)

Check the table out by clicking here or by hovering over the “Stats” tab at the top of the page and clicking on the last option in the dropdown menu. Note that the transfer application deadline for all of the University of California campuses is coming up soon. (Nov. 30!)

Important note: ALWAYS CHECK with the college’s website to make sure the data is correct. We made every effort to be accurate, but things change and we don’t automatically receive updates from the schools. There are also more details available at each colleges’ website.

Random P.S. One of our readers posted a very nice review of our book here, on the blog for a class she’s taking at the university she successfully transferred to. Thanks Hannah!

(Photo: bensonkua)

Fall 2009 College Transfer Acceptance Rates Added

Grove admissions

We just added the recently released Fall 09 transfer admissions numbers for some of the top schools in the US (the 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 2009 and 2008 at the same schools. Click here to check it out, or hover over the “Stats” menu and click on the third 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.

Overall, it’s a pretty mixed bag. About 18 of the 50 colleges had their transfer admissions rates increase versus last year (that is, they were able to admit a greater portion of their applicant pool than the previous year), while 28 of the 50 became more selective (that is, they admitted a lower percentage of their applicants versus last year). Two (Harvard and Princeton) continued to not admit any transfers (though Harvard recently repealed that policy), and we couldn’t get the data from last year for another two (Yeshiva and U. Miami).

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 we don’t think it makes sense to draw too many conclusions from the data. 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: jrossol)

Transfer Program at Harvard College Resumes

If you look at our table of transfer acceptance rates, you’ll see that Harvard’s rate says “0.0%.” That’s because the transfer program ceased to even exist, but now Harvard is accepting transfer applicants again.

An article in the Harvard Gazette shares the news. Here are the highlights for prospective transfer applicants:

Harvard’s generous financial aid policies will apply to transfer students.

Yes, it’s nice to go to a “wealthy” school. Harvard, with an endowment of over $25 billion (as of 2009), can afford to share the love. Watch out for other schools that are less generous to transfer students than freshmen.

What does it take to be a competitive Harvard transfer applicant?

“Harvard seeks students with clearly developing academic interests that can be well served by Harvard,” said Marlene Vergara Rotner, director of transfer admissions.  “Students who apply should be enrolled in a challenging liberal arts curriculum that includes mathematics, science, and a foreign language.”

“Transfer admission closely mirrors that of freshman admissions, insofar as it looks beyond good grades and test scores and considers the qualities of creativity, intellectual curiosity, and independent thinking,” Rotner said.  “Other factors weighed in the evaluation of transfer candidates include significant nonacademic talents and personal qualities such as a capacity for leadership, energy, character, motivation, and a sense of responsibility.”

Academics are important, but an immaculate transcript alone just doesn’t cut it for Harvard and the other ivy plus schools. In contrast, many state universities that have transfer articulation agreements with community colleges usually just look at grades and GPA. In many cases, when applying to a four-year school under a transfer articulation agreement, a transfer essay is not even needed.

For most transfer applicants, Harvard is definitely a “reach” school. However, if you think you have what it takes, it’s worth a shot. We wish you all the best with your transfer process!

(Photo: David Paul Ohmer)

It’s Not Too Late to Apply to Transfer to Another College

Spring enrollment

Though many schools post their transfer application deadline as some time around March 1, that is not the case with all schools. We’ll look at three ways in which some colleges/universities are open to accepting transfer applications at a later time.

1. Deadlines are later for spring enrollment

People who want to transfer into say, NYU, in the fall of their sophomore/junior year must submit their applications by April 1st, which is later than the standard March 1st deadline. However, students that want to transfer the spring semester of their sophomore year have until November 1st, which means a lot more time than the April 1st deadline. Here’s the NYU transfer applicant info page:

To browse a list of the many other schools that admit transfer students in the spring term, copy and paste this into the Google search box: Terms in which transfers may enroll: Fall, Spring

You’ll get a list of results that look like the image at the top of this post.

Effectively, you’re searching through the list of colleges featured on and extracting the colleges/universities that admit transfers in the spring.

2. Many schools have rolling transfer admission

That’s good news for those who need a late start on a second chance. These schools are happy to consider your application as long as space permits. While submitting your application ASAP is the best option, it’s never really too late to apply to transfer. Baylor University, DePaul University, and many other colleges/universities have rolling transfer admission. Similar to the above technique, to browse a list of such schools use Google to search: Rolling admission for transfer students

3. Some schools still have space for both freshmen and transfers

For one reason or another, these schools have spots that have yet to be filled. Check out the below list compiled by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Your best-fit school might just be waiting for you!

The punchline of today’s post: if there’s a will, there’s a way, and it’s never really too late!

Update (11/5/10): We just added a table that goes through the transfer application deadlines (for both fall and spring entry, if applicable) for some of the top schools in the US (the Top 50 National Universities according to US News). We also threw in whether or not the college uses the common application and the application fee for each college (though bear in mind all the colleges listed accept fee waivers for financial hardship). Check the table out by clicking here or by hovering over the “Stats” tab at the top of the page and clicking on the last option in the dropdown menu.

The College Transfer Application Essay: An Example for the University of Pennsylvania

(Update: We’ve added another “why” transfer essay example with a detailed critique here.)

One of the most important elements in your transfer application is the essay on why you want to transfer to the college of your choice. Here, we’ll deconstruct a real-life transfer application essay by David, a student who is trying to transfer from Amherst College to the University of Pennsylvania. The essay was posted on, which says that the essay is for the Common Transfer Application, but it is school-specific even though the common application tells you not to customize your main essay there for particular schools. For more on what we think about that instruction, see what we have to say in this post, The Common Application is Flawed, and this post, College Transfer Q&A: Common Application General Transfer Essay vs School Supplement Essay?. This essay was more likely written for the University of Pennsylvania Application Supplement for Freshmen and Transfer Applicants, which has the following prompt:


Answer the essay question on a separate sheet of paper. (Do not exceed one page.)

Benjamin Franklin established the Union Fire Company, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, and, of course, the charity school that evolved into the University of Pennsylvania. As they served the larger community of Philadelphia, each institution in turn formed its own community.

Which of the academic communities and social communities that now comprise the University of Pennsylvania are most interesting to you and how will you contribute to them and to the larger Penn community?

For freshman applicants, the prompt is straightforward. They just have to talk about a great academic and social community at Penn. The transfer applicant, however, must also explain why s/he wants to transfer to Penn. Lastly, we have no idea whether David’s application was successful or not. If you want other examples, our book provides examples of actual successful transfer essays (and stats) for Stanford, UPenn, Columbia, Cornell, and other schools.

We’ll work through David’s essay for Penn, paragraph by paragraph, looking at the good and the not-so-good.

Paragraph 1:

During the summer after my first year of college, I spent six weeks volunteering at an archaeological excavation in Hazor, site of the largest tel (mound) in Israel. My time in Hazor was not easy – wake-up came at 4:00 a.m., and by noontime temperatures were often in the 90s. The dig was sweaty, dusty, back-breaking work. I wore out two pairs of gloves and the knees in several pairs of khakis. Nevertheless, I loved every minute of my time in Israel. I met interesting people from around the world, worked with amazing students and faculty from Hebrew University, and became fascinated with the current efforts to create a portrait of life in the Canaanite period.

This opening paragraph works well because it follows our rule 3 for the college transfer essay: Be specific. It also follows the mantra for college essay writing: Show. Don’t tell. For the most part, he verbally creates a visual for the reader, helping us to imagine what it felt like to work at the archaeological dig.

Imagine if he had written something vague like, “I volunteered at an archaeological excavation in Israel and learned a lot from the experience. I worked with great people who taught me more about my field of interest, and I truly grew as a person. [More of the same fluff…]” This kind of essay doesn’t really tell admission officers anything. Don’t waste their time with filler statements.

To strengthen this paragraph, he could highlight his accomplishments by pointing out one concrete way in which he added value to the project. The college transfer essay is the place for you to make your superstar qualities shine.

Paragraph 2:

Upon my return to Amherst College for my sophomore year, I soon came to realize that the school does not offer the exact major I now hope to pursue. I’m majoring in anthropology, but the program at Amherst is almost entirely contemporary and sociological in its focus. More and more my interests are becoming archaeological and historical. When I visited Penn this fall, I was impressed by the breadth of offerings in anthropology and archaeology, and I absolutely loved your Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Your broad approach to the field with emphases on understanding both the past and present has great appeal to me. By attending Penn, I hope to broaden and deepen my knowledge in anthropology, participate in more summer field work, volunteer at the museum, and eventually go on to graduate school in archaeology.

It looks like he took the effort to learn about Penn and its anthropology program. He clearly lays out the difference between the program at his current college and Penn, getting to the heart of his reason for applying to transfer to Penn.

This part could be improved by mentioning a particular course at Penn that exemplifies the aspects of the anthropology program that stand out for the applicant. What’s so special about the anthropology and archaeology courses at Penn? Don’t they have those courses elsewhere?

The line, “I absolutely loved your Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology” is not informative. Perhaps he let rule 3 (be specific) slip a little. An example of why he “loves” the museum would be helpful. He could also include one line about how the availability of the museum could specifically add to his anthropology education.

The last sentence could use some work. What kind of summer fieldwork (or fieldwork with which professor)? Although it’s great that he pointed out his desire to pursue graduate studies in archaeology, he could elaborate on how transferring to Penn could help him reach that goal.

Paragraph 3:

My reasons for transferring are almost entirely academic. I have made many good friends at Amherst, and I have studied with some wonderful professors. However, I do have one non-academic reason for being interested in Penn. I originally applied to Amherst because it was comfortable – I come from a small town in Wisconsin, and Amherst felt like home. I’m now looking forward to pushing myself to experience places that aren’t quite so familiar. The kibbutz at Kfar HaNassi was one such environment, and the urban environment of Philadelphia would be another.

This is a great paragraph, in which he follows our rule 2: Be honest. He is honest with himself as well as the Penn admission officers, in that he admits that there are reasons related to his social life and personal development driving him to apply to transfer. He’s also following our rule 1 (be mature) by exhibiting his understanding of himself and hope to leave his comfort zone. Also, he emphasizes another benefit of attending Penn—its urban setting, which greatly differs from the area around Amherst and what he’s used to.

Concluding paragraph:

As my transcript shows, I have done well at Amherst and I am convinced I can meet the academic challenges of Penn. I know I would grow at Penn, and your program in anthropology perfectly matches my academic interests and professional goals.

The essay doesn’t really end strongly. For some advice on wrapping up your essay in style, see this post, The College Transfer Essay: How to Begin and How to End.

Overall, this essay is a pretty good one. Maybe we’re being too picky, but you should really aim for the best when writing an essay that’s so crucial. Our transfer guide has real-life, successful examples and advice about the transfer essay from actual transfer students, so check it out!

(Photo: Ryan Neuls)

College Transfer Applicants: Exactly What You Need to Say to Improve Your Odds

A college’s office of admission is a fountain of information. You just need to know how to bottle that info. In this post, we will tell you exactly what to say to get the info you need to put together a winning transfer application. If you haven’t decided on which colleges to apply to yet, these tips will help you pick your best fit.

Making the Call to Schedule an Appointment

This is exactly what you need to say when making that first step:

Office: Hi, Office of Admission. How may I help you?

You: Hi. I’m thinking about applying to transfer. Would it be possible to schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor who works with transfer applicants? (If you can’t meet in person: “Would it be possible to schedule a phone appointment with a counselor who works with transfer applicants?”)

Office: Sure…

You: May I have the counselor’s email address and direct phone number just in case?

Office: Sure…

Using Your Appointment Time Wisely

Don’t go to your appointment empty-handed! Bring:

  • Your high school transcript (an unofficial copy is fine)
  • Your undergrad transcript (an unofficial copy is fine)
  • Resume
  • List of questions to ask the counselor
  • A notebook and a pen/pencil

When you meet with the counselor, s/he might ask you to first introduce yourself. Say:

I’m currently a [freshman/sophomore] at [undergrad school name]. I’m studying (or I want to study) [major]. I plan to apply to transfer to [college/university name] because [reason 1]. I also want to [reason 2].

Wait for a natural break during the introduction phase to segue into the real meat of the meeting:

I hope you don’t mind, but I prepared a list of questions that I wanted to ask you.

Questions to include on your list:

  • What does X College look for in a competitive transfer applicant?
  • How can I distinguish myself from the other applicants?
  • How much weight is put on an applicant’s high school record?
  • How important is my SAT score?
  • What advice do you have regarding the application essay?
  • I read on the school’s website that [info you garnered from the site]. Can you tell me more about that?
  • etc.

As you go down your list of questions, take a lot of notes. Consider these notes your holy grail as you complete your transfer application.

Very important: periodically check the time to see how much you have left in the appointment. Don’t waste the counselor’s time by running over. When you have about 10 or 15 minutes left, very politely say:

Just to provide you with a frame of reference, I brought my transcripts and resume. If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind taking a look at them and letting me know if I might be a competitive applicant or if anything stands out?

Responses will vary, but many counselors are there to help, so they won’t say no unless it’s against the school’s policy or something. If the counselor does look at your credentials, ask a few burning questions you have. For example:

As you’ll notice I have [something negative/weird] in my transcript. That’s because [reason]. How should I explain that in the application?

In the end, you can close by very, extremely politely asking:

I know that you, obviously, can’t tell me if I’ll get in, but I was wondering if I even look like a competitive applicant and if I should even bother applying.

This is a straightforward question that, sorry to say, won’t necessarily lead to a straightforward response. However, you’d have to be really dense to not get the hint if the counselor is utterly hesitant to say, “Sure, why not give it a shot?” Same goes for a positive response. You’ll have to rely on the honesty of people and your ability to judge tone and facial expression to get the most out of this question.

If you have to do the appointment over the phone, email the counselor in advance:

Dear [Ms./Mr. counselor’s name],

My name is [your name]. I’m planning to apply to [school name] as a transfer applicant. I have a phone appointment with you on [date and time].

You must be very busy, but I was wondering if it would be fine to email digital copies of my transcripts and resume to you to provide you with a frame of reference for our appointment. Of course, I would understand if you preferred that I didn’t.

Thank you for your time.


[your name]

The answers are all right in front of you. Pick up the phone and make that call. Once you get all the insider’s tips, use your new knowledge and get to work on your winning application!

(Photo: hiddedevries)