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!

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