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: http://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Docs/AlternateVersionTechnologyFAQ.pdf
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!