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How to Write a Great Transfer Essay

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common app prompt typewriterIf you find yourself reading this post, you’ve already been through the college application process once. You wrote the essays; you got accepted (!); you made your choice. But now that you’re on campus, you’ve decided that this school just isn’t for you. It happens! The mere decision to re-apply and relive this entire process is daunting unto itself, and writing a fantastic transfer essay is not an easy feat. The transfer essay presents new hurdles that differ from those of the standard freshman personal statement. Fortunately, you already know the ropes! We know you can handle it, but just to be eeeextra sure, we made you a guide!

Here is the most common prompt for transfer students applying through the Common App:  

“Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve.” (250-600 words)

The three key steps to mastering the transfer essay are as follows:

Step One: Establish why you want to transfer.

Tell admissions why you want to transfer, and do so without speaking negatively about your current institution. Are you looking for a bigger school? Do you want to attend a university in a tech-centric city? Did you just discover your passion for a major that your current institution doesn’t offer? Transferring is a big decision, so it’s important to show that your intentions are clear. Whatever the reason, refrain from speaking ill of your current school. You want to come off as optimistic and forward thinking to admissions.  

Step Two: Demonstrate your interest.

Why are you applying to this school in particular? You’ve been through the admissions cycle before and you are wiser than you were a year or two ago. Admissions officers will expect that you’ve done your research and are making a calculated, thoughtful decision to transfer. Your interest in transferring to one school should be directly related to your reason for leaving your current school: What gaps or unmet needs will your prospective institution address? Do you want to transfer for the school’s humongous alumni network, award-winning journalism program, or non-profit affiliations? Have you always dreamed of living in the city in which the school is located? Make sure admissions knows that you aren’t applying because “it’s gotta be better than my current school” but because this school is where you feel you truly belong. Illustrate your drive and maybe you’ll be hitting the ground running come the fall. (Hint: the best way to get the information you need is by setting aside a chunk of time to pore over the school website. Sorry, there’s no shortcut, even the second time around.)

Step Three: Establish the highlights of your collegiate career so far.

You have an edge that most freshman don’t: You’ve already been to college, so you know a bit more about the experience as well as your own academic and career goals. Being able to say that you know you will succeed at your school of choice because you flourish in small classrooms, lead in group projects, excel in the math and sciences or whatever your reasoning may be is crucial. Talk about what you have enjoyed about college thus far (again, be positive!) and how you hope to build on your experience at your (hopefully) new school!

Once you complete these three steps, you will have all the ingredients for a fantastic transfer essay! But before you hit submit, a final word of warning: some schools require transfer applicants to submit supplemental essays (remember those?). Do yourself a favor and compile a list of these in advance to ensure that every essay you write reveals something new and special to admissions. But first, give yourself a pat on the back. By reading this post, you’ve already given yourself a leg up (at least we think so). Go you!  

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