Planning to Transfer to Another College? Here are Some Transfer Application Tips
The college application season may be underway for current high school seniors, but there’s another group of admissions hopefuls that also need some guidance this season: undergraduate transfer students.
For those considering a transfer to another college or university, it’s important to understand what’s expected in the transfer admissions process, how it differs from the traditional application process, and how likely they are to be admitted.
While application deadlines for transfer admissions are usually in March, it’s important to gain an understanding of the process in order to decide if it’s ultimately the right move for you. IvyWise Principal Admission Counselor Devin works frequently with transfer applicants and has some great insight into the process.
Here are some transfer admission FAQs to help students gain a better understanding of the process and what they need to do to prepare.
Q: When writing the personal statement as a transfer applicant, is it no longer relevant to talk about a meaningful experience as one would when applying as a high school senior?
Devin: For the most part, transfer admissions committees are more interested in knowing why a student is deciding to transfer. If you are transferring from one four year university to another, you should have a good reason for wanting to switch schools, which could certainly include a meaningful experience. If that meaningful experience relates directly to the reason for why you want to attend a different university, the applicant should include that in his or her personal statement. For some applicants, there are clear reasons for transferring that include unfortunate events, such as financial troubles or being a victim of assault, for example. In these instances, a student’s reason for transferring is clear, and the meaningful experience in this case should be explained carefully.
Q: Since it’s true that some schools really accept a small percentage of transfers, what should transfer students know about applying to selective institutions?
Devin: If a student is applying to transfer to a highly selective institution, he or she should know that admit rates are generally lower for transfer students than for first-time, first-year applicants. At the most competitive schools, admissions committees are looking to fill seats that are vacated by students at the end of every freshman year. The trouble with highly selective schools is that these students are so well prepared and dedicated to remain enrolled that there are rarely any students who leave the school at the end of their first year. This means that there are usually fewer than 20 openings for transfers to enroll.
If a student applied as a first year student and was not admitted, that student would have an even more difficult time gaining admission as a transfer to the same institution. There has to be a considerable difference between that student’s first year application and transfer application in order to be attractive to transfer admissions committees. Most admissions officers would prefer to give other candidates a chance at enrolling over the student who has applied more than once. In these cases, it is better to apply to a school to which you have never been a candidate.
Q: How likely are transfer students to receive merit scholarships at institutions that offer such funding? Though scholarships can be hard for transfers to come by, how can they increase their chances to receive one?
Devin: Receiving a merit based scholarship really depends from school to school. When a student is planning their transfer to another school, they should check with the admissions offices to find out more information about scholarships. It is reasonable to expect that the better your grades are, the more likely it will be that you will receive a scholarship.
Q: It’s clear that students should take a challenging course load if they hope to transfer, but are there any strategies in particular that could help? For example, if a student wants to transfer to a business program, should he or she take as many business-related classes as possible?
Devin: I refrain from encouraging any student to take as many courses as possible within one academic discipline in order to be admitted to a different school. This strategy might lead a candidate to be a ‘one note pony’ by accident. A better approach is to research the typical first year course load at the school to which you intend to transfer, and check for distributional requirements that you would have to meet. If all engineering majors have to complete a semester of foreign language, add a foreign language course to your schedule. In addition, if you are required to complete prerequisite courses in your first two years at your target school, be sure to add these to your schedule so that you will be able to take the courses in your major after you transfer. For business majors, this would include courses in calculus I & II as well as micro and macro economics.
Be mindful that your objective in college is to learn new things, so don’t make every course you take ‘fit’ your major if you don’t have to. Any free electives should be used to explore more interesting topics that you have never studied before. Admissions committees love to see unexpected selections like gender studies or art history on the transcript of a candidate applying to engineering or business. At the end of your undergraduate career, you should be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the things taught in your academic major, however, the things you learn in an unrelated course will stand alone and make you a more knowledgeable person in general.
Q: When should students aim to get started on their transfer applications, given that they’re due later in the year (usually March 1 or 15)?
Devin: Transfer applications require more documentation than most first-time, first year applications; the earlier you start, the better. Most admissions offices will ask for a Registrar’s Report, Dean’s Report, Professor’s Report, and Midterm Report as well as documents from your high school. Be mindful that it takes time to for all of these offices to locate and send your credentials so that they arrive at their destinations before the deadline. I would hazard to guess that if you haven’t contacted all of the parties that will send your paperwork at least a month before the deadline, you are ‘behind the 8 ball’ already. To illustrate this point, consider which professors will provide a letter of recommendation for you. You have go give this person enough time to write the letter. Depending on how busy this professor is it could take weeks for this person to draft something on your behalf.
Be sure to check the admissions webpage for each school to which you intend to apply. Create a spreadsheet of the required documents, deadlines, and contact details for each institution. Call every office of admission and ask to speak to a transfer admissions officer so that you can go over all of the requirements with that person. Be sure to ask about the usual pitfalls that applicants encounter when applying to that school.