transfer essays

The Do’s and Don’ts of Transfer Essays

Writing application essays is a dreaded task, especially when it's your second time. But don’t worry, transfer essays are easy to ace.
February 14, 2018
6 mins read

As the deadline for transfer applications quickly approaches, many college students have to struggle with writing a unique transfer essay. Making the decision to apply to transfer is stressful enough, the nuisance of having to produce a brand-new college application stops a lot of students from going through the transfer process.

Fortunately, most colleges and universities throughout the United States have begun to use the Common Application for transfer students, saving them a lot of time in filling the same personal information into different forms.

Unfortunately, this means that every transfer student is dealing with the exact same essay prompt, making it even harder to stand out among the sea of applicants. Although there is no perfect outline for a guaranteed spotless transfer essay, there are some guidelines to help your essay along the way.

Do talk about why you need a change.

Transfer essays are all about one simple topic: why you want to transfer. In your essay, colleges and universities will be looking for what makes their school a better fit for you than your current institution. Are you looking for a bigger or smaller student body? A campus in the city instead of the middle of the woods, or vice versa?

Colleges want to know that transferring to their school will make you feel more at home, and that you won’t find similar issues to your old school. Discuss what you were not able to experience at your current school and how this will change at a new school.

Remember that transferring is a difficult transition; you must show your commitment to the decision and that you are going to be able to make the best of a new situation.

Don’t insult your current school.

Yes, you’re transferring for a reason. Clearly, your current school was not right for you. Although you did not like the school, insulting it will not reflect well on you as a student or a member of the campus community.

By insulting the school, you give the impression that it was the school’s fault that it was not the right fit for you. It also shows little allegiance to your school, allowing the schools that you are applying to believe that you could easily turn around and do the same thing next year.

Instead, talk about how the school was not the right fit for you personally. Remember that just because you didn’t fit there doesn’t mean it has no redeeming qualities or that someone else might find their perfect home there.

Do talk about the good qualities of your current school.

Although you were not able to find your niche there, make it clear that you made the best of your experience. The last thing a school wants to see is that you shut down your mind to different opportunities once you decided to transfer.

Instead, talk about what you got out of the school. For example, what actives you liked and would like to continue during your years at a new institution. By showing that you tried your best to enjoy the school, you demonstrate your open mindedness and a positive attitude, something that colleges and universities want students to bring to their own campuses.

Don’t try too hard.

There is a difference between writing a formal online essay and using a thesaurus for every adjective throughout your transfer essay. When you try too hard to sound intelligent by using those SAT words that you spent so much time memorizing, you lose your own voice throughout the essay.

Instead, focus on the flow of your writing and try to let your own voice shine. Remember that most workers in the admissions offices read hundreds of applications a day.

On top of this, the essay part of your transfer application is one of the best ways to decipher who you are, not only as a student, but as a person as well. If you try too hard, it will be much more difficult to get a clear idea of who you really are. By writing with your own voice, you stand a better chance of establishing a connection with your readers.

Do make it personal.

As every teacher or professor says while assigning a writing assignment: be specific! Remember that every other transfer applicant is handing in an essay of the same caliber answering exact same prompt.

Without specifics, the essay that you worked so hard on will do nothing for your application and will just be bunched in with the rest of the essays that admission officers have read that day. Transfer essays are supposed to give an insight into your own mind, by making your essay personal, it will appear stronger and will work in your favor.

As a transfer student, you have gone through the process of applying to schools, waiting to hear and making the mildly terrifying huge life decision once before. Even though it was maybe not the decision that you wished you had made, you survived. Remember this. No matter how difficult the transfer process seems to be, you have overcome it once before.

Writing another application essay is the last thing many students want to do, but you are doing this willingly. Some even go to places like EssayHub after saying to themselves, “I want someone to write my essay for me.” Remember that there is a reason why you want to transfer, and if you are passionate about it, it will shine through in your writing.

No student is perfect, and neither are any applications. Even if you feel as though you might not have the strongest essay topic, as long as you are presenting your true self, your essay will be unique.

Not a single college or university is looking for you to not succeed; every admission officer will want you to find a school where you feel at home; and you will. Sit back and remember that this is an exciting process leading to new beginnings, and although it is important, writing your transfer essay is just a small portion of this process. It is not as hard as your procrastinating mind makes it out to be. So, get writing.

Rebecca Crosby, American University

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Rebecca Crosby

American University


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