Writing Your College Transfer Essay

What is a college transfer essay? 

When completing a transfer application to change schools, you’re bound to be met with a need to craft a college essay answering some variation of the question “Why do you want to attend our university/college?” We get it, there are a ton of reasons that you are looking to transfer schools – you’re separating from the military, continuing your education at a 4-year university after attending community college, or your previous school just simply wasn’t a good fit for your goals. 

This essay provides you with the opportunity to show your prospective school(s) what value you will add to their school as a transfer student and veteran! Working beyond your personal statement, let’s dive into the meat and bones of the college transfer essay. 

What are colleges looking for in a college transfer essay? 

College admissions decisions are made holistically; that is, they are made by considering everything the applicant brings to the table. While things like your GPA give proof that you can succeed at a 4-year institution, they don’t tell anything about you as a person, and they don’t say anything about whether you’d be a good fit for the culture of their school. Admissions officers want to see how well your goals and ambitions match up with their specific institution offers as well as the broader school culture.

Admissions officers will look at your transfer essay to determine how much research you undertook before deciding that their college is where you want to be, especially as a transfer student. They want to see that you were thoughtful when choosing where to apply. And while thoughtful can mean a lot of things, an essay that flows logically and is enjoyable to read can certainly demonstrate your fit. 

When selecting your transfer essay topic, consider the option that would allow you to best define yourself to an admissions officer that will help them to put a face to a faceless application. These elements are essential for your essay:

  • Why is this prospective transfer school a good fit for you?
  • Why are you choosing to leave your current school? 
  • What unique experiences have you had that you will bring to the campus?
  • What are your academic strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your academic & career ambitions?

What Should You Write?

Since the purpose of the essay is to help the admissions committee get to know you, choosing what to write requires solving for two factors: what story can I tell that answers the given essay prompt and says something meaningful about who I am? We’ve put together this transfer essay checklist to help get you started. 

Why You’re Transferring Schools & Leaving Your Current School

This is a crucial part of a transfer essay. You started school somewhere and based on reasons you’ve personally assessed, you’ve decided to transfer to a new school. You need a statement that addresses what happened or hasn’t worked for you at your current school that led you to this decision. 

A few ways to consider approaching this:

Share the expectations you had for your current school then whether you felt they were met or not, and perhaps even why. Some transfer situations are because students were looking for something specific that didn’t work out; others transfer because their plans worked out and the natural next step after community college is to transfer to a 4-year university. 

Whether things worked out the way you planned or not – don’t be vague in your details. Share specific examples that back up your decision to pursue this new school. You want to communicate why you chose to leave without sounding like you are simply complaining or bashing your current/previous school. Plus, being more specific about your desires for your college experience allows the admissions officer to match those needs to their school to determine if you’d be a good fit. 

Share Your Unique Experiences

No matter how they phrase their question, they are actually asking you to write about YOU. So, our advice for choosing your topic, regardless of the prompt, is to write about something that is authentically unique to you. You already have one distinct advantage when writing your essays: you’re not the average applicant.

Unlike civilian students, you have served in the military, possibly been deployed overseas, completed sea duty, or been stationed halfway across the world in a foreign country. Working in stressful environments and making weighty decisions that come with military service are rare experiences that you can leverage while sculpting your essays that show how you have grown and are prepared for the challenges of attending college. 

Touch On Your Academic Strengths & Weaknesses 

Now it’s time to dive into your accomplishments and academic involvement at your current school. Provide examples that highlight the ways you were active in your campus community, as well as how you engaged with fellow students and faculty members. Being able to show your leadership experiences and passion as a student at one institution will help the admissions team for your prospective school gain a solid understanding of the type of student you will be at their school. 

Share with the admissions committee some of your top accomplishments, ideally in areas related to the degree program that you are applying for. Leave room to touch on your weaknesses, but include the ways you have worked to overcome them. 

Highlight Your Academic Interests & Career Ambitions 

Don’t forget to share your passions, dream job, career ambitions, or your visions of your future to bring context to your entire essay. The goal here is to highlight where you are trying to go and what you hope to accomplish after you graduate. Share stories or examples of a problem you’d like to solve or the kind of work you envision doing that brings you passion or excitement. In the end, this paragraph is setting your essay up for the final section so get as specific as you can and be prepared to tie it all together.

Why The School Is A Good Fit

You’ve done your research and have settled on the school(s) you’d like to apply to and now it’s time to tell the admissions committee why you chose their school. Some potential areas to coherently highlight what the school offers that makes it an exceptional fit for you include:

  • Education delivery – teaching style, course selections, internship experiences
  • Extracurricular opportunities – athletics, student affinity groups
  • Veteran resources – veteran success center, financial aid
  • Community culture – program size, student-faculty ratio

Ensure that your reasons are clear by sharing specific faculty members that are part of the program you are excited to study under and why; include specific courses that excite you about the degree program; or even student groups you are interested in joining. Use this opportunity to express yourself, and the best way to do it is to be genuine and tell a powerful narrative about yourself and how this particular school is best for you based upon reality.

The possible questions are numerous, and they are not always easy to answer. However, engaging with them meaningfully, including having intimate conversations with the people who know you best, can yield huge dividends when writing your transfer essay. Regardless of the prompt, transfer essays want to get a sense of who you are and how you will add value to a school so just focus on ways to communicate who you are, using personal stories that will be memorable to a reader.

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