5 Questions Transfer Applicants Should Consider
Looking to pursue your four-year degree after completing your associates? Are things not going quite the way you planned at your current university? Are you returning back to school following a long break? Here are a few questions to consider as you navigate the transfer application process.
1. How is the transfer process different from applying as a first-time freshman?
For starters, most universities concern themselves primarily with your college-level coursework. They either don’t take into account or they deemphasize your ACT/SAT scores and high school grades. Admissions committees want to see how you handle college level coursework. You can think of the transfer process as a fresh start if you weren’t satisfied with your performance in high school. Because there isn’t a standardized exam to compare your application against other students nationwide, your grades become particularly important. Most important is the story that you communicate through the rest of your application.
2. Who is the typical transfer student?
Where you begin your degree may not be where you complete it. Over one-third of students will transfer at least once before finishing their degree. The most typical transfer pathway goes from a two-year community college to an in-state public university. However, the range of transfer applicants is much wider than high-school seniors applying for the first time. Transfer students are often non-traditional. More than half of community college students are older than 22. One-third of community college students come from low-income families. Many are military veterans or international students.
Of course, there are also students who begin at a four-year university immediately after high school and seek a different university or program after a year or two. Since there is no “typical” transfer student, your story is important!
3. Why do you want to transfer?
Understanding why you are seeking a transfer helps communicate your story to prospective universities. Answering this question requires a few steps. What reasons have you identified that make your current situation less than ideal? Is it the cost of attendance, lack of access to needed coursework, have you outgrown your environment, or are there things going on at home? What were your expectations before enrolling and how did those differ once you arrived?
I once worked with a student who sought transfer out of a prestigious public university. I didn’t understand why she wanted to leave until she explained the major she came to love, journalism, wasn’t offered at her current school. Knowing why you want to leave helps answer where you want to go.
4. Why is your desired university or program the best fit for you?
Many universities require students to address why their campus is right for you. Consider: What are your current goals and how will our university help achieve them? Where do you see yourself after graduation? Is there a particular research unit that interests you? Does their city offer a thriving arts and music scene? Do they have a niche or uncommon area of study or specialty unavailable at your current institution?
Researching specific opportunities on that university’s campus can help you identify ways they are unique or different. You will impress your reviewer if you can demonstrate why you would be a valuable addition to their campus.
5. How should you approach your transfer essays and resume?
Many universities only consider your college GPA and nothing else. However, more-selective universities like UT-Austin review applicants “holistically.” They consider not just your academic performance, but what you are doing outside of the classroom. Since transfer students have at least one year after high school under their belt – and most have more – they assume you are more experienced and mature than first-time freshman.
Reviewers expect transfers to have a better understanding of their own needs and goals. Your transfer essays should look like something between a first-time freshman response and a graduate or law school personal statement. Universities are less concerned about extracurricular activities and volunteering, for example. They place greater emphasis on work experience. Particularly for veterans or mid-career professionals returning back to school, don’t measure yourself against younger “traditional” applicants. Instead, highlight the qualities and experiences that set you apart. Many universities use the transfer process to bring diverse perspectives to campus.
Illustrate your story and tell admissions committees what you can offer!