Transferring: Dos and Don'ts (part 1)

Application Strategy

Transferring: Dos and Don'ts (part 1)


DON'T divest yourself

Once you start to toy with the idea of transferring, it might be tempting to detach yourself from your current school.  I mean, why plant roots when you'll most likely be elsewhere next year?  Avoid this temptation like the plague.  Admissions are looking for applicants who, despite unideal circumstances, are clearly engaged with their environments and take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, both academic and extracurricular.  More importantly, why waste an entire year?

DON'T keep it a secret

It can be difficult distinguishing between a general feeling of dissatisfaction and the impression that your current school can't fulfill your needs.  Often, the former starts disguising itself as the latter--and if you keep these feelings about transferring a secret, you'll find yourself disappointed and missing present opportunities.  Sometimes it takes some conversations with friends and teachers to realize your current setting still does have good things to offer.

DON'T recycle

Recycling your personal statements from last year won't strengthen your candidacy since admissions officers want to see growth as well as some legitimate reason behind your decision to transfer.  Also, relying on the same statistics and assumptions surrounding acceptance criteria will mislead you.  Some schools are nearly impossible to transfer to (because of high freshman and sophomore retention rates) while other schools have higher acceptance rates for transfers than they do for incoming first-years.

DON'T delay

Most application deadlines are March, as in the month of midterm exams and spring break plans.  Also, requesting recommendation letters from professors is really something that you don't want to put off (more on this in later acts).


DO immerse yourself.

Even if you're set on transferring, you ought to have a good year wherever you are now, and leave with a strong academic record, robust friendships, and meaningful experiences.  Whenever I've asked other transfers if they disliked the schools they transferred from, I'd say 90% of them said, "No--I loved it!"  I don't think this is a coincidence.  Successful transfer students are ones who find value in every setting they inhabit.

DO your research

Requirements differ from school to school, but most transfer applications you can access through www.commonapp.org.  Materials you'll have to submit usually include a writing supplement, SAT/ACT scores, official high school and college transcripts, 2-3 letters of recommendation from college professors and academic advisers, and a registrar report from your current institution.  Most schools also recommend you maintain a GPA of 3.5-3.8.  But check each school's website just to make sure!

DO share

I strongly encourage you to look for feedback from other sources.  Not only will this help you craft your application, but will allow you to weigh the pros and cons of transferring with greater sensitivity and confidence.  One caveat: it's important that you share your thoughts with and collect suggestions from the "right" people, as in those who support your learning and growing.  There's no need for the whole world to know you're thinking about making the switch.

DO start today

Whether or not you're certain about transferring, it never hurts to explore your options.  If you do decide to apply, you really must make a compelling case by March.  Simply expressing your want to leave your current school will make for a weak application.  Distilling your reasons for transferring takes time, so start today!