Dream colleges are a lot like dream partners… they might seem flawless in the beginning, but it doesn’t take long to get the full picture. And that picture isn’t always pretty. While we all know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s also important to trust your gut when it says something isn’t right. If you’ve made the bold decision to transfer schools, here’s what we recommend doing next.
Really understand the why of your decision.
It’s absolutely essential that you understand your motivation for transferring before you even begin applying to other schools. Pull out a piece of paper and make a list pros and cons list about your current school. What is the real dealbreaker? For some, this might make you reconsider. Are you unhappy in your current major? Studying something else might be an easier fix. Are you lonely? Think honestly about if you’ve tried your best to get involved. Is a rude roommate making you hate the entire school? Finding a better living arrangement might be a solution for your unhappiness. In short, it’s important to really understand your motivations, determine if you’ve taken full advantage of your current opportunities, and decide if the only adequate solution is switching schools.
If you know your “why” and your pros and cons list has reaffirmed your decision to transfer, use those tools to guide your school search. You’ll know exactly why you want to transfer and what you want in your new school. Many schools will ask you to plead your case (via essay) about why you want to transfer to their institution, and this will help you with that. Most importantly, you’ll know exactly what you don’t want and proceed with intentionality.
Research transfer acceptance rates and application requirements for different schools.
This is key to creating your college list, and you might be surprised about what you find out. At some schools it’s actually easier to get in as a transfer than it is as a freshman. It’s important to know the acceptance rates of different schools so that you make a balanced college list of reach, target, and likely schools, just as you did when you were a high school senior.
Additionally, different schools ask for different things in the transfer process. Some ask for recommendation letters from current college professors. Some schools have limits on who is eligible for transfer (e.g. no transferring after sophomore year). Some schools want the transfer Common App for transfer, while others ask for the Coalition App. Sometimes specific departments/majors within schools won’t accept transfer students at all, or won’t accept students who haven’t already taken certain courses. Every school has slightly different requirements, and it’s important to understand and keep track of all of them. At the Enrichery, we’re big fans of tracking all of these things on a spreadsheet.
Once you’ve confirmed your college list, do your homework!
You’ve decided where you’re applying, and now it’s time to fall down the research rabbit hole. Seriously, get a little obsessive. Why that school? How is it a better fit than your current one? What are you going to major in there? What is that program like? Be uber specific in whatever essays and statements you’re required to write. Name drop professors, programs, internships, clubs, organizations, classes – anything you’re genuinely interested in or excited about. The admissions counselors reading your transfer app should not only understand exactly why you want to transfer, but they should also be thinking, “Dang, this applicant knows our school well.” Research is your best friend.
Lay the groundwork for getting a great rec letter.
Once you’ve decided that you want to transfer at the end of the year, it’s advantageous to start buttering up a professor stay dedicated and on top of your schoolwork. Participate in class, attend office hours, and put full effort into your work. When it comes time to request a recommendation letter, it’s incredibly helpful if your professor is impressed with your performance in their course and feels like they have a genuine relationship with you.
It should go without saying, but don’t bash your current school when you ask for a recommendation letter. Be upbeat and put a positive spin on your decision to transfer.
Be transparent about any extenuating circumstances or personal issues surrounding your decision to transfer.
Most schools will give you an opportunity to explain your decision to transfer in an essay. Sometimes, the thing driving this decision has also negatively impacted their academic performance. For example, maybe you want to move closer to home because a parent is ill, and the stress of that affected your grades. Maybe your school doesn’t offer the major you are interested in, and your current major was not a good fit academically. If you’re hoping to transfer with a less than stellar college record thus far, you aren’t alone.
The essay is an excellent place to explain these circumstances. Additionally, you can be upfront and ask your professor to discuss these things in their recommendation letter. (For example, if you didn’t necessarily excel in their course, they can still discuss how you never missed office hours because of your dedication to your studies.)
Transferring is a tricky process, and there are things to consider that never entered the picture when you were a high school applicant. You’ve got to figure out how to diplomatically write about your transfer decision, make a realistic college list, and figure out exactly how and who to ask for your rec letter. We’re here to help! The Enrichery coaches are here to help you nail your transfer application and get accepted – because you shouldn’t take your chances on a decision this important.