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How to Write a College Transfer Essay (With Examples)

essay for transfer

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 1.2 million students are enrolled in college as a transfer student. Students may transfer for a variety of reasons ranging from academics to athletics to geography.

If you are in the process of transferring colleges it’s likely that you will have to write a personal essay as part of your transfer admissions process. Ultimately, there’s no one way to write a college transfer essay. Everyone is unique, and this individuality should shine through in your essays.

However, there are some recommended things to include, and even a real example essay that was used to successfully transfer college! In this post, we’ll help you write a powerful transfer essay so you can tell your story to the admissions committee.

Jump ahead to…

What are your main reasons for transferring out of your current school?

Why do you want to attend the transfer school.

Frequently asked questions

College transfer essays: the do’s and don’ts.

Before we start, we want to cover a few basics do’s and don’ts about what your transfer essays should be about.

What is the goal of the transfer essay?

Potential transfer students should know that not all colleges and universities require transfer essays, so when in doubt definitely check-in with the college in question for clarification. For the purposes of this article and the sample transfer essay, we’ll be using this prompt:

Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. 

Most colleges will be interested in learning why you want to transfer and how transferring will help you achieve your goals. However, specific prompts will vary from college to college, so you should definitely pay attention to the specific prompt you are asked to respond to.

Some of the common questions you’ll come across include:

Below I’ll break down how to respond to each of these questions and include an example from a successful transfer essay.

Why did you choose your current school? 

To answer this question, you’ll have to go back in time when you were in 12th grade and selecting your college. Did you choose the college because it had a program you liked? Maybe you really wanted to take classes with a specific professor? Maybe you thought you wanted to attend college in a specific part of the world? Whatever the reason you should lay it out in the most factual way possible.

Here’s how I responded to this question:

Just like Jeopardy, Criminal Minds is also a show that I have watched from a very young age, and one that I continue to watch quite regularly. Being exposed to this interesting world of FBI profilers for so long inspired me to want to dive into the world of psychology myself. Due to this, I originally chose the University of Wisconsin, Madison for its amazing psychology program, and because I wanted to try something new. Being from California, this “something new” came in the form of watching snow fall from the sky, seeing cheese curds being sold in all the grocery stores, and simply living somewhere far away from home.

Also see: How to write a 250 word essay

This is always an important question for transfer admissions officers: why did your current college not work out? We recommend that students be as honest as possible and stick to the facts (as opposed to simply complaining about your current school).

Students have very different reasons for changing schools, which often depend on what type of school you’re transferring from (a 2-year or 4-year). While many community college students transfer because their plans did work out and they’ve accomplished what they wanted to at their school, those transferring from four-year universities often do so for less positive reasons (which was my experience).

If the situation at your college didn’t exactly pan out as you thought it would, you should also try to talk about some of the ways you are making the most of the situation. This shows the admissions officers that despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, you have continued to learn, grow, and contribute to your community.

Here’s how I accomplished this:

Arriving in Wisconsin, I got exactly what I wanted: an amazing psychology program and the experience of being somewhere quite different from the place I called home. My classes were interesting, my professors were helpful and caring, and experiencing the first snow was quite exciting. However, as winter progressed, walking back from class everyday under the progressively gloomier sky seemed to be a cruel reminder that I was no longer in sunny Southern California. While eating dinner in our many dining halls, I always viewed the wide array of food available: quesadillas, Chinese food, burgers, even pecan pie. The food was all delicious, but going day after day without even seeing Korean food once made me miss those fun dinners with my family. Back at my dorm, my “home away from home”, it started to feel like anything but being at home. To feel more comfortable where I was, I decided to pursue things I liked, and that I was familiar with. My passion for psychology led me to join the university’s Psychology Club, where I was able to learn about recent revelations within the field of psychology, furthering my interest in the subject. 

Going through the admissions process as a transfer student is interesting, because you have learned a lot about yourself and your preferences at your first college. This should provide you with a great perspective on what you are looking for next.

The two major things you’ll want to accomplish when answering this question are why the transfer college in question is a good fit for you and how it can help you accomplish your goals as a student.

Specificity is always more ideal here so you can show that you have spent some time thinking about what you want and also how the new college fits.

Here’s how I did this:

I plan on using the knowledge I gain in psychology, either from organizations or classes, to help people. I want to one day apply this knowledge to research, to discover possible methods to help the people suffering from the psychological problems I study. Alternatively, I hope to use this knowledge as a criminal profiler, using my understanding of psychology to narrow down pools of suspects.  To be able to accomplish either of these, I need to develop a much deeper understanding of both people’s motivations for the things they do as well as of the many psychological issues people face. For these reasons, I am very excited at the prospect of exploring and enrolling in the classes offered by USC’s Department of Psychology. In particular, Psych 360: Abnormal Psychology would be an amazing introduction to psychological disorders and their causes. Psych 314L: Research Methods would then help me put this knowledge about disorders to good use by teaching me how to properly conduct research and find possible solutions for people’s problems.

College transfer essays: an example

Here we go! Throughout this article, I’ve shown you my college essay divided into sections, and now’s time for the full thing. I can honestly say that this essay had a 100% success rate! Without further ado, here is my full college transfer essay (and prompt):

Prompt: Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. 

I wake up from my daily after-school nap to realize that it is already dinner time. As I walk downstairs, I smell the delicious fragrance coming from my mom’s samgyetang (Korean ginseng chicken soup), one of my favorite meals. Soon enough, everyone sits down to watch the newest episode of Jeopardy , a tradition we’ve had going on for as long as I can remember. As I take that first sip of samgyetang, and miss yet another geography question on Jeopardy – and wait for my family to inevitably tease me about it – I feel at home, like I am somewhere that I belong. Wherever I go, I hope I can encounter that same warm feeling. Just like Jeopardy , Criminal Minds is also a show that I have watched from a very young age, and one that I continue to watch quite regularly. Being exposed to this interesting world of FBI profilers for so long inspired me to want to dive into the world of psychology myself. Due to this, I originally chose the University of Wisconsin, Madison for its amazing psychology program, and because I wanted to try something new. Being from California, this “something new” came in the form of watching snow fall from the sky, seeing cheese curds being sold in all the grocery stores, and simply living somewhere far away from home. Arriving in Wisconsin, I got exactly what I wanted: an amazing psychology program and the experience of being somewhere quite different from the place I called home. My classes were interesting, my professors were helpful and caring, and experiencing the first snow was quite exciting. However, as winter progressed, walking back from class everyday under the progressively gloomier sky seemed to be a cruel reminder that I was no longer in sunny Southern California. While eating dinner in our many dining halls, I always viewed the wide array of food available: quesadillas, Chinese food, burgers, even pecan pie. The food was all delicious, but going day after day without even seeing Korean food once, it made me miss those fun dinners with my family. Back at my dorm, my “home away from home,” it started to feel like anything but being at home. To feel more comfortable where I was, I decided to pursue things I liked, and that I was familiar with. My passion for psychology led me to join the university’s Psychology Club, where I was able to learn about recent revelations within the field of psychology, furthering my interest in the subject. I plan on using the knowledge I gain in psychology, either from organizations or classes, to help people. I want to one day apply this knowledge to research, to discover possible methods to help the people suffering from the psychological problems I study. Alternatively, I hope to use this knowledge as a criminal profiler, using my understanding of psychology to narrow down pools of suspects.  To be able to accomplish either of these, I need to develop a much deeper understanding of both people’s motivations for the things they do as well as of the many psychological issues people face. For these reasons, I am very excited at the prospect of exploring and enrolling in the classes offered by USC’s Department of Psychology. In particular, Psych 360: Abnormal Psychology would be an amazing introduction to psychological disorders and their causes. Psych 314L: Research Methods would then help me put this knowledge about disorders to good use by teaching me how to properly conduct research and find possible solutions for people’s problems. With so many opportunities available at USC, I hope to not only help others feel more comfortable, but to find a second home for myself after all.

And that’s it! This essay touches on all of the tips listed above, and should serve as helpful inspiration as you begin your writing. Hopefully, it gives you an idea of how to integrate everything you should mention in a cohesive essay. With that, I wish you good luck with your college transfer essays (and applications)!

Don’t miss: What looks good on a college application?

If you finish your essay and still have questions about the transfer process, consider checking out these Scholarships360 resources:

Key Takeaways

How are college transfer essays different from regular application essays?

At their core, college transfer essays have a lot in common with regular college application essays. They are both opportunities to showcase your potential, your passions, your story, and the plans you have for your future at the school you’re applying to.

That being said, there are some circumstantial differences between transfer essays and regular application essays. Transfer essays are a great opportunity to showcase what you’ve accomplished at your current school and how it’s helped you to hone your goals and skills. You can talk about the lessons you’ve learned at your current school and build upon that to demonstrate why these experiences have led you to believe you would be even more successful at the school you’re hoping to transfer into.

So, the main difference between transfer essays and regular application essays is that transfer essays build on your experience of already having completed some college. Use your experience at your current school to pitch yourself as a candidate to your desired school.

Do all schools require transfer essays?

Not all schools require specific transfer essays. Some schools will have transfer students fill out just the same application as incoming freshmen would.

That being said, most college essays touch on a student’s ambitions and experiences. Since you have already attended college for some time, your experience and skills have changed. That means that as a transfer student, even your regular application essays should reflect the fact that you are transferring. Try to fit your time so far in college into your essays even if there is no specific transfer essay.

Can I reuse my old college essays for a transfer?

It’s not a good idea to reuse your old college essays as transfer essays verbatim. That being said, it is a great idea to use them as inspiration and a solid base for your new essays. Since your circumstances have changed in the time since your first applications, you’ll want to update these essays to reflect your time in college and the lessons you’ve learned. 

Plus, with a year (or more) of school under your belt, your writing will most likely have improved. Use your new skills to maximize your chances of admission!

What should you not say in a transfer essay?

It’s very important to maintain a positive tone and focus on possibilities and ambitions in a transfer essay. Students who are transferring because they are dissatisfied with their current school may be tempted to voice that dissatisfaction, but it is best to keep it out of your essays.

Think about it from the perspective of an admissions officer. Will reading about how unhappy you are at your current school make them any more likely to admit you? Especially since all of these essays have word limits, any complaints about your current situation are only taking up valuable space that you could use to discuss your potential and ambitions.

So, instead of airing any grievances about your current situation, try to explore the ways that your intellectual or personal goals have changed in your time at school and how your new school will offer a great fit for you.

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Sample College Transfer Essay

A sample essay by a student transferring from amherst to penn.

Jacob Wackerhausen / Getty Images

The following sample essay was written by a student named David. He wrote the transfer essay below for the Common Transfer Application in response to the prompt, "Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve" (250 to 650 words). David is attempting to transfer from Amherst College to the University of Pennsylvania . As far as admissions standards go, this is a lateral move—both schools are extremely selective. His letter will need to be extremely strong for his transfer application to be successful.

Key Takeaways: A Winning Transfer Essay

David's Transfer Application Essay

During the summer after my first year of college, I spent six weeks volunteering at an archaeological excavation in Hazor, site of the largest tel (mound) in Israel. My time in Hazor was not easy—wake-up came at 4:00 a.m., and by noontime temperatures were often in the 90s. The dig was sweaty, dusty, back-breaking work. I wore out two pairs of gloves and the knees in several pairs of khakis. Nevertheless, I loved every minute of my time in Israel. I met interesting people from around the world, worked with amazing students and faculty from Hebrew University, and became fascinated with the current efforts to create a portrait of life in the Canaanite period.
Upon my return to Amherst College for my sophomore year, I soon came to realize that the school does not offer the exact major I now hope to pursue. I'm majoring in anthropology, but the program at Amherst is almost entirely contemporary and sociological in its focus. More and more my interests are becoming archaeological and historical. When I visited Penn this fall, I was impressed by the breadth of offerings in anthropology and archaeology, and I absolutely loved your Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Your broad approach to the field with emphases on understanding both the past and present has great appeal to me. By attending Penn, I hope to broaden and deepen my knowledge in anthropology, participate in more summer field work, volunteer at the museum, and eventually, go on to graduate school in archaeology.
My reasons for transferring are almost entirely academic. I have made many good friends at Amherst, and I have studied with some wonderful professors. However, I do have one non-academic reason for being interested in Penn. I originally applied to Amherst because it was comfortable—I come from a small town in Wisconsin, and Amherst felt like home. I'm now looking forward to pushing myself to experience places that aren't quite so familiar. The kibbutz at Kfar HaNassi was one such environment, and the urban environment of Philadelphia would be another.
As my transcript shows, I have done well at Amherst and I am convinced I can meet the academic challenges of Penn. I know I would grow at Penn, and your program in anthropology perfectly matches my academic interests and professional goals.

Before we even get to the critique of David's essay, it's important to put his transfer into context. David is attempting to transfer into an  Ivy League  school. Penn is not the most selective of the country's top universities, but the transfer acceptance rate is still around 6% (at Harvard and Stanford, that number is closer to 1%). David needs to approach this effort at transfer realistically — even with excellent grades and a stellar essay, his chances of success are far from guaranteed.

That said, he has many things going for him — he is coming from an equally demanding college where he has earned good grades, and he seems like the type of student who will certainly succeed at Penn. He will need strong  letters of recommendation  to round out his application.

Analysis of David's Transfer Essay

Now on to the essay... Let's break down the discussion of David's transfer essay into several categories.

The Reasons for Transfer

The strongest feature of David's essay is the focus. David is pleasingly specific in presenting his reasons for transferring. He knows exactly what he wants to study, and he has a clear understanding of what both Penn and Amherst have to offer him. David's description of his experience in Israel defines the focus of his essay, and he then connects that experience to his reasons for wanting to transfer. There are lots of bad reasons to transfer, but David's clear interest in studying anthropology and archaeology makes his motives seem both well thought-out and reasonable.

Many transfer applicants are trying to move to a new college because they are running away from some kind of bad experience, sometimes something academic, sometimes something more personal. David, however, clearly likes Amherst and is running towards something—an opportunity at Penn that better matches his newly discovered professional goals. This is a big positive factor for his application.

The Common Transfer Application instructions state that the essay needs to be at least 250 words. The maximum length is 650 words. David's essay comes in at around 380 words. It is tight and concise. He doesn't waste time talking about his disappointments with Amherst, nor does he put much effort into explaining the things that other parts of his application will cover such as grades and extracurricular involvement. He does have a lot more space left to elaborate, but in this case the letter gets the job done well with few words.

David gets the tone perfect, something that is difficult to do in a transfer essay. Let's face it—if you are transferring it is because there is something about your current school that you don't like. It's easy to be negative and critical of your classes, your professors, your college environment, and so on. It's also easy to come across as a whiner or an ungenerous and angry person who doesn't have the inner resources to make the most of one's circumstances. David avoids these pitfalls. His representation of Amherst is extremely positive. He praises the school while noting that the curricular offerings do not match his professional goals.

The Personality

Partly because of the tone discussed above, David comes across as a pleasant person, someone who the admissions folks are likely to want to have as part of their campus community. Moreover, David presents himself as someone who likes to push himself to grow. He is honest in his reasons for going to Amherst—the school seemed like a good "fit" given his small-town upbringing. It is, therefore, impressive to see him so actively working to expand his experiences beyond his provincial roots. David has clearly grown at Amherst, and he is looking forward to growing more at Penn.

The Writing

When applying to a place like Penn, the technical aspects of the writing need to be flawless. David's prose is clear, engaging and free of errors. If you struggle on this front, be sure to check out these  tips for improving your essay's style . And if grammar isn't your greatest strength, be sure to work through your essay with someone who does have strong grammar skills.

A Final Word on David's Transfer Essay

David's college transfer essay does exactly what an essay needs to do, and he includes the features of a strong transfer essay . He clearly articulates his reasons for transferring, and he does so in a positive and specific way. David presents himself as a serious student with clear academic and professional goals. We have little doubt that he has the skills and intellectual curiosity to succeed at Penn, and he has made a strong argument about why this particular transfer makes a lot of sense.

Odds are still against David's success given the competitive nature of Ivy League transfers, but he has strengthened his application with his essay.

Watch Now: How to Transfer Schools

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Articles & Advice > Transfer Students > Articles

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The Best Transfer Essay Advice From Admission Insiders

Your transfer college application essay is just as important as it was the first time around. Learn how to write a winning essay with this expert advice.

by Kim Lifton President, Wow Writing Workshop

Last Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Originally Posted: Jul 10, 2019

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is clear about what they want in the supplemental essay that’s required of every transfer applicant. In no more than 500 words, U-M asks students to “Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?” “I want to understand why they want to transfer,” says Kimberly Bryant, Assistant Director of Admissions and point person for transfer applications. “Sometimes they don’t say it: Why do they want to come to U-M? Why now? What is the reason?” Bryant would like to see genuine answers to the question. “I want them to talk about the journey,” she says. “I’m not going to guess why someone missed a semester of college. Maybe they just weren’t ready. That’s okay. They are now, and we want them to talk about that. We don’t want to guess.”

What is a transfer college essay, anyway?

Bryant and other admission professionals at top universities across the country say the transfer college essay provides an opportunity to show people who may never meet you just what kind of person you are and why you need to switch schools for your goals. Most schools don't conduct transfer interviews, so the college essay requirement could be your only opportunity to share your unique voice with the people who get to decide your fate inside the admission office. Amy Jarich, Associate Vice Chancellor of Admissions & Enrollment and Director of Admissions at the University of California, Berkeley , wants to know what you care about. “What would you tell me in an elevator? Let me know that you’re active and alive in the world you live in.” Tamara Siler, Senior Associate Director of Admission at   Rice University ,   says any application essay will add context to any transfer application file. “A personal statement can provide context and truly show why a certain student is a better match than other clearly capable students,” she says. “Sometimes an essay can be the conduit for a student to reveal something to the admission committee that we would never have thought to ask.”

How do I make my essay stand out?

Colleges will use your essay to help select a diverse class from among the many other transfer applicants whose grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities can make everyone look alike. How will you stand out? Overall, admission officers look for a glimpse of who an applicant is as a writer, but more importantly, as a person. They use the essay to help determine what an applicant can offer them and what the student has learned from their life experiences—the things that aren’t easily captured on a transcript or activities list. Calvin Wise, the Director of Recruitment for Johns Hopkins University , gets excited when he reads a stellar essay. Just like admission officers at other highly selective schools, Wise expects 4.0 GPAs and top test scores. “We need to dig deeper,” he says. “That’s where the essay comes into play. That’s where we find out more about the student. We are looking for your story. Academically, we’re glad you’ve done well. We want to know who you are. What did your experience mean to you? How did it shape you? “I never run into a colleague’s office and say, ‘Look at this 4.0 GPA,’ Wise adds. “I will run into an office with a good essay to share; that excites me.”

Connect me with Johns Hopkins!

What do you want colleges to know about you?

Your essay should show who you are beyond your grades, transcripts, and test scores. Consider your best traits and characteristics, not your accomplishments and experiences. Colleges want to know who you are , not what you did . They want genuine stories that illustrate a positive trait or characteristic. When applying as a transfer student, they also want to know why this school is a better fit for you. What do you want to do there? The transfer essay is a variation of the “Why College X?” essay supplement. It can be challenging for freshman applicants as well as transfer students. A prompt from the new Common App transfer application reads: “Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve” in 250–600 words. Most transfer essay prompts will be a variation of this question. For example:

Every college wants to know specifically why you are applying to that institution. You started somewhere else, either community college or a school that just isn’t working out the way you had envisioned. They expect you have good reasons for making a move, so share them in your essay. Be thoughtful. Be honest. Is there something this school offers that your current school doesn’t? Are you more clear about what you want to major in and realize the program at the new school is stronger? Let them know. You know more about yourself now; you’ve matured since you first applied to college. Perhaps you took time off to work. Just tell them why you want to make a move.

Related: How to Write a Transfer Essay That Works

What makes a good transfer essay?

In your transfer statement and other writing supplements, you need to reveal something meaningful about yourself. What are three traits you want to share with a new school? Are you resourceful? Dependable? Curious? A hard worker? Shy? Funny? Competitive? Determined? Shawn Felton, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Cornell University , reviews thousands of applications each admission cycle. What delights him? A story that rounds out an applicant’s package and an essay that helps him understand who the person is. “We want to put a face to the pile of paper,” Felton explains. “It is part of a number of identifiers that deliver who you are as a person.”

What turns him off? Stories that aren’t genuine, don’t answer the prompt, or fail to give him any insight into the applicant’s character. He doesn’t like it when students try too hard to impress him or write essays that seem forced or inauthentic. “The essay is not something to be cracked,” he cautions. There’s no rubric for a good transfer essay, but the ones that stand out all share a few common features. Regardless of the prompt, they:

The best transfer essays showcase a more mature student and are often simple and to the point. As a student who has already succeeded in a college classroom, you can tell your new college of choice that you know how you learn best (e.g., you shine in small classrooms, love leading group projects, excel in science or math or any subject). How can you build on your current educational (and work) experience at a new college?

Related:  What's Your Story? A Guide for Transfer Admission Essays

Your transfer essay isn’t all that different than the one you wrote for when you applied to college back in high school. You may have to focus a little more on the topic of why you’re transferring, but the process of writing it should be more or less the same. Take this advice into consideration as you do and you’re sure to write a great essay that’ll allow you to transfer to the school of your choice.

Get more great tips for the transfer admission process with the articles and advice in our Transfer Students section .

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essay for transfer

How to Write a Successful College Transfer Essay

Transfer essay tips for you and your friends so you can go to the same school again! Learn how to write a transfer essay from beginning to end with my brief guide.   How was your college application journey? Let us know over at collegeessayguy.com

It’s hard to write a one-size-fits all approach for college transfer essays . Why? As Dan Nannini , Transfer Center Director at Santa Monica College , pointed out to me last week, “Every student is just so darn different.”

He’s right. And given the great variety of reasons for students transferring—from military deployment , moving from community college to a university , to simply not vibing with a particular school—it may seem impossible to create a method that can work for everyone.

But I’d like to try.

So below, I’m going to lay out steps for writing a strong college transfer essay, and offer some college transfer essay examples.

And, as with all my other resources, take this is not The Only Way but instead A Pretty Good Way .

As a transfer student wondering how to start a transfer essay, you’re probably dealing with some version of this prompt:

"Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve."

I happen to believe there are…

Seven Essential steps for writing a transfer essay:

Establish some of your core values.

Explain why you chose your current school (the one you’re leaving) in the first place.

Offer specific reasons why you want to leave your current school.

Show how you’ve made the best of things in your current situation.

What do you want to do/be/study? (aka: What’s your dream?)

Outline how the new school (the one you’d like to transfer to) will help you realize your dream.

Close it out short and sweet. Bonus points if it’s in a memorable way.

IMPORTANT: The key to presenting each of these qualities isn’t just in WHAT you say (your content), but in HOW you say it (your approach). What follows is a paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown of what to do and how to do it, followed by some great example personal statements—and yes, I’m suggesting you focus on establishing one quality per paragraph. Here it goes:

how to start a transfer essay- Paragraph 1:

Establish some of your core values

What you’re trying to do here: In the opening paragraph you want to make an awesome first impression. And, given that first impressions are often established in the first 30 seconds and that this impression isn’t likely to change (even when,  studies show , people are presented with facts that contradict their first impressions!) your first paragraph better be on point.

How to start a transfer essay: One efficient way to make a great first impression is to focus on establishing a few core values or, if you can, the essential part of you that is suffering in your current (school) situation.

How do you identify your core values? Do this 5 min exercise .

How do you decide which part of you is suffering in your current (school) situation? Well, just ask yourself, “Which part of me is suffering in my current (school) situation?” and, if you wanna’ get deep, ask yourself, “Which of my deeper needs isn’t being met at this school?” Click here for a list of Feelings and Needs. But here’s the key: you may not want to just come out and say it, as that can be boring.

How can I express my core values in a way that’s not super boring? Come up with an essence image that captures that value (or those values). In the sample below, for example, the student wanted to communicate her core values of connection, intimacy, family, and listening. So she chose the dinner table:

Breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day. In my family the most sacred meal is dinner. The aroma from my mother’s authentic Persian saffron and Barberry spirals around the circular dining table as we prepare to pile each other’s plates high with current events, future plans, and questions about what we learned that day. Slowly, the notification bells and piercing ring tones are replaced by the clamor of metal utensils as my sisters try to fit the plates and silverware around our carefully crafted dinner table. Each person sits the same distance from the center as we listen to my little sister’s attempt at hopscotch from earlier that day with as much interest as my Dad’s stories about his patient with Atherosclerosis. Listening is how we take care of one another.

Another example:

Before I could even walk, my parents instilled in me a love for history. And thanks to their passion for travel, much of my early education was experiential. At eight, I could not only recite knowledge of Corrie Ten Boom, I'd visited the house where she'd hidden Jews in her home during WWII. By 10 I’d seen the Roman Ruins just outside Paris and by 11, I’d visited Rome and Florence, and begun to develop a passion for Michelangelo. By 14 I’d climbed the caverns of Mykonos and by 16 I’d walked barefoot through India and jogged along the Great Wall of China. Though moving around wasn’t always easy, travel gave me the opportunity to become more adaptable and resourceful, and I came to embrace differences as not only normal but exciting. My passion for cultural experiences and history continued in high school, and I looked forward to more experiential learning opportunities in college.

See how each example immerses us in the author’s world? And note how their descriptions awaken the senses. So much more interesting than if the authors had simply said, for example, “the values that are important to me are connection, intimacy, family, and listening.” Instead, each author shows us. And I’m not by the way just advocating for “ show, don’t tell, ” because you’ll notice that both authors show AND tell. In the first example:

First the author shows the value:

Slowly, the notification bells and piercing ring tones are replaced by the clamor of metal utensils as my sisters try to fit the plates and silverware around our carefully crafted dinner table. Each person sits the same distance from the center as we listen to my little sister’s attempt at hopscotch from earlier that day with as much interest as my Dad’s stories about his patient with Atherosclerosis.

Then, to make sure we get it, she tells us what that value is:

Listening is how we take care of one another

And in doing so, offers a bit of insight (for some specific techniques for adding insight/reflection to your writing, head there).

Now that's how to start a transfer essay. Okay, let’s move on.

Paragraph 2: Explain why you chose your current school (the one you’re leaving) in the first place.

What you’re trying to do here : Let the reader know how/why you are where you are. Because, y’know, the reader might wonder.

How to do this: Simply. Factually. Succinctly.

I originally chose Pasadena Community College because I wanted to a) stay close to home to take care of my mom, who was recovering from cancer when I graduated high school, b) save money by living at home and finishing my general ed requirements for under $50 per credit, and c) help my dad at his TV repair business.

See how simple? Just the facts, ma’am.

I was obsessed with Top Chef as a kid. While most of my friends were thinking about which expensive summer program they’d attend or whether or not they should take the SAT for the sixteenth time, my mind was on how to whip eggs to create the perfect "lift" in a soufflé and developing a long term strategy to create my own food television network. So I originally chose Drake Colonial University for its Culinary Arts program. And because it was two miles from my house.

Note the specifics. Also note how the reasons are clearly different and could be bullet pointed.

Wanted to be close to home (take care of mom)

Help dad at work

Drake’s Culinary Arts program

Two miles from me

This part doesn’t have to be flashy, but you could use a couple succinct examples to add a little something (“take the SAT for the sixteenth time” vs. “how to whip eggs to create the perfect "lift" in a soufflé”). Notice also how Example 2 above could serve as the opening paragraph, as it also establishes a couple core values (creativity, excellence, entrepreneurship, practicality). Which leads to an important point: Don’t take this as a strict by-the-numbers guide. Take what’s useful; discard the rest.

11 Essential Tips for Transferring Colleges

Paragraph 3: offer specific reasons why you want to leave your current school..

Heads-up: This is probably the most important part of the essay. Why? Essentially, you’re explaining to someone (a college) with whom you’d like to be in a relationship why your last relationship (with that other college) didn’t work out. In short, you need to talk crap about your ex but still be really nice about it.

NO I’M KIDDING. You’re not talking crap about your ex.

What you’re (actually) trying to do here: You’re trying to articulate, with specifics, why you want to leave your current situation.

How to do this:

Three tips:

Consider describing your expectations and then letting the reader know whether or not those expectations were met (you don’t have to do this—it’s optional)

Use specific reasons (to avoid sounding like you’re just talking crap)

Consider including an a-ha moment (in which you discovered something about yourself)

Let’s address these one by one:

1. Let the reader know if your expectations were or were not met.

Some students want to transfer because they had a plan and it worked out, and some students transfer because they had a plan that did not work out.

The “My expectations were met and the plan worked out!” Example:

I originally chose Pasadena Community College because I wanted to a) stay close to home to take care of my mother, who was recovering from cancer when I graduated high school, b) save money by living at home and completing my general ed requirements for under $50 per credit, and c) help my dad at his TV repair business. Achievements unlocked! Now that my mom is cancer free, I’ve finished my general ed requirements (with straight As!) and my dad has hired my uncle (in other words: he doesn’t need me anymore), I’m ready to move on.

Notice how in this example the author seems to say, “Great! I did what I planned to do and it’s time to move on.” That’s one way to do it. Sometimes, however, things don’t work as planned—and, in this next example, it’s no one’s fault:

The “My expectations weren’t met (and it’s not the school’s fault)” Example:

I originally chose Northwestern State Tech for its renowned global health program and looked forward to studying under Prof Paula Farnham, a titan in the global health world. Soon after my arrival, however, Prof Farnham took an indefinite leave of absence when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Notice how in this example things didn’t go according to the author’s plan, but it’s not the school’s fault; it’s just the way things turned out. But that’s not always the case, and sometimes you honestly just want out.

“My expectations were not met, this was NOT the plan (and I’m not saying it’s the school’s fault but honestly I just don’t want to be here anymore)” Example:

Initially, Drake Colonial University stood out to me for its culinary arts program and I looked forward to working side-by-side with top-rated chefs, experimenting with gastronomy and Sous-vide and finding others who shared my geeky passion for Transglutaminase. Unfortunately, my experience after arriving differed greatly from the one I’d imagined in at least three important ways: 1) the DCU culinary arts program was focused much more on the theory of cooking than actual cooking (all my finals last year, for example, took place in a classroom using pen and paper rather than in a kitchen); 2) access to supplies and facilities was extremely limited and most were off-limits to underclassmen, and 3) no one here had even heard of Transglutaminase.

Pulling this one off is a little trickier. Why? First of all, because there may be a lot more emotions wrapped up in your decision to transfer than in the two examples mentioned above. As a result, some part of you might honestly feel that it IS the school’s fault you’re so unhappy and some part of you may actually want to talk crap about the school. Here’s a tip: DON’T. It won’t make you look better or smarter—it’ll just sound like you’re complaining. Here’s your greatest ally is in this situation: concrete, specific reasons. Let me say this a little more boldly:

2. Provide specific evidence demonstrating how your expectations were or weren’t met.

If your expectations were met, great! Just outline your plan , then show how you rocked that plan—maybe even throw in something bonus that happened (and I even did it while keeping a full-time job!).

But whether your expectations were met or not, you MUST give specifics to support your points. In the sample above, for example, it wouldn’t be enough to say, “Unfortunately, DCU wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…”

Why? We need proof! Examples! Specifics! So in that example above the author first lets us know what she expected (hands on! experimentation! other food nerds!) before letting us know specifically what she found instead: theory instead of hands-on (boo) limited access to experimentation (aw) no other Transglutaminase nerds (I am sad).

Why it can be useful to clarify what your expectations were:

It kinda’ lets the school that you’re leaving off the hook, essentially saying that it’s not the school’s fault entirely, it’s just that you wanted something else, which makes no one the bad guy.

The more specific you are with exactly what you want, the easier it can be for the readers at your potential future college to imagine you on their campus (hopefully the readers will be like, “Oh! We have a great hands-on, experimental Culinary Arts program filled with food nerds!”) and maybe even start to root for you (i.e., want you to get your needs met).

Side note: Actually, I guess it is kinda’ like talking about an ex, but instead of saying “He was awful because of X,” you’re framing it in a positive way, saying in effect, “It’s not his fault, I just realized I was looking for Y.” (And, hopefully, your reader will be like, “Ooh!! We have LOTS of Y at our school!”) And sometimes, let’s be honest, we didn’t know what we were looking for until we got the opposite.

You didn’t know how important hands-on experimentation was until you ended up in a culinary arts program where all the “cooking” tests were done with pen and paper.

You’re a girl who didn’t know how important freedom to hold hands with your girlfriend in public was to you until some people at your school told you that you couldn’t do that (see example essay that follows).

Just to clarify: You don’t have to act like you had it all figured out before you got to your first school. You could:

3. Consider including an a-ha moment (one in which you discovered something about yourself)

Template for this:

It wasn’t until I experienced X that I realized Y [this core value] was so important to me.

It wasn’t until I sailed through my first semester with no homework and straight As that I realized how important intellectual challenge was to me.
Someone once said, “We don’t recognize our home until we lose it,” and the same was true for me. Not until I moved 620 miles away to X school did I realize that Y school—which had been in my backyard all along, just 20 minutes from the church I was baptized in, the grandmother who raised me, and the one I love most in this world (my dog, Max)—was home after all.

Got the idea?

And by the way: if you don’t get 100% specific here with your desires, don’t worry—you’ll have a chance in two paragraphs. You can keep your desires a little vague here.

Paragraph 4: Show how you’ve made the best of things in your current situation.

What you’re trying to do here: Show the reader you’re not the kind of person that just rolls over when confronted with adversity or goes in the corner and pouts when you don’t get what you want. Instead: how did you work to meet your needs? What did you do about it? (Note that if your expectations were met—if, in other words, this first school was all part of the plan—this is your chance to brag about all the cool stuff you’ve done!)

How to do this: By being creative. Positive. And by reframing everything you’ve been involved in since graduating high school (even the tough stuff) as preparation for your big awesome future.

Some examples of making the best of your experience at a school you’re about to leave:

There was no formal Makeup Department, so guess what. I STARTED ONE. WE’VE GOT 16 MEMBERS. BOOM.

My classes were so much bigger than I thought they’d be AND there were no formal study groups set up, so guess what. I ORGANIZED ONE. AND I EVEN BAKED BROWNIES. #glutenfree

There were no legit dance studios on campus OR in the dorms open after 7pm, so guess what. I PETITIONED TO LIVE OFF-CAMPUS AS A FRESHMAN, FOUND A TINY APARTMENT WITH A BASEMENT THAT OUR TEAM COULD REHEARSE IN, AND WE GOT TO WORK. #werrrrk

You get the idea. How did you make the best of a just-okay situation while you were waiting (or before you decided) to fill out your transfer application? If you’re thinking that the part-time job you took, the decision to quit school, or even the Netflix shows you binge-watched wasn’t ultimately preparing you for your big awesome future, you’re just not thinking creatively enough—yet. Ask yourself: could it be that I was gaining other skills and values along the way? Could it be that I was doing more than just earning money (hint: learned organizational skills, or discipline, or collaboration), more than just quitting school (hint: learned to put your health first), more than just binge-watching Netflix (hint: learned how much you value productivity by being totally unproductive for three weeks straight).

Here’s a list to get you thinking.  

And if you’re like, “Um, well, I didn’t do anything,” chances are that either a) you didn’t really think carefully or creatively enough yet, or that b) YOU DON’T DESERVE TO TRANSFER.

I’m kidding about that last one. Kinda’. Keep thinking. This part’s important.

Paragraph 5: What do you want to do/be/study? (aka: What’s your dream?)

What you’re trying to do here: Paint the Big Picture—the vision for your life, or a dream job. Don’t have one? Uh-oh. Quit now. (I’m kidding.)

How to do this: By dreaming. Ask yourself, What would a dream job be—even if it isn’t your only dream job, and even if you aren’t 100% certain that this is what you’d like to do—and use it as a placeholder, like these students did...

I’m particularly concerned about beauty waste because I am morally disturbed by the fact that my personal grooming is damaging the environment for everyone. The problem is that cosmetics are often objects of desire—we want to be pampered and we crave a luxurious experience—and packaging reflects these consumer instincts. My dream is to rally college communities nation-wide in a drive to reduce packaging waste. As a community of passionate learners and intellectuals we can spread the message to student groups in colleges that protecting the environment trumps our desire for the most wrapped-up, elaborate, expensive packaging.
My dream is to become a special effects makeup artist with a specialty in fantasy-based creature makeup. Through an extensive process that includes concept design, face, cowl, and body sculpting in clay, molding the pieces using liquid latex or silicon, applying the products to the human model, hand-painting and airbrushing, and fabricate addition components if necessary, I will create original characters that will be featured in movies and television shows.

I know, that’s pretty specific. But again, these were written by students who weren’t 100% certain that they wanted to do this—they picked something they loved and built an argument (read: essay) around it.

If it’s hard for you to think in terms of careers or dream jobs, try asking one of these questions instead:

“What’s one Big Problem I’d like to try to help solve in the world?”

“Why do I want to go to this other school anyway?” Have you ever stopped to really articulate that? Have a friend ask you this and see what you say. And it can’t be simply because it’s more prestigious, or because you like living by the beach, or because you just really (like really) want to live in a big city. You need more specifics and more specific specifics. (That’s not a typo.)

A Really Good Tip for This Paragraph: Think of this as a set-up for a “Why us” essay , in particular the part where you’re talking about YOU… your hopes, dreams, goals, etc. Because if you can pick something specific—and even if it’s a placeholder (like the examples above)—this can lead directly into the next paragraph. How? Because, once you pick a Thing you’d like to do/study/be, then you can ask yourself, “Okay, what skills/resources/classes will I need in order to do/study/become that Thing?”

For more “Why us” resources: Click here for the Why This College Essay Guide + Examples . Or click here for a Complete Guide to the “Why Us” Essay.

To recap: In Paragraph 5, you’re setting up the specifics that you’re seeking. Then...

Paragraph 6: Outline how the new school (the one you’d like to transfer to) will help you realize your dream.

What you’re trying to do here: Depends. On what? On which of these two options you choose:

Write one essay for ALL the schools you’re applying to . Why do this? Maybe you’re short on time. Or maybe you’re kinda’ lazy (sorry, efficient!) and don’t really see the value in writing a different essay for each school. That’s fine.

Write a different essay for EACH of the schools you’re applying to. Why do this? It shows each school you’re applying to that you cared enough to spend the time researching and have really, really thought this through. I also think it gives you a better chance at WOW-ing the school and demonstrating why you’re a great match.

FAQ: Can you write and submit a separate essay for each school? Yes, as of this writing (2022), Common App allows you to edit your personal statement as many times as you like. So you can write an essay for School X, then submit to School X. Then go back into your Common App, copy and paste in the essay for School Y, then submit to School Y. And so on.

WARNING: If you choose to use this method, you MUST make sure not to submit the wrong essay to the wrong school. That’s a really quick way to get you into the “no” pile.

How to write one essay for ALL the schools you’re applying to (Option A):

If you opt to do this, you’ll want to mention the kinds of classes you’d want to take the kinds of professors you’d like to study with, etc. But I don’t want to say too much more about this, as I’d actually prefer to spend more time on the other approach (Option B) because I happen to think it’s a better way. So here’s:

How to write a different essay for EACH of the schools you’re applying to (Option B):

By researching. A lot. This paragraph is basically a mini “Why us” essay, and you’ll want to include as many specifics as you can find. Click here for a list of resources. But you won’t find the content for this paragraph in your beautiful amazing brain. Why? Chances are you don’t KNOW yet what specific opportunities the school you’re hoping to transfer offers. So go find out.

Here’s a great example of what great research might yield (excerpted from the Complete Guide to the “Why Us” Essay ):

A journalist cannot reach the peak of his craft if his knowledge of literature and critical thinking skills are weak, which is why I’m excited to explore what the Department of English has to offer. I look forward to courses such as 225: Academic Argumentation and 229: Professional Writing, as I believe these will provide me with a firm basis in journalistic writing technique and improve my abilities to write analytically and develop well-supported arguments. In addition, the Professional Writing course will teach me how to write in a concise, straightforward style, a skill vital to a journalist.

See how specific he is? And how he says why he wants each course? Also, notice how his separate reasons can all be bullet pointed. We could break down the paragraph above, for example, into a What I Need/What You (the school) Have list that might look like this:

WHAT I NEED:

knowledge of literature and critical thinking skills

a firm basis in journalistic writing technique

ability to write analytically

ability to develop well-supported arguments

ability to write in a concise, straightforward style

WHAT YOU (THE SCHOOL) HAVE:

225: Academic Argumentation

229: Professional Writing

Professional Writing course

And bonus points if you can find stuff that is closer to unique to that school (or maybe even actually unique). For example:

I would also like to be able to contribute my experiences with neurotechnology to support the cutting edge research in Cornell’s brand new NeuroNex Hub. I would love to work with Dr. Chris Xu in expanding the current three-photon microscope to be applied on various animal models. I also look forward to helping Dr. Chris Schaffer, whose research on deep neural activity is not being done anywhere else in the world. I freak out at the possibility of helping him develop a tool to look at multiple brain areas at the same time. 

If the school you’re hoping to transfer to is maybe the only one that has certain opportunities that fit your goals … say so. Show them how you’re perfect for each other.

Paragraph 7: Sign off.

What you’re trying to do here: Close it out. Hopefully in a memorable way. But honestly it doesn’t need to be amazing. It needs to be short.

How to do this: Succinctly. Ask yourself: Is there anything else I need to say? Like, really need to say? Hopefully you’ve said it all already. If so, just close it out with 1-2 short lines.

Here are a few options that other students have used:

The “bringing it back full circle” ending:

My pulse will always race when I'm creating my grandmother's cacio e peppe for a party of eight. Yet cooking wasn't meant to be my career or my college experience. I learned I truly, deeply, profoundly love chemistry, and only through transferring to [insert school here] can I [name specific skills/resources you hope to gain], becoming a world renowned chemist specializing in global nutrient efficiency and bringing an end to world hunger.

The “my experiences made me who I am” ending:

Once I thought about it, I realized that if I hadn’t dropped out, I would have never [insert formative experience here], and I would have never [insert positive value here]. Looking back on this part of my life, I realized that dropping out was actually the best decision I could have ever made.

The “I have a dream (and you can help!)” ending:

I’m inspired to continue my work spreading nutritional information and resources to low-income communities like the one I was raised in and am committed to helping create not only a healthier future for my own family, but for the larger Latino community. I believe [insert school’s name] can help.

The “I’m looking for a home” ending:

Finally, the students and faculty that I met on my visit were [insert positive value here]. They made me feel that [insert college here] was a place I could call home.

Obviously don’t copy these word-for-word; let these inspire you. Or write something else altogether ( you have lots of options for endings )!

My advice: Aim for the heart. But be concise.

Ready to see how it all comes together?

Here’s an example essay—and I’ll put tiny notes in bold and italics in between the paragraphs so you can remember what to look for.

1. Core values: experiential learning, multiculturalism, embracing differences

2. Why she initially chose X school

One of the things that initially attracted me to Biola University was the Torrey Honors program. I also appreciated the welcoming attitude of its students, and, initially, its emphasis on Judeo-Christian values. But the past year and a half has given me time for introspection, and I have begun to see that Biola and I are not the best match.

3. A polite articulation of why she and the school are not the best match

I believe, for example, in the freedom to express love for whomever one chooses. But on at least one occasion at Biola I’ve been reported to my resident director for displaying physical affection toward another girl and have been told I could risk expulsion if we were “caught” in the act. I also believe that one should be free to express her spiritual beliefs in any way she chooses. At Biola, however, students are required to attend a minimum of 30 chapel events, and must pay upwards of $300 if this requirement is not met. I’m also interested in a diversity of perspective, but faculty are required to teach through a Biblical lens, and over 90% of the students in my department (Anthropology) are seeking to do missionary work following graduation. Finally, I didn’t feel the Torrey Honors Program provided the kind of experiential learning environment I was looking for.

4. How she made the best of things — and learned some great lessons and skills!

Two highlights of my time at Biola included debate, and the experience of founding BQU, a safe, but underground group for queer students. Working with the debate team has taught me how to be accountable for my own work and more humble in my losses. Working with BQU has shown me not only the necessity of being vulnerable with others, but has also taught me skills in creating a group constitution, designing a website, and advertising our cause in a non-inflammatory way.

5. What she wants to do (a.k.a.: the dream)

I’ve always been interested in psychological or environmental root of motives, and I see myself one day working in public policy. I’m seeking science and social science departments that offer both excellent research facilities and opportunities for practical application.

6. How she’ll pursue her interests at her new school: a mini “Why us” essay

I am interested in the debate team at Fordham because its Jesuit tradition inspires an intellectually rigorous environment. While my current team is very skilled, it does not fulfill my intellectual values; I want classmates who want to explore controversial topics despite their personal stances, and who want to take debate as seriously as their social lives. My desire to explore diversity is also reflected in my major (Anthropology), and draws me to the Irish Studies department. I am personally looking to revive my cultural heritage, and I am also interested in helping oppressed cultures thrive. I see a need to promote how Celtic culture shaped current American society, and want to explore the gender roles of early Celtic culture.

7. And we’re out.

Although my time at Biola has been challenging, it has given me time to discover my own values, ethics, and priorities. I am ready to find a place where I can feel at home, and Fordham is a place where I can picture myself reading Nietzsche in my dorm room or working on progressive debate resolutions with the squad. I hope to contribute my interests and values to the Fordham tradition.

For what it’s worth, here’s an alternate ending that she wrote for another school (Haverford):

Because of my childhood—learning history experientially through travel—I am hoping for a similar style of learning through my college experience. I believe that Haverford can provide this through its independent college programs, bi-college programs, and Ex-Co. My interests in criminology, environmental public policy, and gender studies are not normally included in traditional learning. I hope to take advantage of courses that exist outside of a strict department, such as Epidemiology and Global Health, which “examines the interplay of biomedical, societal and ethical concerns in global health.” This is important to me, because as a current anthropology major, I believe it is important to take into consideration all aspects that affect decision making in government and humanitarian efforts. Restorative Justice: A Path to Criminal and Social Justice is also a class that piques my desire to promote rehabilitation of the incarcerated population. Because I understand that social systems are intertwined, my interest into other topics grew. Furthermore, I am interested in advocating for the LGBTQ community in relation to the legal system. I wish to take Haverford’s bi-college program in gender and sexuality in order to view criminology from an LGBTQ lense. As a student who intertwines academics with extracurricular involvement, I am impressed by the Ex-Co’s ability to provide learning opportunities outside of class. Additionally, I am drawn to extracurriculars that can also increase my knowledge of the world, such as the Debate Team. While Haverford’ current team is out of commission, I hope to get it up and running, and give students another place to speak their opinions confidently. As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I am looking forward to a place where I can openly express myself, not only in a social arena—through the QDG- but also in a political arena—through the SAGA. The two women’s centers also address these two important needs, one a need for activism, the other a need for a safe space, including that for male feminists. As an individual with various networks, it will be nice to continue having a religious community, but Grace Covenant Church Fellowship appears to be more inclusive than the one I have previously been involved with, as well as providing an opportunity to expand my own network to other schools in the area. Because of my focus on activism, I was impressed by Haverford’s Honor Code and the Plenary. These encourage students to acknowledge the importance of civic involvement, and inspire students to improve campus policy. This particularly appeals to me as a student who feels my voice is currently not heard at Biola University. I hope to contribute ideas on how the school can help students continue to feel part of the community and celebrated for their differences.

For those wondering, this student ultimately ended up at Reed College in Portland. She’s very happy there.

And why shouldn't she be? Nice campus, right?

And why shouldn't she be? Nice campus, right?

What should you do next?

Before you begin writing your essay, ask yourself:

Is there a way I can visit the campus(es) of the school I’d like to attend?

Can I set up an interview with an admission officer from the school (s)—either in person or via Skype/Zoom/etc? (Call or email the school to find out.)

If yes to either, you can use the info you gather there in the “Why us” portion of the essay.

If no to both...

Copy and paste these questions somewhere and begin your essay...

What are my core values ? In particular: which ones are suffering most in my current situation? (But don’t say that they’re suffering yet—just stick to the positive in your first paragraph.)

Why did I choose my current school (the one I’m leaving)?

Why do I want to leave my current school?

What are the specific things I’ve done to make the best of things?

What do I want to do/be/study? (aka: What’s my dream? Or: What’s one big problem I’d like to solve in the world?)

What specific skills and resources will I gain at this new school that will help me in realizing my dream?

What else do I need to say before signing off?

If there’s nothing left to say, just sign off.

Bonus: Two example college transfer essays with analysis

Note: the student requested that the name of the original college be anonymized.

I will never forget being eleven years old and skiing in the countryside, away from downtown Beijing. With little air pollution, the sky was dark and the Milky Way was mesmerizing. In the endless starry sky, I saw endless possibilities. It was then that the most basic human drive started to dominate me: curiosity about the world. I have been an amateur astronomer and a science nerd ever since. 

W College offered me a substantial scholarship and an invitation to a special program, which provided me with a chance to work closely with professors and the college’s president. Looking forward to meeting more people with geeky enthusiasm for astronomy and harboring the dream of becoming a scientist, I decided to attend W College.

While at W College, a number of events altered my career goals. The loss of a family member due to severe air pollution made me see the brutal reality of the world—there are people suffering from disease, pollution, and millions of people can’t even get an education. I realized that the focus of being a scientist should be to help others and contribute to society. Moreover, my experience of being a TA helped me find a new passion—teaching and inspiring others to pursue their curiosity. Meanwhile, I also began to develop a deeper passion for astronomy and theoretical physics. Finally, I came to understand that by pursuing a Ph.D. and coming back to China to become a professor in these fields, I can help other people and contribute to education while also doing research to satisfy my own curiosity at the same time. 

Therefore, I shifted my priorities and sought teaching opportunities as well as opportunities related to studying astronomy and theoretical physics. However, at W College, there is no Astronomy department, and, by the first semester of my sophomore year, I had taken the highest level astronomy courses that are offered at W College. Looking for more opportunities, I found Prof. M who is providing me with an opportunity to study Relativity. Since many external research opportunities are not available to international students, I reached out to Professor M and began to undertake research on an asteroid, a black hole system, and several other topics in astronomy. 

Even though I made some progress, I knew that I needed to be challenged more; I needed a university that would assist me in my later pursuit of graduate studies in astronomy and physics and that would provide deeper academic offerings and more research resources. So I decided to transfer. 

After visiting Wesleyan, I knew it is an ideal place for me. Academically, Wesleyan provides deep academic offerings in astronomy and physics, including advanced courses like Mathematical Physics and Radio Astronomy. During my visit to Wesleyan, I met with Prof. William Herbst, and his research interests in star formations really inspired me to work with him on this research topic, which is possible at Wesleyan due to Wesleyan’s strong research-focused environment. Wesleyan also has some of the best research facilities in astronomy of any liberal arts college. Prof. Herbst gave me a tour of the Van Vleck Observatory, and the 24-inch research telescope amazed me. Furthermore, the graduate program at Wesleyan also makes my pursuit of graduate studies possible, perhaps even collaborating with the same professors. 

From my conversations with several students at the Astronomy department, I felt their curiosity and enthusiasm for astronomy, and being able to study with them excites me and makes me feel a sense of belonging. They emphasized how they closely collaborate together every day. This close community between students as well as the cooperative study environment would really help me, a transfer student, adjust to a new school. 

While my time at W College has helped me discover my own priorities, values, and goals, I believe that Wesleyan will best help me achieve these goals.

Tips + Analysis

Hook into your values. Above, the author uses some simple, beautiful images as a quick hook, but does so in a way that allows them to fairly quickly lead into one of their core values (curiosity) while also setting up their primary academic focus (astronomy). You have a lot of options for possible hooks , but if you’re having trouble, a quick, specific image can be your go-to move (especially in an early draft—you can always experiment later), since you can almost always find some kind of image linked to your values, and can frequently just reverse-engineer your hook this way: What values are you going to end your first paragraph with? What are some images that come to mind from your life that illustrate them?

Be clear and direct with why. In the third and fourth paragraphs, this author does a great job of condensing what some students might have taken several hundred words to write into a clear, direct structural component that helps us understand why they are transferring (realized what my values/priorities are → my goals shifted and I can’t do what I want to do where I am). As mentioned in the guide above, it’s great to write this in a way that makes clear that there’s no animosity or resentment for your current school—you simply don’t fit together. That’s ok.

Get super specific in the “why us”. This example is packed with nice “why us” details—I count at least 12 in the span of 194 words across 2 paragraphs. The author does a nice job of helping us see a) that they’ve really done their homework on Wesleyan, and have clearly thought out why they and the school fit together academically; and b) that they’ll make a great addition to the community, and have already engaged with the students whom they’ll join. Details like these make it easier for your reader to picture you on campus, engaging with professors and other students and adding to the school’s vitality.

Three countries, eight cities, 11 houses with six families, and ten schools. During my frequent moves from Korea, Canada, and the U.S., fashion has provided a consistent creative outlet. In elementary school, I painted magazine covers; in high school, I got creative with my strict dress code; in college, I built my own jewelry brand “Horizon Jewelry” for a marketing project which sparked my interest in marketing.

 I attended Chapman for its programs in communications as well as its proximity to L.A., which offered internships in fashion. However, as a full-time student who planned to work an on-campus job and lived an hour away, I was unable to apply for my desired internships that required their interns to be locally based and dedicate at least 15 hours. 

 Furthermore, my major Strategic and Corporate Communication did not incorporate my interests in fashion and film. Recognizing the incompatibility between my major and intended career path, I applied and was accepted as a PR and Advertising major at Chapman University Dodge College. However, the school did not offer any fashion courses.

 I found opportunities for development by joining a professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi. Through events, I learned professional interview etiquette and received feedback on my resume and elevator pitch. I developed my leadership skills as an organizer of our social events. These experiences taught me the value of constructive criticism and improved my public speaking skills. 

 I also worked for Chapman’s Disability Center. I assisted disabled students and served as a liaison between students and professors, which led me to join my  fraternity’s service committee where I volunteered at the City Net Bake Fest, serving the homeless population. 

 After discovering my interest in marketing, I began a telemarketing position for Chapman Fund. I call Chapman community members to build relationships, provide campus news, and raise money for the university. This job has allowed me to possess excellent communication and customer service skills. 

 While working on-campus, I continued to search for opportunities in fashion. In January 2019, I discovered a remote marketing internship with Relovv, a sustainable fashion marketplace. Through Relovv, I’ve learned how to create content to advertise on Relovv’s Instagram stories, recruit members, and contribute to organizing influencer collaborations. 

Now, I’m ready to move onto the next phase of my education studying Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU Steinhardt. 

 My dream is to create global campaigns for fashion or film organizations that prioritize conveying underrepresented messages, and ultimately work at Refinery29 or Kenzo. Outside class, I plan to gain more experience in the fashion industry as a fashion marketing intern at Lie Sang Bong, a brand originated in Korea. I believe NYU’s unique communications degree which incorporates fashion and marketing will provide me with the necessary tools for my career path. 

Show growth and trajectory. In the intro, this author quickly ties into their primary focus (fashion) and beautifully builds through some brief “ why major ” details, showing impressive growth (from painting magazine covers to building their own jewelry brand). This specifically and directly sets up why, sadly but clearly, they need to break up with Chapman…

It’s not you, it’s me… well, it’s kinda you, too. In the body, the author offers several clear details for why, ultimately, they need to break up with Chapman—unable to apply for internships, didn’t actually have courses that fit specific career path, etc. And the author does a nice job of demonstrating how they tried to make it work, by engaging with the opportunities they did have—joined a business fraternity, organized events, contributed to the community through the Disability Center and service committee, worked for the Chapman Fund, interned with Relovv—but that they need to find a partner (NYU!) that aligns with their interests (communications degree which incorporates fashion and marketing!).

Show what you bring to the new relationship. As mentioned just above, the author spends a good chunk of word count discussing ways they tried to make the best of the situation with Chapman. But notice that these kinds of details work a double shift—they help us see how the student will be an asset to the NYU campus and community by showing how they’ve done so at Chapman.

essay for transfer

Read 2 Transfer Student Essays That Worked

Strong transfer essays can help pave the way to admissions offers.

Read 2 Transfer Essays That Worked

essay for transfer

Though it isn't a golden ticket, a strong transfer essay may boost an applicant's odds of admission. (Getty Images)

There are as many reasons to transfer colleges as there are transfer students. But regardless of why someone wants to move to a new institution, the process for doing so usually requires an admissions essay.

Colleges With the Most Transfer Students

Josh Moody Jan. 28, 2020

essay for transfer

Though it isn't a golden ticket, a strong transfer essay may boost an applicant's odds of admission.

In a 2018 National Association for College Admission Counseling survey , 41.5% of colleges polled said a transfer applicant's essay or writing sample is of either considerable or moderate importance in the admission decision.

A compelling, well-written transfer essay doesn't guarantee acceptance – many other factors are at play, such as an applicant's GPA. However, a strong essay can be a factor that helps move the odds in the applicant's favor, says Kathy Phillips, associate dean of undergraduate admissions at Duke University in North Carolina.

Know What Colleges Are Looking For In a Transfer Essay

Some schools have prospective transfer students use the Common App or the Coalition Application to apply. In addition to the main essay, students may be required to submit a second writing sample or respond to short-answer questions, though this isn't always the case. Prospective students can check a college's website for specific guidance regarding how to apply.

Whatever application method they use, prospective students should be aware that writing a transfer essay is not the same as writing a first-year college application essay, experts advise. First-year essays are more open-ended, says Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York. When applying as first-years, prospective students can generally write about any experience, relationship or goal that has shaped who they are as people, she says.

This contrasts with transfer essays, where the focus is typically narrower. Barron says she thinks of transfer essays as more of a statement of purpose. "We're really looking to see students' reasons for wanting to transfer," she says.

Katie Fretwell, the recently retired dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst College in Massachusetts, says prospective transfer students are in a position to be a bit more reflective about their educational goals because of their additional year or years of experience post-high school. The essay helps admissions officers get a sense of whether an applicant has done "an appropriate level of soul-searching about the match," she says.

Transfer Essay Examples

Below are two transfer essays that helped students get into Duke and Amherst, respectively. Both institutions are very selective in transfer admissions. For fall 2018, Duke had a transfer acceptance rate of 8% and Amherst accepted 4% of its transfer applicants, according to U.S. News data.

Hover over the circles to read what made these essays stand out to admissions experts.

essay for transfer

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IMAGES

  1. How to Write a Successful Transfer Essay: A Brief Guide

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  2. Tips on Writing a College Transfer Essay

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  3. Looking for Advice on my Transfer Essay. : UIUC

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  4. Sample Transfer College Essay

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  5. 😎 Common application transfer essay. Transfer Application Essay Example 1: Dad Says.... 2019-02-01

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  6. 006 Essay Example Berkeley Application Uc Transfer Examples M ~ Thatsnotus

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VIDEO

  1. Accepted UC Essay No. 2! Creativity College Essay Prompt (Transfer Student Edition)

  2. My Accepted UC Essay No.1! Transfer Student Edition

  3. Application for a transfer certificate as you are shifting to another city with your family

  4. The Reason Why De Gea Was Left Off The Spanish 2022 World Cup Squad

  5. Trista’s Tips: Writing Your Essays

  6. Importance Of Essay Writing Services in USA

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a College Transfer Essay (With Examples)

    Without further ado, here is my full college transfer essay (and prompt): Prompt: Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. I wake up from my daily after-school nap to realize that it is already dinner time.

  2. Sample College Transfer Essay for Admission

    This is a big positive factor for his application. The Length The Common Transfer Application instructions state that the essay needs to be at least 250 words. The maximum length is 650 words. David's essay comes in at around 380 words. It is tight and concise.

  3. The Best Transfer Essay Advice From Admission Insiders

    The transfer essay is a variation of the “Why College X?” essay supplement. It can be challenging for freshman applicants as well as transfer students. A prompt from the new Common App transfer application reads: “Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve” in 250–600 words.

  4. How to Write a Successful College Transfer Essay

    Seven Essential steps for writing a transfer essay: Establish some of your core values. Explain why you chose your current school (the one you’re leaving) in the first place. Offer specific reasons why you want to leave your current school. Show how you’ve made the best of things in your current situation.

  5. Read 2 Transfer Student Essays That Worked

    Below are two transfer essays that helped students get into Duke and Amherst, respectively. Both institutions are very selective in transfer admissions. For fall 2018, Duke had a transfer...