How to Write Your Common App Transfer Essay

The good thing about writing a common app transfer essay is that you’re already familiar with the process. You’ve already made a common app account, filled out all of the logistical sections, and hit submit. The even better news is that this time around you’re asked a much more direct question. You have 650 words to explain why you want to transfer and what you hope to achieve. The objective is incredibly clear and the question leaves a lot less room for interpretation.

Before you start writing, make a long list of all of the reasons you want to transfer. An example of a good reason would be that the school you want to transfer to has a specific program that you’re looking for. A bad example for wanting to transfer would be that you want to trade up. (We understand, but writing that you want to graduate from Harvard instead of Haverford will not cut it.) Write down all of the actual reasons, no matter what they are.  

When you’re looking at the list of schools you’re applying to transfer to, there should be specific reasons for each. For example, “I’m interested in transferring to Villanova so I can graduate with a BSN in four years and the research program could place me a teaching hospital as an undergrad.”

As for actually writing the essay, it should be about why you want to transfer AND how the school(s) you want to transfer to will further your academic goals. Maybe you weren’t exactly sure what you wanted to major in as a senior in high school and wanted to stay close to home, but after a year of classes you realize there’s a specific engineering program or elementary educational track you want to dedicate yourself to. The essay is about you, and in many cases the self-discovery that was your impetus for wanting to transfer. You need to tell that story. 

As always, your essay should tell a story with details of why you want to transfer weaved throughout. Spend some time thinking why ~exactly~ you want to transfer: there might be many factors at play (look back at your list), but tell a story (with a beginning, middle, and end) that shows (not just tells) why you’re better off at another school. Think about what you’ve accomplished in your first year of school and how that prepares you for the program you’re interested in. There might be cultural, personal, and/or environmental reasons but focus on one story that demonstrates your desire for change.

Whatever you do, don’t focus on the negative qualities of the school you currently attend. No one likes a Debbie downer. Write about what the school you hope to transfer to has to offer and how you plan to take advantage of those resources. 

 It’s important to keep in mind that transfer statistics are incredibly low. Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, and Dartmouth all accepted less than 5% of transfer students over the past two years. We end with this to emphasize the fact that a transfer common app essay still needs to be a well researched and specific story that shows why you’re a good pick for your potential new school.


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