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.
In a recent National Association for College Admission Counseling survey, around 42 percent of colleges polled said a transfer applicant’s essay or writing sample is of either considerable or moderate importance in the admission decision. Roughly 28 percent said it was of limited importance.
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.
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 director of admissions at Middlebury College in Vermont. 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, 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.
Below are two recent transfer essays that helped students get into Duke and Amherst, respectively. Both institutions are very selective in transfer admissions. According to U.S. News data, for fall 2016, Duke had a transfer acceptance rate of 4.8 percent, and Amherst accepted 6.2 percent of its transfer applicants.