Transfer essays are different because transfers are different! As we used to say at Georgetown, every transfer has a story to tell…and the essay is their opportunity to do it!
The most frequent essay question for transfer applicants is “Why do you want to transfer to X School?” This is a two-sided question. It’s asking not only why you want to go to X school, but also why the school you currently attend isn’t a good fit. There are two key points you always want to keep in mind when answering this question:
- NEVER, EVER slam the institution you are leaving. Even if you hate it with a passion and can’t understand why anyone would like it there, don’t be negative. That will be the kiss of death for your application. Be honest when you can, but be kind to the institution you are leaving. It is a good fit for some, just not you.
- Make a solid and specific point as to why X school will be a better fit. If you think Boston University was “too big” and “too impersonal” but are applying to transfer to another school equally as large, you can’t use those as reasons. The admissions officer ultimately wants to know why their school is a better fit and what you’re going to bring to the table.
In general, transfers are less predictable in their applications. They often have had a serious incident happen in their life and/or a scattered academic record. The essay is, therefore, an excellent vehicle for explaining anything that might raise red flags. If you have anything that will stand out as odd in your application—address it head on! Don’t let your application reader guess why you flunked four classes or why your high school transcript is a disaster even though you have fabulous SAT scores. Be honest, be genuine, and tell your story. Don’t whine and don’t skirt around answers. Take ownership, but also tell your reader why she should take a chance on you. Admissions officers love the comeback kid. If that’s you, tell your reader!
Generally speaking, at Georgetown we wanted two of the three following items to be decent in a transfer application: high school transcript, SAT/ACT scores, or your college transcript. If you did fabulously in high school and on your SATs, we might be able to attribute lower college grades because you hated the place (hence, your transfer application). Alternatively, we could understand higher SATs and decent college grades with lower high school grades, as you might be truly bright but were a slacker in high school. Two factors on the low end, however, is not ideal because it insinuates that you may not be well qualified and may end up having to transfer yet again, which is what an admission officer wants to avoid.
Finally, visit, visit, visit! The best way to be able to answer “Why do you want to transfer to X school?” is to have visited and be able to give a very specific answer. The application reader wants to know that lots of thought and consideration has gone into your transfer process and that you’ve really clarified what you need out of an institution.