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 and 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 a three-part post on How to Write a “Why Us” Essay. 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...
Many applicants see the Common Application transfer essay in much the same way they see the regular Common Application essay -- an opportunity to wow the admissions officers, impress them with the fascinating things you've done, giving them every reason in the world to accept you. And while these things are important and necessary, it isn't all you should aspire to accomplish with it. Here are three things you absolutely, positively must do in your transfer essay to get yourself out of your current college or university and into your new one.
1) CLEARLY ARTICULATE WHY YOU WISH TO TRANSFER SCHOOLS -- Be specific where did the school you attend falls short. It's not enough just to say you didn't like the campus or the other students. That's too easy an excuse. Did you decide to change your major? Maybe when you were accepted there you had one idea about what you wanted from your education and now that you're a year older, you want something else. Maybe the culture of the school wasn't a good fit. Whatever the reason is, be clear and concise.
2) NEVER, EVER, SPEAK NEGATIVELY ABOUT YOUR OLD SCHOOL! -- Look at it like this -- you're trying to impress your new boyfriend/girlfriend and the last thing you want to do is bad-mouth your ex. This will leave a bad taste in the admissions counselor's mouth. Don't be mean. Don't be vindictive. Don't be anything other than diplomatic. The tone should be, "it just didn't work out."
3) LOOK AHEAD -- Once you have adequately explained why you wish to transfer, let them know what you wish to get our of your new school. Since you can't be "school specific" this is where you have to carefully and thoughtfully express what you want now out of your education.
I actually enjoy working with applicants on this essay even more than the regular undergraduate Common Application essay. Generally, a freshman or sophomore in college has a better idea who they are and what they want than a high school senior does. And if worded carefully, you have the opportunity to make a better impression with the admission counselor. Furthermore, this essay carries more weight. So take your time with it. And as always, place yourself in the shoes of the admissions counselor and ask yourself, "why should we admit this person?" And if you answer that question correctly, there is no way they won't accept you.
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