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What You Need to Know About Writing a Good College Transfer Essay

Need inspiration for writing your transfer admission essay? Tell your story and showcase your best self with these tips, plus an example essay!

Your first college wasn’t a mistake—it was just your first step to your final academic home. And Your transfer application essays won’t differ much from when you wrote your college applications for first-year admission. But there are a few tips and tricks to help you write your best essay to find your dream institution the second time around.

What makes a good transfer essay?

You need to grab transfer admission counselors' attention right away. Try starting with a bold statement or some interesting dialogue to draw your readers in. Remember: admission staff read hundreds and sometimes thousands of essays, so yours needs to stand out even if you’re a transfer student and your pool of competition is smaller. Give transfer counselors a glimpse at what you are unique with just the right amount of detail. Often schools will give you a 500-word limit, so you need to learn to be succinct and tell the most important story you can. Also be sure to end your application essay with a strong statement that ties into earlier themes, bringing the essay full circle to a satisfying conclusion.

The story of your transfer experience

Often transfer students are asked to discuss what led them to change schools. You should address your reasons for transferring straightforwardly, without being defensive or negative. You should address why you want to transfer into your college(s) of interest specifically. Talk about your goals and aspirations, what your current college wasn’t meeting, and why you think the college you’re applying to could be the right place to provide that support you’re lacking.

Error-free essays

A good essay is also made of everything that’s not there: It's free of misspellings, an appropriate length, and there are no run-on sentences. And you can bet it was submitted well before the deadline! Meeting deadlines is crucial in the college application process, whether it’s the first time around or as a transfer. Even if your intended college has a rolling admission policy for transfer students, the earlier you submit your materials, the better. 

Related: How to Write a Transfer Essay That Will Impress Admission Officers

Transfer example essay

It’s easy to read about essay-writing tips, but that doesn’t necessarily make them easy to implement. The best way to learn is to see all these tips in action with a real transfer admission essay example that got a student admitted to his school of interest. Check it out below!

Dad Says…

“But Dad, I can do both!” I pleaded, doing my best not to raise my voice. He’d always been sure to remind me of the importance of not making a scene.

“I’m sorry, bud. We just signed you up for baseball. The answer is no. No.”

“Dad, you don’t understand. I need to take painting lessons.” I tried to look as defeated as possible, hoping his heart would break just enough for him to agree.

“Yeah, well you said that about skiing and guitar too. Baseball is your top priority right now, and it’s going to stay that way. Besides, sports teach you how to work in a team. Painting teaches you...how to mix colors.” He turned back to the television and cranked up the volume, and I knew I’d lost this one. I retreated to the kitchen table to finish the jigsaw puzzle I’d abandoned moments before.

I couldn’t really argue with my dad. As a kid, I frequently bounced from activity to activity, often hurrying from one to the next. It wasn’t that I got bored with what I was doing—I just couldn’t wait to try something new. Everything was interesting and everything was fun.

In high school, I became involved in as many extracurricular activities as I could, getting elected to student council and playing varsity baseball, joining groups like the school improvement team, and yes, even the art club. I was intrigued by nearly every class I took, eager to dissect things in physiology or pick apart the ideas of Faulkner in American literature. I’ve wanted to be everything from an engineer to a chef to a professional baseball player. A friend once described me as a guidance counselor’s worst nightmare.

Years of searching, experimenting, and learning have brought me here.

When my classmates crossed the stage at graduation, it felt like nearly everyone knew which direction they were headed. Friends were moving across the country to pursue their dreams, and I couldn’t even figure mine out. I had a strong academic record and plenty of experiences to shape my application, but watching my friends leave for four-year schools with such determination reminded me of how lost I actually was. It was time to figure things out for myself.

Enrolling at a two-year community college gave me the opportunity to sift through different areas of study and find what worked for me. General education courses and a varied curriculum offered a wide lens through which I could see what different fields had to offer and find a true fit. It wasn’t easy. I took classes ranging from applied sciences to ceramics, and—of course—I liked almost everything I tried! Then I took an anatomy and physiology course during the spring of my first year at ABC Community College, and it hit me. I realized that the medical field would allow me to help people while constantly learning and exploring different facets of the work.

After two years of studying, researching, and homework, I received an associate degree in pre-physical therapy, and I believe XYZ University is the next stop on my journey to achieve my dream.

It may have taken me longer to get here, and my path probably had a few more twists and turns in it than most, but every activity I begged my dad to let me do and every extracurricular club I joined complemented my coursework and shaped who I am. XYZ University’s physical therapy program will lead me to the necessary bachelor’s and doctoral degrees I need to succeed in a profession I know will leave me fulfilled—and hold my interest—throughout my professional life.

Related: How to Make Transferring Colleges as Seamless as Possible

Don’t stress too much about your transfer admission essay! It’s not that different from the first time around, and transfer students are often looked at separately from first-year students, as they usually take enrollment spots in higher grades. Show them who you are and why it’s important to you to find your new academic home, and you’re sure to gain admission to a great new school.

If you’re worried about overcoming the struggles of going to a new college, check out our article on 4 Potential Obstacles for Transfer Students and How to Conquer Them.

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