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“Tis the season when college students start thinking about transferring. If you’re in your first year of college, I urge you to take plenty of time to think this through. It can take a good six to nine months to really decide if a college is the right place for you, and sometimes we really have to give things a chance. Many, many students don’t “find their people” until their sophomore year. Trying a few different clubs or taking a few classes in different academic areas may suddenly get you connected with different people. Even changing your schedule by 30 minutes can yield a completely different crowd in a dining hall. College campuses typically have so much to offer that it’s hard for first years to experience it all. A place that’s good enough right now can evolve over time into something that’s truly amazing.

But if, in your heart of hearts, you know that things aren’t quite right, here are a few tips to guide you.

  1. First check out the transfer acceptance rates here: You’ll quickly notice that highly selective colleges will have very low acceptance rates; not enough students decide to leave.

  2. Take the time to really think through what you’re looking for. What are your priorities now that you’ve been on a college campus for a while? Can you find current students to talk with? Can you visit the colleges that are high on your list (when students are on campus)? Showing interest is important during the transfer process as well, and getting on a few campuses will help make sure that you find a better fit this time.

  3. Review the transfer requirements. Check this link to see what the minimum requirements are:

  4. Make an account on the Common App for Transfer. You’ll quickly notice that it looks nothing like the first year application, and you no longer have someone at your high school to guide you. So poke around the site until you’re comfortable with what you’ll need to submit. You’ll notice that colleges ask for very different things. Some want a list of your college courses, some want a resume, some want a college report. As of this year, there is no longer a common essay for transfers. Colleges have chosen the essays they want you to complete, and you’ll typically find them under Program Materials. Or sometimes under Documents. Nothing is standardized, unfortunately.

  5. Decide how many colleges you can handle applying to while you’re in college. Transferring is not an insignificant amount of work, and you’ll have to be organized to gather all of the documents you’ll need. There are 4 areas on the Common App for Transfer to complete:

    • Personal Information. This should be pretty straightforward.

    • Academic History. Here you’ll put in info from your high school, the courses you’ve completed in college, and any test scores you might want to submit. Strong test scores will help you compete at selective colleges.

    • Supporting Information. This includes a section called “Experiences” which is similar to the Activities List on the Common App. Add any experience, such as a job or hobby, that shows how you’ve been spending your time. Seeing what you’ve done at your current school will give colleges a good sense of how you’ll be engaged on their campus. High school activities should be relevant to what you’re currently interested in.

    • Program Materials. You’ll typically find a few tabs here. Check the Questions tab for short response questions or essays. Do your best to explain why you’re transferring and what you hope to achieve at the colleges to which you’re applying. Be specific about why these colleges are great fits. The Documents tab may ask you to download writing samples or resumes or transcripts.

Remember that transfer rates can change from year to year. They all depend on the number of slots that open up and the good ol’ institutional priorities. Best of luck!

I help students and their families navigate the admissions process, while decreasing confusion and stress. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially.

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