The College Counseling Office recommends a student carefully consider the resources at his/her present college before pursuing the transfer admissions process. If the foundation of your desire to transfer is academic in nature, keep in mind that your present institution may allow you to achieve your goals through independent study or access to graduate courses (if offered) in order to accommodate those needs. If, however, your discontent is rooted in a lack of satisfaction with your overall college experience, here are some guidelines to consider when undertaking the transfer process.
Simply thinking about transferring, even if you never act on it, encourages you to take stock of where you are, reflect on what is most important to you, talk informally with a few professors and/or maybe a dean, join a new team or club, and perhaps set some goals for yourself. Even if you only consider transferring and ultimately decide not to, we believe the transfer process is healthy because it entails steps that help a student to better adjust to their current community.
One caveat: we recommend you don't make your desire too public. And by that we mean broadcasting to your roommate(s), hallmates, etc., that you intend to transfer. If you tell people this, some might keep you at an arm's length.
What To Do…
> Meet with your favorite professor(s) a few times and talk with a dean. Speaking with these folks is important as they have worked with students confronting some of the same questions; it’s also strategic, as they will most likely need to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Even if it is a favorite TA, make the effort to share a bit more about what you’re thinking and about yourself, over coffee or the like.
> Get involved in a new activity. Not only does this give you another dimension of thinking about your current college, but it also gives the transfer admissions committee the confidence that you are involved, active, and that you have given the college a shot. You may also meet some new people.
> Get good grades. A no-brainer, but this is the most important element on a transfer application given that an admission committee will use your performance in college as the primary indication of preparedness and success at their institution.
> Explore and choose courses that are more general in nature. Not only will this expose you to a broader academic world, but it may allow you more flexibility if you do transfer. You want to maintain as many credits as possible when transferring (even if you have a few APs under your belt).
> Be patient. Particularly if you're a first-year college student, you may feel a disconnect between your college experience and your CA experience. We hear this often in terms of students forming relationships with peers. (CA sets the bar very high in this regard!) Realize that it can take some time to "find your people" and to form friendships. It can help to remember that many of your college classmates are feeling the same way!
> Trust your gut. Seriously.
Questions Unique to the Transfer Applicant
Review your original criteria for colleges and make note of how these priorities have changed, if at all. Do some online research, and then call the admissions offices at the schools you’re interested in and ask to speak with an admissions officer who evaluates transfer applications. Write down this person's name and contact details and call him/her with additional inquiries. It is important to ask the following questions, and review the answers, to determine how to proceed in order to enhance your transfer application.
• What is the percentage of transfer students admitted as sophomores in the last two years? Percentage projection for the year you plan to apply?
• What is the percentage of transfer students admitted as juniors in the last two years? Percentage projection for the year you plan to apply?
• What was the average college GPA and standardized test scores (if applicable) of students admitted in the last two years?
• How much weight is given to an applicant's secondary school record in the evaluation process? (It is usually less if you are applying for junior status.)
• How much weight is given to an applicant's standardized test scores in the evaluation process? (Again, it is usually less if you are applying for junior status.)
• What are the required courses that the admission office is looking for transfer applicants to have completed by the end of their first year? Usually, colleges will evaluate transfer students more favorably if they have taken some of the basic required courses towards their major. This may not hold true for students attending a focused program (e.g. conservatory); they may be evaluated differently due to the courses and opportunities available.
• Does the college offer a new student orientation program for transfer students?
• Does financial aid play a role in the transfer admissions decision?
• What was the percentage of aid given to accepted transfer students last year? What was the average grant for transfer students?
• Does the college have a separate financial aid budget for transfer students? Does this budget fluctuate each year? If so, by how much?
Also start giving some thought to how you might frame to colleges your reasons for pursuing a transfer. Obviously you won't want to trash your current school! You will particularly want to clarify your thinking if the schools you plan to apply for transfer to are similar to the school you wish to transfer from. For example, if you are attending a NESCAC college and plan to apply to other NESCAC colleges, you will want to be precise about how you see your college experience differing on another small LAC campus located in New England. Strong transfer candidates will be able to articulate how their interests and goals have evolved and/or how they have grown and changed; and then explain how ___________ College will meet their current needs.
Note: In many cases, transfer students are not evaluated with exactly the same objective standards as first-year students, and it can sometimes be difficult to gauge/predict outcomes. It is also important to know that some schools do not admit transfer students at all, so be sure to check the policies at each institution you’re considering prior to initiating a formal transfer process.
Last but not least…
And of course make sure that you are aware of the basic requirements for transfer applicants, such as deadlines, how many recommendation letters are requested, whether transfer applicants can request interviews, etc. This information can normally be found on colleges’ websites, but if not, call and ask. We recommend you create a spreadsheet to collect and organize this information. Last, a plea: please be sure to request your CA transcript from the CCO well in advance of your deadlines!
Please reach out to the CCO with any questions you have. We’re always happy to chat!