The College Counseling Office encourages students to carefully consider the resources available at their present colleges 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, study abroad/exchange, or access to graduate courses (if offered) in order to accommodate those needs. If your dissatisfaction is with the social environment, you may want to think about whether you've taken reasonable steps to meet like-minded individuals (see examples below). If, however, your discontent is rooted in a lack of satisfaction with your overall college experience, here are some guidelines to consider, and questions to ask, 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 (club, intramural sport, student government, campus publication, community service...). 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.
> 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. (Also realize that posts on social media may lead you to believe that everyone but you is ridiculously happy at their college. Not true!)
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, colleges' websites have lots of information; we recommend you also consult the Common Data Set for each school for the most accurate transfer acceptance rates. After you've done some investigating, call the admissions offices at the schools in which you’re interested and ask to speak with an admissions officer who evaluates transfer applications. Ask the questions to which you couldn’t find the answers online, and pose any additional questions that are specific to you and your situation. Be sure to write down the AO's name and contact details, and call or email him/her with any additional inquiries.
• 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 high 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.)
• How many recommendation letters from college professors are required?
• Are interviews available for transfer applicants? Are Skype interviews available?
• What are the preferred courses that the admissions office is looking for transfer applicants to have completed? (Students attending a focused program, such as a conservatory, may be evaluated differently on the basis of 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 (i.e., is transfer admissions need-blind)?
• What was the average percentage of demonstrated financial need met for 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 give some quality thought to how you might frame to colleges your reasons for pursuing a transfer. Obviously you don't want to trash your current school! That won't serve you well. 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 easily articulate how their interests and goals have evolved and/or how they have grown and changed; and then to explain how ___________ College/University will meet their current needs and aspirations.
Note that 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 any 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 needed, whether transfer applicants can request interviews, financial aid deadlines, etc. This information can easily be found on colleges’ websites; if it’s not there, just call the admissions offices and ask. We recommend you create a spreadsheet to collect and organize this information. And finally, a plea: please be sure to request your CA transcript from the CCO well in advance of your deadlines! (Note: our experience shows that transfer materials “go astray” more often than first-year materials; if your transcript doesn’t arrive, just let us know, we're happy to resend – and do so often.)
Please reach out to a member of the CCO with any questions you have. We’re always happy to help!